Posts Tagged 'Russia'

The Place of Human Rights

The Place of Human RightsAnother new year. Another chance to put things right.

For the Council for Global Equality, that means elevating the place of human rights – including those of LGBT, intersex and other vulnerable minorities – in America’s foreign policy.

The year of 2015 brought incredible progress on LGBT rights around the world. Marriage equality was won here in the United States as well as in Mexico and Ireland; Malta passed the world’s most protective law for transgender and intersex citizens; and Mozambique got rid of its colonial-era anti-sodomy law once and for all.

Yet challenges and dangers continue to confront LGBT people. ISIS continues to hunt down and kill suspected LGBT individuals in its territory. Refugees fleeing persecution last year reached a new post-World War II high, with LGBT refugees among the most vulnerable of them. And from Russia to Egypt, a broad array of countries continue to deny rights to their own LGBT citizens while leading the charge at the United Nations to deny human rights to LGBT individuals everywhere.

We enter the last full year of the Obama Administration with pride and respect for what our country has helped accomplish to ensure that LGBT people are no longer excluded from universal human rights protections. A White House conference last year identified new opportunities for our embassies to respond to escalating violence against LGBT persons globally. A new U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons is mobilizing diplomatic efforts to challenge LGBT human rights violations and to build alliances in the quest for equality. And last year, the Administration sought to build a case for global support for LGBT refugees fleeing targeted persecution, including through the first-ever briefing on that topic for the UN Security Council in August.

Perhaps most important, the Obama Administration last year leveraged our public diplomacy and development tools as never before to promote citizen exchanges, highlight the voices and messages of local LGBT leaders and help fund LGBT organizations to promote global equality. The President himself spoke in support of LGBT rights in many of his travels abroad. These efforts, amplified by our investments in educational and development opportunities through USAID and the State Department’s growing Global Equality Fund, bear witness to the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to equality for LGBT individuals everywhere.

If we are to hold other governments accountable for how they honor and safeguard the rights of their LGBT citizens, we must continue to push our own towards even greater consistency and impactful actions. Over the next two weeks, we will set forth the expectations we hold of our own government in this regard.

The steps that are – or aren’t – taken in 2016 will etch the final and most compelling stories of this Administration’s human rights legacy. Then it will be up to us, the human rights community, to hold the next Administration accountable to this country’s proud tradition of standing up for universal human rights at every turn.

Spread of Russian-Style Anti-Propaganda Laws

Repost from Human Rights First
Countries-enacting-anti-LGBT-laws-3-12-2014-01

We saw what Putin can do to LGBT Russians while the international media was camped in Sochi covering the XXII Winter Olympiad. What kind of crackdown might happen when it’s all over?

Additionally, as the world watches what will transpire domestically, the international LGBT community waits to see if Russia’s brand of discriminatory legislation will take root elsewhere. The flagship piece of that legislation, the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” may soon be Russia’s number one export. Since the propaganda law went into effect, in June, 2013, legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have begun to emulate the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law in their legislative bodies.

Continue reading and find a link to the fact sheet here

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Advocates for LGBT Equality Launch Freedom Fund to Support LGBT Russians

Russia Freedom FundThe Arcus Foundation, the Council for Global Equality and the Open Society Foundations announced the establishment of the Russia Freedom Fund in November to provide financial support directly to groups working to end discrimination and violence in Russia based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fund was created with the support of numerous other human rights advocates in response to the recent and dramatic expansion of discrimination and violence directed at LGBT people in Russia, following anti-propaganda and other legislation passed earlier this year.

Learn more about the fund and donate here.

President Obama Announces Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation.

Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 7, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

The Honorable Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

The Honorable Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr. Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

Presidential Delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 23, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Closing Ceremony.

The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Ms. Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist, speed skating.

Ms. Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist, women’s ice hockey.

