United Nations Releases First Report on Human Rights Violations of LGBT People
In the midst of the growing conflict between African nations and the United States regarding LGBT rights, the United Nations has, for the first time, released a report detailing how LGBT people are treated throughout the world. Released on Dec. 15 by the U.N. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR) in Geneva, it outlines “a pattern of human rights violations.”
The report, which can be read on UN.org, states that “LGBT people are often targets of organized abuse from religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo-Nazis, extreme nationalists, and others, as well as family and community violence, with lesbians and transgender women at particular risk.”
It also finds that while homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in every region of the world with violent acts ranging from murder, kidnappings, assaults and rapes to psychological threats and arbitrary deprivations of liberty, most governments do little or nothing about it.
Charles Radcliffe, the chief of OHCHR’s global issues section, told UN Radio that all U.N. Member States have an obligation under international human rights law to decriminalize homosexuality.
“One of the things we found is if the law essentially reflects homophobic sentiment, then it legitimizes homophobia in society at large,” Radcliffe said. “If the State treats people as second class or second rate or, worse, as criminals, then it’s inviting people to do the same thing.”
Radcliffe did add that it was important to persuade Member States to change their position, rather than lecture them. But he also said that “no religious belief or prevailing cultural values can justify stripping people of their basic rights.”
Transgender “Icon,” Carmen Rupe Died
Carmen Rupe, Australia’s first-ever Maori drag performer and LGBT advocate, died of kidney failure on December 15. According to GayNZ.com, Rupe was born in 1935 and spent the first years of her life living as Trevor. At 11 years old, Trevor began dressing in his mother’s clothes. As soon as he could, Rupe left school and moved to Auckland and Wellington where he experimented with drag performances while doing compulsory military training and working as a nurse and waiter.
In the 1950s, Rupe moved to Kings Cross and officially became Carmen, based on Dorothy Dandridge’s character in the movie Carmen Jones. It was then Rupe vowed to give up men’s clothes forever.
In addition to being New Zealand’s most-loved transgender performer, Rupe was a fierce advocate of LGBT rights. When she unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Wellington in 1977, she campaigned for hotel bars to be open till midnight or even 2am, the drinking age to be lowered to 18, prostitution to be made legal, homosexual acts and abortion to be decriminalized and nudity on some beaches—all of which are now legal.
“The police were very, very heavy,” Carmen recalled in a 2006 interview with the New Zealand Herald. “They hated gay people. They hated drag queens and they hated lesbians. They used to take us into the police station and give us a hiding and beat us up. I was locked up in Long Bay prison about a dozen times. But it made me a stronger person today.”
To read more about the life of Carmen Rupe, visit GayNZ.com.
Obama, Hillary Clinton Condemn Global Anti-LGBT Human Rights Abuses
The Obama Administration is taking a tough stance on countries that discriminate against LGBT members of the population. In Geneva on Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech promising “sweeping efforts to confront global anti-LGBT human rights abuses.”
“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said at the December 6 event. “It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.”
“It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.”
President Obama has instructed officials across government to “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons around the world.”
Under this new initiative, legal, moral, and financial support will be boosted for gay rights organizations. Additionally, emergency assistance will be sent to groups or individuals facing threats, and asylum in the U.S. will be offered to people forced to flee homophobic persecution in their countries.
Prior to delivering the speech, Clinton met with human rights activists from Cameroon to discuss how the U.S. can promote the rights of LGBT residents in Cameroon, where ten people have been detained or arrested by police for being gay in the last year, according to Change.org.
“It’s truly remarkable to see how organizations like The Association for the Defense of Homosexuals (ADEFHO) are building international support to fight back against laws that criminalize LGBT people,” said Change.org Senior Organizer Michael Jones in a statement on the organization’s website.
“In the face of enormous personal risk, ADEFHO has managed to recruit more than 30,000 people to call for the release of these two men in Cameroon, sending a message to the President and Minister of Justice that the world is watching.”
Many African countries are not pleased with the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting LGBT rights. John Nagenda, a senior adviser to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, told The Christian Science Monitor that Obama’s view would be “anathema” to most African nations.
“I don’t like her tone, at all,” he said, referring to Clinton’s speech, “I’m amazed she’s not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa.”
Sentiments were similar in Nigeria, where just last week the Senate agreed to pass a proposed law banning same-sex marriages, imposing 14-year jail terms for people found guilty, and adding a 10-year sentence for anyone who helps homosexuals marry. Columnist Leon Usigbe wrote in the Nigerian Tribune that the new U.S. gay rights policy would provoke a “significant diplomatic confrontation” between Washington and Africa’s most populous country.
Church leaders in Kenya responded the most derisively, with Deputy General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Oliver Kisaka, stated, “We don’t believe in advancing the rights of gays.”
“God did not make a mistake; [being gay] is that person’s own perception,” Kisaka said in an article by The Monitor. Those who live as gays need help to live right, and we should not be supporting them to live in a wrong reality.”
To read more about this issue, visit: CSMonitor.com/World/Africa.
To sign the Change.org petition to release the two Cameroon men who have been sentenced to five years in prison for being gay, visit Change.org/petitions/demand-cameroon-release-gay-men-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison.