Geneva: LGBTI International Human Rights Defenders Meet Secretary Hillary Clinton

by Melanie Nathan, Dec 11, 09

In Photo (right to left): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Alice N’kom (Cameroon), Anastasia Danilova (Moldova), Sanja Juras (Croatia), Adrian Jjuuko (Uganda), Sass Sasot (Philippines), Polina Savchenko (Russia), Vladimir Simenko (Lithuania), Arvind Narrain (India), Zoryan Kis (Ukraine), Santiago Eder (Colombia), N’dumie Funda (South Africa), Pouline Kimani (Kenya), and Rev. MacDonald Sembereka (Malawi). (Photo emailed by Ndumie  Funda to Melanie Nathan)

The Council for Global Equality brought 14 prominent LGBT activists from around the world, including Ndumie Funda from Luleki Sizwe, a South African activist against so called “corrective rape,”  to Geneva to be present for Secretary Clinton’s historic Human Rights Day speech.

The Council praised both Secretary Clinton “for the pitch-perfect speech” as well as President Obama for yesterday’s “vital Presidential Memorandum addressing the human rights of LGBT people worldwide.”

Reactions from LGBT human rights defenders from around the world who were on hand to witness the speech included those who were present:

Arvind Narrain from the Alternative Law Forum in India: “The Secretary made a passionate case for LGBT rights as gay rights while being very culturally sensitive. The generosity of mentioning the gains in South Africa, Brazil, India, and Nepal conveyed a wider sense of ownership of these issues.”

Sass Rogando Sasot from Society of Transsexual Women of the Philiipines: “The sincerity and courage of Secretary Clinton is an invitation for us to make the dignity of our common humanity the center and goal of our politics. Her speech is another step towards a world that’s more inclusive, fair, and compassionate.”

Polina Savchenko from the Russian LGBT Network: “Secretary Clinton’s point about ‘honest discussion’ is particularly important for Russia because we suffer from extreme ignorance. Discussion is shut down in our country. Her message about decriminalization was also very important in our country right now.”

Santiago Eder from Colombia Diversa: “It was extremely important that the Secretary of State of the United States of America introduced the concept that ‘gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.’ It was a very symbolic and historic moment for the gay liberation movement.”

Pauline Kimani of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya: “I really appreciated the speech. I loved the introspective parts and believe that the consultative process with these activists on the ground that was started today will continue for a lifetime!”

Adrian Jjuuko, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Uganda: “It was a very powerful speech – which very relevant in the context of Uganda. Coming from the stature of HC, it amplifies our voices for equality much much further. I’m sure its impact will be felt for years to come.

Rev. MacDonald Sembereka of the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS: “First and foremost, thank you Hillary Clinton and the U.S. government for starting a global discussion like never was done before. To me this has been a speech that touched all aspects of a discussion that we need to have globally. She covered all the pros and cons – and now the global discussion begins. I hope that the rest of the world takes it up.”

Anastasia Danilova of Gender DOC-Moldova: “It was very important speech for Moldova because we have no political will or support in our country for the human rights of LGBT people. That is why it is so important to have the high level of Hillary Clinton’s support for LGBT rights and freedoms. Personally, it was very empowering for her to talk about the importance of us – the LGBT activists.”

Alice N’kom of ADEFHO, Cameroon: “I am so honored and privileged to be a part of this historical message. As a defender of women’s human rights, it felt like it did after the Beijing conference on women — the Secretary had the same impact on LGBT human rights today as she did with women’s rights in Beijing. This makes our struggle a success. We will win, as we won in Beijing. And I hope my country and I will be a part of this side of history.”

Sanja Juras of Kontra, Croatia: “It was certainly a very important speech and crucial that such a high official sent the message that LGBT rights are human rights. This makes a difference for people all over the world. For us in Croatia, the mention of freedom of assembly was very important, since these rights are violated, as during gay pride demonstrations this year.”

Zoryan Kis of Fulcrum, Ukraine: “It was very exciting to really witness the history that Secretary Clinton said we are on the right side of. For the Ukrainian LGBT community the message that ‘we are not alone’ was so important to hear. The other message about the evolution of opinions and how Clinton’s own understanding has developed was really helpful to our work. We cannot persuade people through accusations, but we have to work to help our society understand and accept LGBT rights.”

J-FLAG Representative, Jamaica: “I was so honored to be a part of this moment in history. The central thing that stuck out for me is that progress begins with honest conversation. That is key for us at home in Jamaica to begin more rational, honest conversations about the rights of our people, including LGBT.”

Vladimir Simenko of the Lithuanian Gay League: “Personally, as an human rights watchdog for two decades, I sometimes feel frustrated. But when I heard Hillary Clinton say that we have friends and partners abroad, I really felt that we are not alone.  I truly feel motivated and inspired. We will use this message for our struggle – and hope that our government does too.”

The Council for Global Equality brings together international human rights activists, foreign policy experts, LGBT leaders, philanthropists and corporate officials to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world.

Melanie Nathan
[email protected]

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