Dr. Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

For LGBT Donors, Russia Is The New Marriage

Melissa Ethridge - Russia Freedom Fund

John Minchillo / AP Images for Arcus Foundation

Repost from BuzzFeed, by J. Lester Feder

Can the strategies that turned the U.S. LGBT movement into a money machine work when the fight goes abroad? Melissa Etheridge headlined a celebrity fundraiser for a new coalition that hopes to make that true.

When Julie Dorf started trying to raise money for international LGBT rights work more than two decades ago, she said, people looked at her like she was nuts.

“When we started [the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission] in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, people would look at me and say, ‘I have people dying in my backyard; I don’t have time to think about gay people in Russia.’”

And while U.S. support for LGBT advocacy abroad has grown over the years since IGLHRC came into being as the first international gay rights organization in 1990, it has claimed a tiny sliver of the dollars going to LGBT advocacy. Major grassroots fundraising efforts with the celebrity glitter that the domestic movement became so adept at were not a part of the equation.

But a fundraiser headlined by Melissa Etheridge on Monday night in Manhattan showed how much times have changed. Etheridge has partnered with Dustin Lance Black and other entertainment industry figures to form a coalition to raise funds for Russian LGBT activists, which they’re calling Uprising of Love. That’s also the title of the anthem Etheridge penned for the movement resisting Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” law. It will go on sale in January with proceeds going to LGBT activists.

By the time the Uprising of Love coalition launched, the Human Rights Campaign had already made waves by diving into international work with a $3 million investment from Republican financiers. Its first initiative was also a fundraising campaign for Russian activists, under the banner “Love Conquers Hate.” It uses the classic retail strategy that HRC perfected to support its domestic work: selling campaign-branded t-shirts advertised with photos of celebrities in campaign gear.

In remarks before performing the new song, Etheridge gave voice to the mood among Americans that seem to make them ready for international LGBT fundraising pitches.

“It seemed to be just weeks after we had just had this incredible high of that decision of the Supreme Court knocking down DOMA” that she learned about the anti-gay crackdown in Russia, she said. “We’ve been pushing this boulder for 20, 30 years up this hill [in the U.S.]. And we made it, and we can breath…. All of us who have gone that journey, when we see what’s happening in Russia, [we say] “No no no no. We are never ever ever going back.” Continue Reading

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Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws
Russia Freedom Fund

Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws

Washington DC, November 15, 2013

Dear President Putin:

Like many of our generation, we have applauded Russia’s 20-year turn toward democracy, confident in the prospect it lays not only for closer relations between our countries, but for the freer and more prosperous future that the Russian people deserve.  In that light, we write to express grave concern at recent legislation – signed by you into law, or otherwise under consideration in the Duma – that demonizes and discriminates against Russian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

These laws are tearing apart the lives of Russian LGBT citizens and their families. They also impact Russian and foreign citizens, organizations and businesses that want the best for your country, and that are committed to building partnerships that are in your interests.

The range of legislation to which we refer is broad; among other things, it restricts public gatherings; classifies as “foreign agents” those who receive funding from abroad; denies orphaned and abandoned children the opportunity to be brought up in families by individuals with the commitment, the resources, and the love needed to raise them; and makes it a crime to speak openly or provide information about homosexuality. We are also extremely concerned about pending legislation that threatens to remove children from same-sex parents – the homes they’ve known, the families they love.

These discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws call into question the democratic path that Russia ostensibly has chosen.  They disregard the obligation carried by all democratic societies to respect and protect minority populations of any kind.  And they deny not only the promise of equality under the law, but the fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and association that are core to any democratic system.

Some proponents of these laws have sought to justify them for the purpose of “protecting children.” These ideas are based on false “science,” deliberately erroneous claims, and clear bias. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not, in fact, related. Modern science and the medical establishment consider homosexuality as a statistically normal human sexual variation. Pedophilia, on the other hand, is a crime, and is not a factor of one’s sexual orientation.

We strongly support child protection legislation that penalizes inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.  However, such legislation cannot single out one minority population, as Russia’s laws now do.  By inaccurately placing pedophilia at the door of LGBT citizens, Russia’s laws harm rather than protect LGBT youth, and have a negative impact on broader non-discrimination efforts within society.  Further, these laws create a climate of fear and repression that leaves LGBT children, and even those merely suspected of being so, vulnerable to physical and mental abuse, while substantially diminishing their educational and employment-related opportunities and achievements.  In this manner, these laws are harmful to children and society in equal measure. They also provoke increased violence against LGBT Russian youth and adults, the rise of which should be a matter of concern to you, as President, as it is to us.

To date, the media has viewed Russia’s repressive laws largely through the prism of the upcoming Sochi Olympics.  The reason for this is clear:  the Olympic Charter proclaims that “…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”  Russia’s new laws squarely defy the Charter; its role as host, while failing to amend or abrogate these laws, cheapens Olympic ideals.

However, concern about Russia’s laws is not limited to their inconsistency with Olympic principles – nor, indeed, to the narrow question of how Russia will treat LGBT foreigners who participate in or attend the Sochi Olympics.  The fundamental question raised by Russia’s anti-LGBT course is why Russia treats its own LGBT citizens with such disregard for democratic principles – and why you and Russian legislators have chosen, as part of your legacy, to foster a climate of hostility toward LGBT people that has made those citizens so unwelcome on their own soil.

You have made public assurances that all visitors are welcome to Sochi, regardless of sexual orientation.  These assurances, however, cannot be taken at face value without a more detailed understanding of how Russia’s anti-LGBT laws apply to a range of specific questions.  For instance:

  • Can Olympic athletes or spectators be arrested or otherwise sanctioned for wearing “Gay Pride” or similarly themed clothing or accessories at the Games, or clothing items/accessories containing an LGBT-related insignia?
  • Can these same athletes or spectators sport officially licensed rainbow pins or other apparel from the 2012 London Summer Olympics?
  • Can athletes or spectators carry Gay Pride flags?
  • Should two individuals of the same sex either hold hands or kiss in public, would that be seen as contravening Russian law?
  • What would happen should a person speak in favor of the equal treatment of LGBT persons – whether publicly or in what was intended to be a private conversation?
  • Can a parent of an LGBT athlete – Russian or foreign – speak affirmatively of his/her child, including with reference to that athlete’s sexual orientation or gender identity, in pre- or post-competition interviews?
  • Can athletes or spectators distribute pamphlets concerning the human rights of all individuals, including those in “non-traditional sexual relationships,” as a reflection of both their beliefs and their rights to freedoms of opinion, speech and expression?
  • Can media coverage of the Games include examination of Russia’s discriminatory legal climate directed against LGBT people?
  • Might a reporter asking questions related to the law be accused of violating the law?
  • Would the public dissemination of same-sex attraction (e.g., through a gay or lesbian couple holding hands) by television, newspaper or internet potentially subject the media outlet to legal response by Russian authorities?
  • Would capture and public dissemination of LGBT insignia by the media, including the internet, in the course of reporting on the Games (or subsequently), subject that outlet to legal response?
  • Are private sector companies free to include same-sex couples in their advertising related to sponsorship of the Games?  Are they permitted to include pro-LGBT messages of solidarity in their advertising?
  • Would children who have been adopted by lesbian or gay individuals or couples be allowed to enter the country?
  • Could a child be taken from a couple if that couple either was or appeared to be gay or lesbian?
  • Is there a distinction in how any of these scenarios would be handled (a) within the Olympic Village, (b) in the broader Olympic security zones in and around Sochi, or (c) outside of those zones?
  • Would the response to any of these questions differ depending on the citizenship of the individual(s)?  Would foreign nationals be treated differently, inasmuch as the law specifies different penalties for foreigners?

