“This critical move by the Obama administration is cause for celebration, especially at a time when violence against LGBTI people is on the increase, through the institutionalization of discriminatory laws, such as the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa.” Melanie Nathan
By Melanie Nathan
President Obama ordered U.S. diplomatic missions and federal agencies working abroad to strengthen efforts to fight international discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, saying he is “deeply concerned by the violence” against them in many parts of the world.
This memo was delivered simultaneously with a speech being given by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Human Rights in Geneva. (see recording below)
The memo elevates the importance of combating discrimination against the LGBT community within Obama’s foreign policy. The issue is an important one to a key element of Obama’s political base, and the move strengthens the argument he is building that he has done more to end the ostracism experienced by the LGBT community, at home and abroad, than his predecessors.
The memo directs all “agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”
- Combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad.
- Protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
- Leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination.
- Ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad.
- Engage International Organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.
Building on pro-gay policies put in place by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama today ordered overseas federal agencies to fight local anti-gay violence and provide asylum to homosexuals seeking protection.
Obama said, “I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
Specifically, the directive orders those agencies to step up efforts to combat the criminalization of homosexuality in other countries, protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, work with foreign governments, human rights organizations and other groups to promote LGBT equality, and create a “standing group” within the State Department to ensure the government reacts quickly to threats to the rights of gays and lesbians.
“Sec. 2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face daunting challenges. In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the Departments of State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum. In addition, the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the “Federal Government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs. “
The federal agencies affected include the State, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services departments, among others.
Obama linked the directive to his statement before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this year, when he said, “No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”
This critical move by the Obama administration is cause for celebration, especially at a time when violence against LGBTI people is on the increase, through the institutionalization of discriminatory laws, such as the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa.
These past months gay communities in Africa have seen an increase in institutionalized homophobia, as governments across the continent seek to quash homosexuality. The Nigerian Senate succeeded in passing a sweeping criminalization bill, Cameroon handed down prison sentences for three gay men based on a perception of being gay and Uganda’s house speaker has tabled the far reaching Anti-homosexuality Bill, otherwise known as the Kill-the-Gays-Bill.
As an LGBT activist having covered this issue for a long time, this ought to send a message to the Ugandans in Parliament to refrain from voting for the anti-homosexuality Bill; it ought to send a message to President Goodluck in Nigeria to commute the sentences of the Nigerians in prison based merely on their orientation and amongst other immediate actions on the part of overseas governments it should send a message to President Zuma to take the lead in Africa and order the removal of Qwelane.
LGBT asylum seekers are on the increase and it will be prudent if a mechanism for passage out of their respective countries was put into place. At this time if an asylum seeker shows up at a US embassy it can takes months to provide transit and help out of the country. Most asylum seekers are targets of attack and have to sneak over borders into other countries with survival a great risk. Hopefully the Obama administration will find a more effective way to help the many desperate LGBT people in Africa and abroad.
WATCH Clinton Speech live http://www.humanrights.gov/2011/12/06/human-rights-geneva/
Read More from Paul Canning at http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/2011/12/obama-admin-to-leverage-foreign-aid-for.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SaveMehdiKazemi+%28LGBT+asylum+news%29