More progress expected for Women and Gay Rights from US Partners

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.

President Barack Obama has told US officials to consider how countries treat their gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid.

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.


9 Comments on “More progress expected for Women and Gay Rights from US Partners”

  1. The Rock says:

    I wonder who is behind this?

    Leader.

    Hillary 2012

  2. KendallJ says:

    This is great! But I don’t see them conditioning aid on how women are treated. If that were the case, most of the middle east and large parts of Africa would no longer receive any aid. The title of this article says that “More progress expected for women and guy rights from US partners”. There is nothing in the administrations directive about women’s rights that I know of, so why is the article titled this way? Is it that lesbians are included? I don’t get why the author mentions women’s rights, because to the best of my knowledge, the administration was talking about gay rights, not women’s rights.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m trying to upload Secretary Clinton’s speech via vodpod. She’s got more in there. Still4HIll has the speech and video up here: http://still4hill.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/video-secretary-clintons-human-rights-day-speech/

      Clinton mentioned women throughout the speech including the West African tribal practices of female genital mutilation. I posted the video in another thread since I couldn’t get it to take here very easily. You’re right that she didn’t imply the same threat on treatment of women though as she did GLBT rights in terms of removing funds directly from nations that treat women badly.

      • dakinikat says:

        I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality 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.

        The women and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated, and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay.

        This evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago, writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.

        There is a phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

      • KendallJ says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I apprieciate it. I have listened to the speach and now have a better grasp of what you are talking about.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Rick Perry’s intolerant statement on the administration’s policy:

    AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement:

    “Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.

    “This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.

    “I have proposed a foreign aid budget that starts at zero. From that zero baseline, we will consider aid requests based solely on America’s national security interests. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.

    “But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.

    “President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      Treating people like human beings does not translate to “special rights.” We’re talking about basic human rights here, Gov. Goodhair.

  4. Scott says:

    Dear President Obama
    I would like to move back to the United States with my partner of 5 years! You talk of discrimination, well I’m a United States Citizen and my partner and I are not recognized by immigration. We can not legally be together because immigration refuses to recognize gay couples! I’m separated from my family and my birth country because of current law! Your aware of this injustice right? Please help