UNITED NATIONS — U.S. 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.
Biden notes LGBTQ+, intersex rights in UN General Assembly speech
President stressed ‘fundamental freedoms’ at risk around the world
UNITED NATIONS — President Joe Biden on Wednesday reiterated his administration’s commitment to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.
“The future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women and girls can exercise equal rights, including basic reproductive rights and contribute fully to building stronger economies and more resilient societies, where religious and ethnic minorities can live their lives without harassment and contribute to the fabric of their communities, where the LGBTQ+ community, individuals live and love freely without being targeted with violence, where citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal,” said Biden in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly.
Biden specifically referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the U.N. General Assembly ratified in 1948. Biden also noted “fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world” with specific references to the Taliban’s repression of women and girls in Afghanistan, the persecution of pro-democracy activists in Myanmar and human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in China’s Xinjiang province that now former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet documented in a report her office released just before her tenure ended on Sept. 1.
Biden also sharply criticized Russia over its war against Ukraine.
“The United States will always promote human rights,” he said.
Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke at a meeting of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad, was among those who were in attendance.
U.N. expert ‘alarmed’ over curtailment of LGBTQ+, intersex rights in U.S.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz traveled across country in August
UNITED NATIONS — The independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has expressed concern over efforts to curtail the rights of LGBTQ+ and intersex people in states across the U.S.
“I am deeply alarmed by a widespread, profoundly negative riptide created by deliberate actions to roll back the human rights of LGBT people at (the) state level,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz on Tuesday during a press conference. “The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatizing views of LGBT persons, in particular Transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit.”
Madrigal-Borloz last month traveled to D.C., Alabama, Florida and California.
Madrigal-Borloz met with officials from the State and Justice Departments, the National Security Council and the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.
Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones and staffers of the Birmingham (Ala.) Civil Rights Institute and the Human Rights Campaign are among those with whom Madrigal-Borloz sat down. A U.N. press release also notes Madrigal-Borloz met “with authorities” at a detention center for asylum seekers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego.
“Despite five decades of progress, equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight, for all persons impacted by violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States,” said Madrigal-Borloz.
Madrigal-Borloz in his comments noted the White House continues to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the U.S. and around the world.
President Joe Biden on June 15 signed a sweeping executive order that, among other things, directs federal government agencies to develop policies that will counter Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and other anti-LGBTQ+ laws that states have enacted.
Biden during his remarks at a White House Pride event that took place on the same day he issued the directive noted violence against Transgender people of color and other vulnerable LGBTQ+ people has increased in the U.S.
Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House a few months later appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.
The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. Stern later noted to the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview that marriage equality “is one element of our longstanding and ongoing commitment to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
“The Biden-Harris administration has adopted powerful and meaningful actions that are in conformity with international human rights law, reveal a thoughtful strategy created through participative approaches, and provide significant capacity for their implementation,” said Madrigal-Borloz. “This is exactly the combination of values, knowledge, and muscle that can drive social change.
“In light of a concerted attack to undermine these actions, I exhort the administration to redouble its efforts to support the human rights of all LGBT persons living under its jurisdiction, and helping them to safe waters,” he added.
The Blade has reached out to the White House for comment on Madrigal-Borloz’s comments.
A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Blade the State Department supports “the important work of (the) Independent Expert for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and look forward to reviewing his final report in the coming months.”
“We welcomed the Independent Expert and coordinated meetings with federal, state and local governments and civil society organizations across the country,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson referred the Blade to Biden’s June 15 executive director. The spokesperson further stressed that “human rights are at the core of U.S. foreign policy, and that includes standing up for and defending the full recognition of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
“We engage in this work with humility, knowing that our road forward on these issues at home has been complex, and progress has been non-linear, and has come at the cost of great struggle and loss,” said the spokesperson. “We believe LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.”
U.S. ambassador to U.N. attends Summit of the Americas
Linda Thomas-Greenfield says LGBTQ+ rights remain a top priority
LOS ANGELES — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Friday said LGBTQ+ rights remain a top priority for her and her colleagues at the United Nations.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s very much a priority for us as we deal with numerous crises across the board,” Thomas-Greenfield told the Los Angeles Blade during a telephone interview from the Summit of the Americas, which took place this week in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Senate in February 2021 confirmed Thomas-Greenfield as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
The Louisiana native is a veteran American diplomat who was the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia from 2008-2012. Thomas-Greenfield was assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013-2017.
Thomas-Greenfield in response to the Blade’s question about the previous administration’s campaign that encouraged countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations said “all of our embassies and our ambassadors had instructions to address issues of criminalization of the LGBTQI community.” Thomas-Greenfield also noted then-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf refused to sign a bill that would have criminalized same-sex relationships after she “went to the president” with her concerns.
“They (Liberian officials) were very, very clear on what our position is,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
She pointed out the U.S. is a member of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ rights.
Thomas-Greenfield said the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of a free elections resolution last November that specifically includes sexual orientation and gender identity “was extraordinarily important for us.” Thomas-Greenfield also noted the U.S. Embassy in Guyana supported efforts to decriminalize cross-dressing in Guyana in accordance with a 2018 Caribbean Court of Justice ruling.
