December 19, 2015 Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, African HRC
Candidate for the Democratic U.S. Presidential nomination, former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has outlined a comprehensive LGBT policy plan for domestic and global LGBT issues. While we at African Human Rights Coalition are grateful to Secretary Clinton for her recognition of the plight of LGBT people around the globe and her support of LGBT global rights, we do not believe that this part of her plan goes far enough.
Approximately 65% of African countries criminalize gay people with harsh anti-homosexuality punitive measures, some including life in prison or the death sentence. Sweeping reform is much needed to accommodate the special category of LGBTI people escaping persecution and criminalization. Humanitarian funding is sorely lacking. Most funding goes to capacity building and advocacy programs, but very little to those who suffer the backlashes and exposure such advocacy brings.
At this time thousands of African LGBT people are either in hiding, without employment, or on the street without safe shelter, many seeking exile options due to assaults, threats, blackmail, torture, rape and imminent arrests resulting from criminalization. Most African LGBTI people do not qualify for visas abroad and do not have the financial ability to travel. They have no choice but to cross over into another African country, equally abusive, to seek refugee status and become mandated by UNHCR for resettlement.
The refugee process is slow and the problems that LGBT people face are unique and complex, as they have no choice but to start their asylum process in countries where they are further persecuted, before UNHCR is able to complete their resettlement.
Gay refugees awaiting resettlement, pending or under UNHCR mandate, are struggling to survive. Some are HIV positive and do not receive adequate medical attention. Nourishment is poor, exacerbating medical issues. Some are forced into sex work for survival and there are new HIV positive cases as a result.
In some countries UNHCR is not providing any protection at all and parties have to self advocate in harsh environments, where UNHCR staff is short and local staff homophobic.
We are receiving reports of health related deaths and suicides.
Let us hope that a Clinton administration will delve much deeper into these critical issues and that it will not simply be business as usual, where the funding is often wasted and often not trickling down to those truly in need. The effect of the anti gay milieu on people’s lives is as important as fighting for change. Yet the former is barely addressed from a funding and urgent direct impact perspective.
Here is the Clinton Policy Plan remarks on LGBTI global:
Promote human rights of LGBT people around the world. In 2011, Secretary Clinton stood before the United Nations Human Rights Council and told the world’s leaders, “Gay rights are human rights” – spearheading the effort to pass the first-ever UN resolution to protect the LGBT community abroad. Clinton will continue her work to promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world. As President, she will:
Increase support for the Global Equality Fund. As Secretary of State, Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund to support programs that advance the human rights of LGBT persons abroad. Hundreds of millions of people live in places where they can be arrested, even executed for their sexuality or gender identity. As President, Clinton will increase our investment in the Global Equality Fund by $50 million over the next decade to advance the human rights of LGBT people around the world.
A lot more needs to be said:
1) We need to reform our VISA process in the U.S.A. to create a speedy process through special visas for LGBTI people who are suffering persecution by not being allowed to live according to their sexuality. Such is similar to that which was implemented for Russian Jewish emigres who suffered religious persecution in Soviet Russia.
and to mitigate the need for exile –
2) We need to provide humanitarian funding to relocate LGBT people to safe shelter, promote LGBT development and try and help LGBT people stay in Africa, safely.
Let us hope the call for advancement also addresses the immediate humanitarian crisis that currently is receiving very little attention.
First published here.
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