April 17, 2018 at 10:30 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
HRC holds annual global summit in D.C.

From left: Irwin Iradukunda of Burundi, Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas of Colombia and Hazel Mokgathi of Botswana are among the 31 LGBTI rights activists from around the world took part in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that took place in D.C. from April 9-12. (Photo courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign)

Thirty-one LGBTI rights advocates from around the world attended the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that took place last week in D.C.

Activists from Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan, Kuwait, Thailand, Albania, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, St. Lucia, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Kazakhstan attended the summit that took place at HRC from April 9-12. Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas — a Colombian woman whose son, Sergio Urrego, took his own life in 2014 after administrators of the high school he attended targeted him after a teacher saw a picture of him kissing his boyfriend — is among those who spoke.

“Being here has been electrifying,” Hazel Mokgathi, director of African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Justice, a group that advocates on behalf of transgender women and other groups in Botswana, told the Washington Blade on April 11. “It’s like a wave of energy has just been pumped into me.”

Danilo Manzano, an LGBTI rights advocate who lives in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, said the summit was “the ideal opportunity to highlight the LGBTI reality” in his country. Manzano told the Blade the summit also provided an opportunity to network with other activists from around the world.

Irwin Iradukunda, director of programs at Moulin des Libertés, an LGBTI advocacy group in Burundi, noted to the Blade on April 11 that consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in his country. Iradukunda also said the Burundian government’s crackdown on civil society organizations is “the most pressing issue” for Moulin des Libertés.

“We are doing some work back home,” he told the Blade. “But being here and being exposed to people doing different work in different countries is so good to me.”

Summit participant describes Trump as ‘horrible bully’

The summit took place against the backdrop of anti-LGBTI crackdowns that continue to take place in Indonesia, Egypt and other countries.

HRC President Chad Griffin on March 29 once again urged President Trump to publicly condemn the crackdown against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.

Mike Pompeo on April 12 during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of state did not directly answer U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)’s question about whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.”

The U.S. continues to promote LGBTI rights abroad, even though the Trump administration’s record on LGBTI-specific issues in the U.S. has sparked outrage among advocacy groups and their supporters. Advocates in Latin America, the Middle East and other regions have also criticized the White House’s immigration policies.

Mokgathi specifically criticized Trump over his efforts to ban trans people from the military. She also described him as “a horrible bully.”

“He should just finish his term and go and the right person in there; someone who is open-minded, someone who is for all communities,” Mokgathi told the Blade. “He can’t be a leader of a country and then speak for a certain group of people and denounce the rest of the people.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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