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US to ‘reengage’ with UN Human Rights Council

Body in recent years has championed LGBTQ issues

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(Photo by bennymarty via Bigstockphoto.com)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced the U.S. will “reengage” with the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The U.S. in 2018 withdrew from the council, which in recent years has emerged as a vocal champion of LGBTQ rights around the world.

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a press conference that announced the withdrawal noted countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights records” are members of the council. Haley also accused it having a “chronic bias against” Israel.

Russia, Cuba and Venezuela are among the 47 countries that are currently members of the council.

“The Biden administration has recommitted the United States to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights and equality,” said Blinken in a statement the State Department released. “Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision, and in that regard the president has instructed the Department of State to reengage immediately and robustly with the U.N. Human Rights Council.”

“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” he added. “However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”

The decision to “reengage” with the council comes days after President Biden issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. Blinken in his statement notes the council’s efforts to expand LGBTQ rights around the world.

“When it works well, the Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as an important forum for those fighting injustice and tyranny,” said Blinken. “The council can help to promote fundamental freedoms around the globe, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and religion or belief as well as the fundamental rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ persons, and other marginalized communities. To address the council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership.”

“In the immediate term, the United States will engage with the council as an observer, and in that capacity will have the opportunity to speak in the council, participate in negotiations, and partner with others to introduce resolutions,” he added. “It is our view that the best way to improve the council is to engage with it and its members in a principled fashion. We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach.”

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Central America

Gay man elected to Honduran congress

Víctor Grajeda will serve as Congresswoman-elect Silvia Ayala’s substitute

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Victor Grajeda (Foto cortesía de Víctor Grajeda)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — An openly gay man in Honduras made history on Sunday when he won a seat in the country’s Congress.

Grajeda will serve alongside Congresswoman-elect Silvia Ayala of the leftist Free Party (Partido Libre), who represents Cortés department in which the city of San Pedro Sula is located, as her substitute.

Reportar sin Miedo, the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner in Honduras, and Agencia Presentes, reported Grajeda received more than 100,000 votes. Grajeda is one of five openly LGBTQ candidates who ran for Congress.

“I am looking to open spaces and eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity,” said Grajeda.

Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, a member of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández’s ruling National Party (Partido Nacional), on Tuesday conceded defeat to President-elect Xiomara Castro of the Free Party.

Castro’s husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted from power in a 2009 coup.

Activists with whom the Blade has spoken say LGBTQ Hondurans continue to flee the country and migrate to the U.S. in order to escape rampant violence and discrimination and a lack of employment and educational opportunities. Castro, among other things, has publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples in Honduras.

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Canada

Canadian government introduces legislation to ban conversion therapy

Prime minister says discredited practice as ‘discriminatory and degrading’

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health disparities, gay news, Washington Blade
Parliament Hill - Colline du Parlement Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Public domain)

OTTAWA, Ontario — The Canadian government on Monday introduced a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

The bill that Attorney General David Lametti and Women and Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien introduced would amend Canada’s Criminal Code to specifically ban:

  • Causing another person to undergo conversion therapy
  • Removing a minor from Canada to subject them to conversion therapy abroad
  • Profiting from providing conversion therapy
  • Advertising or promoting conversion therapy

A press release the Canadian government issued said the bill would allow courts “to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order their removal from computer systems or the internet.”

“The pain and trauma caused by conversion therapy practices continue to have a devastating impact on LGBTQ2 communities across Canada,” said Ien. “Our government is focused on promoting equality rights and tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit people. Criminalizing this practice upholds basic human rights, while also ensuring that every Canadian is free to live their authentic lives.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet said conversion therapy “is discriminatory and degrading, and has had devastating impacts on LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

“It has no place in our country,” he said.

Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, who previously advised Trudeau on LGBTQ issues, also applauded the bill’s introduction.

“Conversion ‘therapy’ is akin to torture,” said Boissonnault. “I encourage all of my colleagues in the House (of Commons), to support this bill that will move to criminalize conversion therapy in Canada once and for all.”

Trudeau, who won re-election in September, has previously called for a prohibition of the widely discredited practice. The Canadian Senate earlier this year tabled a separate conversion therapy ban bill.

The House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously approved the recently introduced bill. It now goes to the Senate.

Canada would join Malta and a handful of countries that ban conversion therapy.

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Europe

Hungarian lawmakers set stage for anti-LGBTQ referendum

Prime minister under fire for ongoing crackdown

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The Hungarian Parliament (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution that paves the way for a referendum on LGBTQ issues.

Reuters noted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is running for re-election in 2022, earlier this year proposed a referendum on a law that that bans the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary.

“The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda,” Deputy Minister Balázs Orbán told Hungarian MPs, according to Reuters. “We are committed. We believe that we … have to say no to LGBTQ propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent.”

Orbán continues to face criticism over his government’s efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights in Hungary.

Lawmakers late last year amended the country’s constitution to define family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation” with “the mother is a woman, the father a man” and effectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children. Hungarian MPs in April 2020 approved a bill that bans transgender and intersex people from legally changing their gender.

Hungary in August issued a decree that restricted the sale of children’s books with LGBTQ-specific themes.

The European Commission in July announced legal action against Hungary after the law that will go before voters took effect.

Orbán in September said Brussels has withheld funds for the country’s pandemic recovery plan because of his government’s anti-LGBTQ policies. An EU spokesperson said LGBTQ issues did not factor into the decision to withhold the money.

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