More progress expected for Women and Gay Rights from US PartnersPosted: December 6, 2011
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton used Clinton’s visit to Belarus and an appearance in Geneva to emphasis the need for countries to respect the rights of women, gays, and human rights in general. President Obama instructed US officials to indicate that US support and aid depends on tolerance and recognition of the rights of GLBT citizens.
In the first ever US government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens abroad, a presidential memo issued on Tuesday instructs agencies using foreign aid to promote such rights.
Gay and lesbian lobby groups have reported an increase in human rights abuses across Africa and parts of the Middle East.
President Obama is among international leaders who have condemned a bill proposed in Uganda which would make some homosexual acts a crime punishable by death. The Ugandan parliament has recently re-opened the debate on the bill, which had been abandoned after an international outcry.
In the memo, Obama said: “I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalise LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
He said that the struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was central to America’s commitment to promoting human rights.
Clinton’s speech was characterized as containing “unusually strong language” to an audience of diplomats from nations where being gay is crime. These included nations in the African continent and in the Arab world.
In unusually strong language, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton compared the struggle for gay equality to difficult passages toward women’s rights and racial equality, and she said a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination.
“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said.
Clinton’s audience included diplomats from Arab, African and other nations where homosexuality is criminalized or where brutality and discrimination against gay people is tolerated or encouraged.
She said nothing about consequences or penalties the U.S. might apply to nations it judges poor protectors of gay rights, but she spoke shortly after President Barack Obama directed the State Department and other agencies to make sure U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote gay rights.
Clinton named no countries with specifically poor records on gay rights, although the U.S. has already pointed to abuses against gays by such friends as Saudi Arabia.
“It should never be a crime to be gay,” Clinton declared.
Clinton also introduced a Global Equality Fund that will partner with women’s and other groups trying to achieve human equality around the globe.
I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equlity Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.