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State Department urges Ghana to protect LGBTQ rights after activists arrest

Workshop attendees taken into custody after ‘unlawful assembly’

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The Harry S Truman State Department building in Washington (Photo Credit: GSA/U.S. Government)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Monday expressed concern over the arrest of 21 LGBTQ activists in Ghana.

Ghananian police on May 20 arrested the activists in the city of Ho. A State Department spokesperson in their statement said the U.S. “promotes efforts worldwide to protect LGBTQI+ populations from violence and abuse, criminalization, discrimination, and stigma, and to empower local movements and persons seeking to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

The spokesperson proceeded to say that the situation in Ghana is on the State Department’s radar and called upon the country’s national leaders and citizens to support and preserve the human rights of LGBTQ Ghanaians. 

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” said the spokesperson. “We urge national leaders in Ghana to uphold constitutional human rights protections and to adhere to international human rights obligations and commitments for all individuals. This includes members of the LGBTQI+ community.” 

“We call on all Ghanaians to respect the provisions under Ghana’s constitution that guarantee freedom of speech, expression, and peaceful assembly.”

What caused the arrests?

A training for activists and paralegals on how to advocate for LGBTQ Ghanaians and record any infringements of their human rights took place on May 20. Someone tipped off the authorities, and they arrested event detainees.

Alex Kofi Donkor, founder and director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, told The Guardian that “the [event] was to train them on paralegal services for vulnerable groups – how we can document issues of abuse, and how best these trained paralegals can provide support.” 

Authorities deemed the event an “unlawful assembly,” and they immediately arrested 16 men and five women. All were denied bail and are due to appear before a judge on June 4. 

Rightify Ghana, a Ghanaian human rights group, in a series of tweets said journalists teamed up with the Ghanaian police when they descended on the event, and took people’s belongings.

“Journalists were the first to storm the place, started taking photos, took their notepads, flip charts, puller banner, books, then locked them while calling the police. The worried victims started crying for help, but today a judge has remanded the 21 queer persons #ReleaseThe21,” said Rightify Ghana. 

Rightify Ghana further expressed their disappointment with the Ghanaian media’s actions as it is an entity that has fervently advocated for freedom of press in the West African nation. 

“Ghanaian media, which has for decades been advocating for press freedom in Ghana, are enablers in the promotion of hate and discrimination against minority groups in the country, especially sexual minorities. No wonder Ghana is here,” said Rightify Ghana. 

The activists’ arrest last week in Ho is the latest of a series of anti-LGBTQ events that have taken place in Ghana.

Ghanaian police officers earlier this year raided and shut down an LGBTQ center.

This action prompted Black celebrities in the West to urge President Nana Akufo-Addo in an open letter to work with LGBTQ community leaders. Some of the celebrities included actor Idris Elba, model Naomi Campbell, and British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful.

In reaction to the recent arrests, prominent human rights groups have expressed their disapproval of LGBTQ human rights abuses in Ghana.

“The arrest of LGBTIQ people holding a lawful, private gathering about protecting and supporting LGBTIQ people in Ghana is shocking, and unacceptable,” said OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern. “The basic human rights to freedom of assembly and association, enshrined in the country’s constitution, should not be limited by anti-LGBTIQ opinions of bystanders or the police.”

“Those detained should be released immediately, and an investigation into how such a blatant violation of rights could take place has to be held,” added Stern.

“I am deeply saddened that the Ghana police can act on false alarm to arrest and detain innocent citizens,” added Davis Mac-Iyalla, executive director of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa. “The human rights defenders arrested and jailed did nothing unlawful, they were exercising their freedom of assembly and association.”

Mac-Iyalla in his statement said “this illegal arrest is a reflection of the high level of discrimination against minorities in Ghana.” 

“I call on the government to condemn the arrest and order the release of the human rights defenders,” added Mac-Iyalla. “I also call on religious leaders and all civil society locally and internationally to add their voices to this call.”

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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Blinken says Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin

Geneva summit between two presidents took place on June 16

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (YouTube screenshot)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said President Biden raised the Kremlin’s LGBTQ rights record with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent summit.

“The president pushed human rights — including LGBTQI rights — with President Putin,” Blinken told Washington Post columnist, “PBS NewsHour” contributor and host of MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show” Jonathan Capehart during a virtual Pride month discussion the Atlantic Council hosted.

Biden met with Putin on June 16 in Geneva. Blinken was among those who participated in the summit.

The White House did not say whether Biden specifically raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. Biden told reporters after the summit that he stressed to Putin “that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.”

“What he told President Putin is that as an American president — where for all of our challenges, many of which are manifest in recent months and recent years — this is something that is basically stamped in to our DNA and he would be abdicating his responsibility as president, as an American president, not to raise these issues,” Blinken told Capehart.

Capehart specifically asked Blinken about the case of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia in February and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we and who he is and what we’ll do and will continue to do going forward,” said Blinken.

Blinken also did not say how Putin specifically responded to Biden’s decision to raise his country’s LGBTQ rights record with him. Blinken, however, did say “there was at least an acknowledgment” the U.S. will raise human rights in such meetings.

“This is what an American president should do,” said Blinken. “This is who we are and this is what we represent to the world.”

