March 12, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
State Dept. report identifies LGBT abuses abroad

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key).

A new State Department report reveals LGBT people in many foreign countries continue to endure discrimination and human rights abuses.

The annual State Department report on human rights abroad, made public Thursday, describes the state of human rights in each country, including the sometimes difficult conditions faced by LGBT people.

For the first time, most of the entries for each country have a section on “societal abuses, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” giving these acts particular attention.

In remarks to the press, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of the report as a means to educate those who are interested in human rights.

“These reports are an essential tool – for activists who courageously struggle to protect rights in communities around the world; for journalists and scholars who document rights violations and who report on the work of those who champion the vulnerable; and for governments, including our own, as they work to craft strategies to encourage protection of human rights of more individuals in more places,” she said.

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The new report identifies serious abuses against LGBT people in many countries, including cases where the government is threatening the lives of LGBT people or where LGBT people are facing torture.

The introduction for the report makes particular note of Uganda, where an anti-gay bill was introduced in September.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the proposed legislation would institute the death penality for repeatedly engaging in homosexual acts or for having homosexual sex while HIV positive. Additionally, the bill would require citizens to report LGBT people to the government or risk fines and imprisonment.

The report states the introduction of the anti-gay bill in Uganda ”resulted in increased harassment and intimidation of LGBT persons during the year.”

“Public resentment of homosexual conduct sparked significant public debate during the year, and the government took a strong position against such conduct despite a December 2008 ruling by the High Court that constitutional rights apply to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation,” the report states.

The report also details the alleged human rights abuses against LGBT people in Iraq. Following a congressional fact-finding tour to the country last year, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay, had worked to draw attention to these alleged abuses.

Although homosexuality between adults isn’t illegal in Iraq, the State Department notes various reports of violence against gay men at the hands of non-governmental actors.

The report cites accounts in the media indicating that around 60 gay men were killed in the first few months of 2009, mostly in Baghdad, and the U.N.’s refugee agency found 30 gay men or boys were murdered because they were perceived to be gay.

“Numerous press reports indicate that some victims were assaulted and murdered by having their anuses glued shut or their genitals cut off and stuffed down their throats until they suffocated,” the report states. ”The government did not endorse or condone these extra-judicial killings, and the [Ministry of the Interior] publicly stated that killing men or lesbians was murder.”

The report also notes serious assaults against LGBT people in Jamaica. The country has a law against “acts of gross indecency” between men, which is generally interpreted as any kind of physical intimacy.

According to the State Department, human rights abuses against LGBT people in Jamaica include “arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of such persons.” The report says police often didn’t investigate these incidents.

Individuals perceived as gay were often the targets of extreme violence, according to the report. In September, an honorary British consul in Montego Bay was strangled in bed. The perpetuator left a note at the scene reportedly denouncing the victim as gay.

“On October 12, a passerby accused a pedestrian on a Kingston sidewalk of being gay because he had been walking in an ‘effeminate manner,’” the report states. ”That person was subsequently attacked with a machete and four fingers were nearly severed.”

In a statement, Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, commended the State Department for providing detailed information on assaults against LGBT people abroad.

“The level of reporting on LGBT abuses this year is remarkably detailed and truly commendable, and unfortunately this new level of detail shows just how dangerous it is for LGBT individuals to go about their daily lives as ordinary citizens in so many parts of the world,” he said.

Michael Guest, who’s gay and a former U.S. ambassador to Romania, also praised the report, noting “many of the most egregious abuses have been committed in countries considered to be friends and allies of the United States.” He urged the State Department to develop strategies to counter these abuses in every part of the world.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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