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USAID launches partnership to promote LGBT rights

Victory Institute and Astraea to conduct training in Bogotá, Colombia, from May 30-June 2

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Chuck Wolfe, gay news, gay politics dc, Victory Fund

Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe is among those who attended Monday’s announcement. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Monday unveiled a public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world.

USAID will work with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and Olivia Companies on the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and other developing countries. The Gill Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation will also participate in the initiative that seeks to expand the capacity of local LGBT rights organizations, further engage out people in their respective countries’ political processes and gather information on the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“This partnership leverages the financial resources and skills of each partner to further inclusive development and increase respect for the human rights of LGBT people around the world,” Claire Lucas, senior advisor of the USAID Office of Innovation and Development Alliances during a panel at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C. “It can be a real game-changer in the advancement of LGBT human rights.”

Anne-Charlotte Malm of the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency echoed Lucas.

“We all, by being here today, share the common vision of a society without discrimination or harassment and equal rights and opportunities for everybody regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” she said. “This partnership is a step towards this tradition.”

More than 80 countries and territories continue to criminalize homosexuality — and seven of them impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of same-sex sexual relations.

Only 19 countries ban anti-transgender discrimination — the State Department has spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations in recent years.

Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa are among the dozen countries that currently allow same-sex marriage.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 proclaimed in a speech she delivered in Geneva to commemorate International Human Rights Day that “gay rights are human rights.” President Obama on the same day directed government agencies that implement American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights in the countries in which they work.

The planning for the partnership was already underway when the White House issued its directive, but Lucas said it “really helped us push this over the finish line.”

“I’m humbled by the challenges that you have faced and the sorrows and traumas you’re still sorting out,” Maura O’Neill, director of USAID’s Office of Innovation and Development Alliances, told the LGBT rights advocates and others who attended the panel. “I’m awed by the amazing lives that each and every one of you have created and the path you have called your own. This partnership will help millions of others walk in your proud shoes.”

Victory Institute, Astraea to train out Colombian officials

The partnership’s first training will take place in Bogotá, Colombia, from May 30-June 2.

The Victory Institute and Astraea will work with Colombia Diversa, a countrywide advocacy group, to encourage LGBT Colombians to become involved in the political process. Bogotá City Councilor Angelica Lozano; Blanca Durán, mayor of the Colombian capital’s Chapinero district and Tatiana Piñeros, a trans woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the city’s social welfare agency are among those expected to attend.

“We’re pretty excited about this and thrilled that we get to be out there helping LGBT leaders in other countries,” Victory Institute CEO Chuck Wolfe said.

He further cited U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) as an example of the impact he said an out elected official can have among their constituents and their country’s political discourse.

“That civic engagement we know changes the discussion,” Wolfe said as he further discussed what he described as the trainings’ long-lasting impact. “It changes everybody’s understanding of who we are as people and it changes the nature of the debate.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. peter rosenstein

    April 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Nice article. Though Claire Lucas is quoted here I think it is important to note that without her work- her dedication to getting this program off the ground- it would have never happened. She has worked tirelessly over the years for the LGBT community and her knowledge and dedication to hard work is what made yesterday’s announcement possible.

  2. Magdalene Prodigal

    April 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    What about the rights of the unborn?

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US ambassador to UN calls for repeal of criminalization laws

Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke at U.N. LGBTI Core Group event

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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Photo courtesy of the U.S. State Department; public domain)

United States Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is among those who participated in a Wednesday event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that highlighted efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Thomas-Greenfield in her remarks during the largely virtual U.N. LGBTI Core Group event noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

“For millions of people it is illegal for them to be who they are, to love who they love. We need to repeal and eliminate these laws,” she said. “For our part, the United States is using our diplomacy, our foreign assistance and every tool we have to protect human rights, empower civil society and support local LGBTQI movements.”

The U.S. is one of 35 countries that are members of the Core Group.

Wednesday’s event also highlighted efforts to decriminalize transgender people and repeal laws that specifically target them.