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Las iglesias en Cuba están más preocupadas por la educación sexual que por el Código de las Familias

Los adventistas publicaron una carta dirigida al presidente

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Una iglesia de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día en Santa Clara, Cuba. (Foto de Michael K. Lavers por el Washington Blade)

Tremenda Nota es el medio socio del Los Angeles Blade. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 16 de junio.

CÁRDENAS, Cuba — Una declaración oficial de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día confirma que la preocupación de algunas iglesias cristianas contrarias a los derechos LGBTI+, está más motivada por el programa de educación sexual integral aprobado por el Ministerio de Educación (Mined) que por el Código de las Familias.

Los adventistas, en una carta pública dirigida al presidente cubano Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, manifestaron estar “preocupadas” por la Resolución No. 16/2021, aprobada por el Mined el pasado 26 de febrero con el propósito de establecer un programa educativo con enfoque de género que promueve la inclusión de personas LGBTI+, entre otros temas.

La declaración adventista, aunque dice estar en “desacuerdo” con “los ajustes que se quieren hacer al Código de Familia”, solicitó puntualmente al gobierno “no exponer a nuestros niños, niñas y adolescentes a la ideología de género en las escuelas”.

“Finalmente, en caso de implementarse el programa de ideología de género en nuestras escuelas que este sea opcional, ya que no existen escuelas cristianas”, insistieron los adventistas.

La resolución aprobada por el Mined declara: “El respeto a la diversidad sexual, como fundamento ético y de protección de los derechos de las personas y de rechazo a prácticas y comportamientos homofóbicos, transfóbicos e inhumanos”.

La solicitud principal de la declaración adventista coincide con lo manifestado por otras denominaciones cristianas en sus recientes posiciones públicas. La Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental, por ejemplo, también recomendó que la educación sexual sea ofrecida como una opción no obligatoria, bajo supervisión del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex).

“Sería doloroso que muchos ciudadanos dignos se vean en la disyuntiva de no llevar a sus hijos a la escuela (asumiendo las consecuencias de ese acto de desobediencia civil) o entregarlos mansamente al bombardeo sectario de una ideología que rechazamos”, dijeron los bautistas.

La Liga Evangélica de Cuba, en su declaración publicada este 10 de junio, enfatizó en que se garantice la libertad religiosa y expresó que personas LGBTI+ “tienen derecho a luchas por sus demandas y pedir igualdad ante la ley”.

Los adventistas, en la misma línea que los metodistas, quienes solicitaron al gobierno una Ley de Cultos que refuerce la libertad religiosa, dijeron en su carta que si las autoridades finalmente legislan a favor de la igualdad LGBTI+, también proteja a quienes defienden “el punto de vista contrario a la ideología de género”, para evitar que sean acusados de homofobia “por proclamar y vivir los principios bíblicos”.

Los metodistas advirtieron sobre el peligro de “criminalizar nuestra defensa del diseño original de la familia, el matrimonio y la identidad humana”.

Las últimas declaraciones de las iglesias cristianas parecen dar como un hecho inevitable que el Código de las Familias adoptará el matrimonio LGBTI+ y se han enfocado en defender el derecho de los cristianos a profesar la fe que deseen sin ser molestados y la facultad de los padres para elegir la educación de los hijos menores de edad.

La resolución del Mined que han criticado estas iglesias, ya está en vigor. El Código de las Familias, la ley que debe resolver si el matrimonio será un derecho de las parejas LGBTI+, será presentado al parlamento en julio próximo. Después de ser aprobado por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, será sometido a referendo.

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US condemns murder of prominent transgender activist in Guatemala

Andrea González murdered days after vice president visited country

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Andrea González (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

GUATEMALA CITY — The U.S. has condemned the murder of a prominent transgender activist in Guatemala.

Reports indicate Andrea González, executive director of Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche, a trans advocacy group, was shot to death in broad daylight on June 11 near her home in Guatemala City. Las Reinas de la Noche in a statement posted to its Twitter page mourned González.

“Reinas de la Noche is in mourning over the irreparable loss of Andrea González, a leader and activist for the human rights of trans people,” said Reinas de la Noche. “Her legacy will endure in each one of us, and her light will never be extinguished.”

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala noted González participated in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program that invites human rights activists, journalists and civil society members to the U.S. to meet with their counterparts and American officials.

Andrea González in D.C. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

González also worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala mourns the death of Andrea González,” said the embassy in a statement.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp on Wednesday visited Reina de las Noche’s headquarters to express their condolences over González’s murder.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung in a statement noted González was killed days after Cecy Ixpata, who was also affiliated with Reinas de la Noche, was killed in Salamá, the capital of Guatemala’s Baja Verapaz department.

Salamá is roughly three hours northeast of Guatemala City.

“We condemn the outrageous murders of two transgender women in Guatemala,” said Chung. “We believe all such violence must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.” 

Chung added the murders are “particularly saddening as we celebrate the contributions of LGBTQI+ activists around the world during Pride month.”

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains widespread in Guatemala.

Two activists who work with LGBTQ Guatemalans and Guatemalans with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemala civil society who participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala City on June 7. 

Harris has previously noted that violence based on gender identity is one of the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala and other Central American countries. State Department spokesperson Ned Price last month noted to the Blade during an interview ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia that protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities.  

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