To be clear, these questions deserve response before the Sochi Olympics, so that all of those who support the Olympics – whether athletes, spectators, sponsors, media, or prospective national delegation members – can have certainty as to how these laws might impact their participation, or indeed their prospective travel to Sochi.  Importantly, however, these questions must be answered with respect not only to foreign visitors, but to Russia’s citizens as well.  They also must be answered not only with respect to the specific period embraced by the Sochi Olympics, but thereafter.

We ask you, as President, to ensure that Russian officials clearly address, with a sense of urgency, each of the scenarios noted above.  But we also ask that you take on the leadership role of pressing for these laws to be repealed in order that LGBT citizens of your country can enjoy the same rights and expectations as any of their heterosexual fellow citizens, and so as to rein in the hostility directed against LGBT Russians that these laws have entailed.

Finally, we ask that you address these questions with a sense of urgency, not only in view of the rapid approach of the Sochi Olympics, but with regard to the distraction that these laws pose to our shared interest in a broad and stable partnership between our countries.

Sincerely,

Mark Bromley        
Council Chair      

Julie Dorf          
Senior Advisor

Michael Guest
Senior Advisor

Human Rights Affirming Remarks During The Peace and Sport International Forum

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement during the 7th Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco.

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at the 7th Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco. I especially thank H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco for his invaluable advocacy on this issue, and Mr. Joël Bouzou for his dedicated leadership as President and Founder of Peace and Sport.

As you meet, the United Nations General Assembly is set to pass its Olympic Truce Resolution ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Traditionally, this resolution expresses the collective reaffirmation of United Nations Member States of the contribution sport can make to our common goal of peace.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly declared 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. This is a clear recognition sport can contribute to human rights and development, erasing barriers and promoting solidarity around the world.  This new commemoration on the international calendar should further promote the value of sport as a tool for development and peace. I hope all of you will help organize celebrations of the Day.

In my travels around the world, I have seen first-hand the power of sport to unite people, raise awareness and resources, and inspire individuals, particularly youth. From makeshift village fields to big-city arenas sport reminds us of our common humanity.

That is why I must take this opportunity to issue a resounding denunciation of any form of discrimination in the world of sport. We must adamantly reject all attempts to divide people or advance intolerant views in any athletic competition. As we carry out our efforts to promote peace through sport, let us remember to uphold and defend universal human rights. When we recognize that all people are born free and equal, we can create a more peaceful world.

I thank you for your support and wish you great success.

Statement from Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to ECOSOC, at a General Assembly meeting on Sport for Peace and Development

The United States is pleased to cosponsor the resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.” We especially want to draw attention to the language in the resolution “calling upon host countries to promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.” This is the first time that language of this kind appears in a resolution on the Olympic Truce, and it sends a powerful message highlighting the role that sport plays for all people. This phrase emphasizes the importance of inclusion and participation of all people in sporting activity, regardless of identity, including persons of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

In its recitation of the fundamental principles of Olympism, the Olympic Charter states “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Many of the most inspirational moments in the Olympics have come through the ever-broadening participation of persons of various backgrounds in the Games, including: Native-American Jim Thorpe’s decathlon and pentathlon gold medals in the 1912 Olympics; the four gold medals African-American Jesse Owens won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; the three 1960 gold medals of Wilma Rudolph, an African-American woman stricken with polio at age four whose childhood doctors feared she may never walk without wearing a leg brace; and the recent inspirational performance of South African Caster Semenya, who faced unprecedented challenges and unfair gender testing in 2009 only to return proudly and medal in the London Games, where her teammates selected her for the honor of serving as her nation’s flag bearer during the opening ceremony.

Part of what makes sport so important is that it promotes inclusion, bringing together people of different ages, races, religions, social status, disabilities, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Sport embraces all segments of society and is instrumental in empowering people of diverse backgrounds, while fostering tolerance and respect for all people, no matter what they look like, where they come from, where they worship, or whom they love.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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