“We need more countries to join this committed group,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “Together, let’s do everything we can to protect human rights and promote equality for all.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo; Nepalese Ambassador to the U.N. Amrit Bahadur Rai; New Zealand Ambassador to the U.N. Craig Hawke; Australian Permanent U.N. Representative Mitch Fifield; Brazilian Ambassador to the U.N. Rolando Costa Filho; Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Keith Rae; Assistant U.N. Secretary General for Strategic Coordination Volker Türk; Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Santiago Cafiero; Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Tom de Bruijn; Japanese Foreign Minister Jun Shimmi; Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide; Salvadoran Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco; Costa Rican Vice Multicultural Affairs Minister Christian Guillermet-Fernández; Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry Johanna Sumuvuori; Nick Herbert of the British House of Lords; European Union Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli; Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde; Icelandic Foreign Affairs Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson; Maltese Equality, Research, Innovation and the Coordination of Post COVID-19 Strategy Minister Owen Bonnici; Mexican Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Undersecretary Martha Delgado; Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova; Chilean Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Carolina Valdivia; German MP Michael Roth; Irish State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Minister Colm Brophy and Danish Development and Nordic Cooperation Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen participated in the event that Reuters U.N. Bureau Chief Michelle Nichols emceed.

Acting OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin and activists from Bhutan, Botswana, Guyana, Mozambique, Angola, Panamá and India took part. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and Nikkie de Jager, a Dutch U.N. goodwill ambassador known as NikkieTutorials who is trans, also participated.

“Decriminalization is a very basic demand,” said Sjödin. “Given how many countries have these laws on the books, it is still a priority.”

Herbert, who is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ envoy, noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in 35 of the Commonwealth’s 54 countries. Herbert also announced the U.K. will give an additional $2.75 million to “support LGBT+ individuals in Commonwealth countries, including to those seeking to address outdated legislation that discriminates against women, girls and LGBT+ individuals.”

“We are clear that tackling discrimination is only one part of the issue,” said Herbert. “We must encourage countries as well to put in place laws that protect their LGBTI citizens going forward.”

President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relation is one of the White House’s five global LGBTQ rights priorities.

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Immigration Equality condemns deportation of Haitian migrants, asylum seekers

Prominent activist found dead in Port-au-Prince home in 2019

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Hurricane Matthew damage near Jérémie, Haiti in 2016. Immigration Equality has condemned the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Reginald Dupont/Fondation SEROvie)

Immigration Equality on Wednesday sharply criticized the Biden administration over the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S.

“Over 10,000 Haitian migrants and asylum seekers are waiting at America’s doorstep, but the Biden administration won’t uphold their basic right to ask for protection,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford in a press release. “This is blatantly illegal and morally reprehensible. Many of these people are asylum seekers who face grave danger if returned to Haiti. They have traveled thousands of miles to escape a country torn apart by devastating earthquakes and political turmoil.”

The White House in recent days has been struggling to respond to the influx of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Pictures of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing and whipping Haitians have sparked widespread outrage.

Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most migrants and asylum seekers because of the pandemic, remains in place. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to deport Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from Texas.

Immigration Equality in its press release notes Charlot Jeudy, a member of Kouraj, a Haitian LGBTQ rights group, was found dead inside his home in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, in 2019.

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in Haiti.

President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7 and an 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14 that left scores of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of others have caused additional turmoil in Haiti, which is the Western Hemisphere’ poorest country.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in 2010 killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Fondation SEROvie, a Haitian HIV/AIDS service organization, contributed to relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread damage on the country’s Tiburon Peninsula in 2016. Last month’s earthquake struck in the same area.

“For LGBTQ people in particular, expulsion means returning to a society that rejects them. They are frequent targets of violence and sexual assault, including by the police,” said Crawford. “The country is fundamentally unsafe for the queer and transgender community.”

“Instead of welcoming Haitian asylum seekers as the U.S. should, the Biden administration is sending them back to life-threatening conditions,” added Crawford. “We call on the administration to halt the deportation flights immediately and end Title 42 in its entirety. The disturbing images of border agents on horseback chasing down terrified Haitian migrants go against the administration’s professed ideals. Shame on the Biden administration for embracing this xenophobic and illegal Trump-era policy and mistreating vulnerable migrants.”

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Biden highlights LGBTQ rights in UN General Assembly speech

President noted crackdowns in Chechnya, Cameroon

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President Biden addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021. (Screen capture via NBC News)

President Biden on Tuesday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly spoke in support of LGBTQ rights around the world.

“We all must defend the rights of LGBTQI individuals so they can live and love openly without fear,” he said.

Biden in his speech specifically cited anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Chechnya and Cameroon. He spoke after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights, addressed the General Assembly.

“As we pursue diplomacy across the board, the United States will champion the democratic values that go to the very heart of who we are as a nation and a people: freedom, equality, opportunity and a belief in the universal rights of all people,” said Biden.

The White House earlier this year released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations and protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers are two of the administration’s five priorities in its efforts to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week expressed concern over the fate of LGBTQ Afghans who remain in their country after the Taliban regained control of it, but it remains unclear how many of them the U.S. has been able to evacuate.

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