Guyanese lawmakers last August approved a bill that removed cross-dressing from the country’s Summary Jurisdiction (Offenses) Act.
“Our embassy there advocated for the removal of this language and we were successful in doing that,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
President Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. Thomas-Greenfield said the directive “was one of my guiding principles when I arrived in New York.”
“Having that memo in hand gave me the impetus to do those things that all of us care about anyways, but it made a difference having the president instruct us,” she said.
The Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are among the myriad crises to which Thomas-Greenfield has responded since her arrival at the U.N.
Advocacy groups continue to urge the U.S. and other Western governments to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans and other at-risk groups to leave the country. Reports from Ukraine indicate Transgender people have not been able to leave the country because their gender presentation does not correspond with the gender marker on their ID documents.
“It’s so important that we are there to ensure that this community receives the protection that is afforded to them,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
Thomas-Greenfield said she and her U.N. colleagues in Geneva “are working to ensure that LGBTQI+ issues are taken into consideration in all of the work that the U.N. is doing around the world, including as it relates to refugees.”
She noted they “provide and encourage the U.N. to provide” the same human trafficking protections offered to young Ukrainian women “to the LGBTQI+ community when they’re crossing borders.” Thomas-Greenfield also acknowledged the difficulties that Trans Ukrainians who want to leave the country face.
“I’m aware of it and I know that the U.N. is aware of it and is making every attempt to address the issue,” she said. “The point I would make to these countries is when people leave their countries, they’re not racing to get documents to prove who they are or what they believe in. You race for your life.”
“What people told us is that they were lucky to get out with a backpack,” added Thomas-Greenfield. “So, we have to press these countries to stop these restrictions that require people to show any kind of documentation when they’re fleeing for their lives.”
The Summit of the Americas took place in Los Angeles from June 6-10.
Thomas-Greenfield noted she attended President Biden’s meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Thomas-Greenfield also met with Honduran government officials, among others.
Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday delivered the closing keynote speech at the Young Americas Summit. She noted that one of the people who she met at the event was an “extraordinary, extraordinary young man” from Colombia who works to implement the peace agreement between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that specifically acknowledges the conflict’s LGBTQ+ victims.
“I was just amazed at his courage, his commitment, his passion for making change and ensuring the LGBTQI community in Colombia was protected and the necessary assistance that they need,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
Thomas-Greenfield also acknowledged criticisms over the decision not to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the summit.
“We heard the concerns about this, but I will tell you that civil society was invited across the board from these countries,” she said. “We think it was important that the voices of those individuals who have been abused by these countries … got amplified, if not highlighted. I think that was an important result of this.”
Honduras, Denmark join U.N. LGBTI Core Group
U.S. among 39 member countries
UNITED NATIONS — Denmark and Honduras have joined a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support to LGBTQ+ rights.
“Denmark is deeply honored to officially enter into the LGBTI Core Group,” tweeted Denmark’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. on Wednesday.
Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, says the country’s government “expressed interest” in joining the U.N. LGBTI Core Group, but it has not made a formal announcement.
The U.S., Albania, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and Uruguay are also members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group that Argentina and the Netherlands currently co-chair. The European Union, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International are also members.
Denmark in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe 2021 report ranked second among 49 European countries in terms of LGBTQ+ rights.
Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Honduras.
President Xiomara Castro, who has publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples, took office in January. Víctor Grajeda, the first openly gay man elected to the country’s Congress, a few weeks later told the Blade during an interview in San Pedro Sula that Castro also supports the legal recognition of transgender Hondurans and “safe spaces” for LGBTQ+ people.
U.N. committee: Sri Lanka criminalization law violates lesbian activist’s rights
London-based NGO represented Rosanna Flamer-Caldera
UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. committee has found a law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity in Sri Lanka has violated a lesbian activist’s rights.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on Wednesday published its decision in the case of Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of Equal Ground, a Sri Lankan LGBTQ+ rights group.
The decision notes Flamer-Caldera in 1997 “discovered that same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults was a criminal offense under section 365A of the (Sri Lanka) Penal Code of 1883.” The decision further indicates Flamer-Caldera has been “threatened frequently and has faced abuse from the media and the public” since she co-founded a support group for lesbian and bisexual women in 1999.
Flamer-Caldera in 2004 founded Equal Ground.
“She has faced continual challenges running the organization,” reads the decision.
The decision notes the Sri Lanka Police’s Women and Children’s Bureau in December 2012 and January 2013 “made presentations asserting that child abuse was increasing mostly due to the ‘growing homosexual culture.'”
“The author’s picture was shown together with her name and position with Equal Ground, claiming that she and her organization were responsible for spreading homosexuality, implying that they were also responsible for spreading pedophilia,” notes the decision. “She did not complain to the police out of fear of being arrested. The (Sri Lanka Police’s) Criminal Investigation Department has placed her and Equal Ground under surveillance, which forced her to move the organization’s materials to a secure location, as the department had deemed any homosexual material to be pornography, which could provoke arrest.”
The decision further notes the Criminal Investigation Department in July 2013 raided an organization with which Equal Ground works “on the basis of the allegation that it was ‘spreading homosexuality.'” Flamer-Caldera in the complaint she filed with the committee also said a delivery man in the spring of 2018 “verbally abused” her and “threatened” her “with violence.”
“The criminalization of same-sex sexual activity has meant that the discrimination, violence and harassment faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender and intersex community in Sri Lanka continue with impunity,” reads the decision. “Members of the community are not protected against police harassment. The law has altered how she lives and conducts herself in public and private. She has a constant fear of arrest and keeps her door locked and curtains drawn when she is at home with her girlfriend.”
Flamer-Caldera presented her case under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Human Dignity Trust, a London-based NGO that challenges criminalization laws around the world, represented Flamer-Caldera.
“The committee notes that the criminalization of same-sex sexual activity between women in Sri Lanka has meant that the author (Flamer-Caldera) has had difficulties with finding a partner, has to hide her relations and runs the risk of being investigated and prosecuted in this context,” it notes. “The committee therefore finds that the state party has breached the author’s rights under Article 16 of the convention.”
Flamer-Caldera on Thursday welcomed the decision.
“This decision will have an impact on millions of lesbian and bisexual women around the globe,” she told the Washington Blade. “I am happy and proud to have played such a pivotal role in this process.”
Sri Lanka is one of more than 70 countries around the world in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. The U.K. implemented many of these laws in Commonwealth countries when it colonized them.
Then-British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 said she “deeply” regrets these colonial-era criminalization laws.
The India Supreme Court in 2018 issued a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi in January said his government would abide by a ruling that decriminalized homosexuality in the former British colony. The Singapore Court of Appeal last month dismissed a challenge to the city-state’s sodomy law.
Flamer-Caldera told the Blade the Sri Lankan government has not responded to the ruling.
U.S. regains U.N. Human Rights Council seat
Previous administration withdrew from body in 2018
UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. on Thursday regained a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, three years after the previous administration withdrew from it.
The U.S. won election to the council alongside Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and United Arab Emirates.
The council in recent years has emerged as a champion of LGBTQ rights around the world, even though Cuba and other countries with poor human rights records are among the 47 countries that are currently members. Venezuela and Russia are also on the council.
Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first of more than two dozen anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, remains in custody and faces eight years in prison. The Los Angeles Blade last month spoke with several Venezuelan LGBTQ activists who said persecution forced them to flee to neighboring Colombia.
Russia’s crackdown on LGBTQ rights and the Kremlin’s close relationship with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continue to spark criticism around the world.
Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a 2018 press conference that announced the U.S. withdrawal from the council noted Cuba and other countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights record” are members. Haley also said the council has a “chronic bias against” Israel.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday in a statement said LGBTQ rights will be one of the U.S.’s focuses once it officially rejoins the council on Jan. 1.
“Our initial efforts as full members in the Council will focus on what we can accomplish in situations of dire need, such as in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen,” she said. “More broadly, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights, and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustices, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI+ persons and persons with disabilities. And we will oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.”
President Biden in February issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.
The previous White House tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead a campaign that encouraged countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, but many LGBTQ activists in the U.S. and around the world have questioned its effectiveness. The Washington Blade in August filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department that seeks Grenell’s emails around his work on the decriminalization initiative.
“The President and Sec. Blinken have put democracy and human rights—essential cornerstones of peace and stability—at the center of our foreign policy,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday after the U.S. regained a seat on the council. “We have eagerly and earnestly pursued these values in our relationships around the world.”
“We will use our position to renew the council’s focus on the core human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Charter, which undergird the council’s founding,” added Price at the beginning of his daily press briefing. “Our goal is to hold the U.N. Human Rights Council accountable to the highest aspirations of its mandate and spur the actions necessary to carry them out.”
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight dazzle World AIDS Day concert
Cleve Jones, activist & founder of AIDS Memorial Quilt honored
Underfunded, undermined and unabashedly victorious in Brazil
Blinken: PEPFAR shows ‘what American diplomacy can do’
Transphobic Fox host: Trans people are “Deeply Anti-Human”
The powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson’s bloodcurdling hate
The death of Irene Cara and the broken promise
Nonbinary Dept. of Energy official replaced after felony charges
The ‘Spoiler’ is you’re going to cry
Biden outlines plan to renew fight against HIV/AIDS
Features3 days ago
The powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson’s bloodcurdling hate
Notables5 days ago
The death of Irene Cara and the broken promise
Federal Government3 days ago
Nonbinary Dept. of Energy official replaced after felony charges
Film4 days ago
The ‘Spoiler’ is you’re going to cry
AIDS and HIV2 days ago
Biden outlines plan to renew fight against HIV/AIDS
Sports4 days ago
Carrying a Pride flag- protester interrupts World Cup game
West Hollywood4 days ago
West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week
Africa4 days ago
Kenyan LGBTQ+ rights groups honor Transgender refugees, asylum seekers