State Department Report Documents LGBT Human Rights Violations
Today HRC lauded the 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for once again including information about the rights of LGBT people worldwide. A compilation of the information from the report regarding sexual orientation and gender identity can be found here. Included in this compilation is information about new anti-LGBT laws as well as the ongoing persecution and violence facing LGBT people around the world.
"While there is no doubt that equality is rising in some places around the globe, this report makes it clear that many LGBT people are not experiencing the benefits of that progress,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “This report is a critical tool for documenting the violence and persecution faced by LGBT people abroad, and helps to inform our nation's foreign policy.”
In releasing the report earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The message at the heart of these reports is that countries do best when their citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled. This is not just an expression of hope. This is a reality, and it is proven out in country after country around the world.”
The situation for LGBT people around the world varies widely, as some countries embrace equality, while in others, LGBT people continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution and violence. As noted in the report:
- In Egypt, gay men and lesbians faced significant social stigma and discrimination, impeding their ability to organize or publicly advocate on behalf of LGBT persons. On November 1, a court sentenced eight men to three years in prison on charges including “spreading indecent images,” “inciting debauchery,” and “acts endangering public morals” after a video depicting a marriage-like ceremony between two men on a riverboat appeared on YouTube. The sentence also included three years of police monitoring following completion of the prison terms.
- In El Salvador the human rights organization Comcavis Trans reported that unknown perpetrators killed seven transgender women and one gay man shortly after a June 25 LGBT march. They also reported four complaints of human rights abuses of LGBT prisoners, including sexual abuse and torture. As of May the hotline for the LGBT community had received 700 calls, with 171 reporting incidents of discrimination and the remainder requesting information.
- In The Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh signed into law an amendment to the criminal code making “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by life imprisonment. On February 17, President Jammeh, in a televised address, said, “Homosexuality will never be tolerated and in fact will attract the ultimate penalty, since it is intended to bring humanity to an inglorious extinction. We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” President Jammeh said that “L.G.B.T can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria, and Tuberculosis, all of which are detrimental to human existence.”
- In Kenya, violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals was widespread. Human rights and LGBT rights organizations noted that victims were extremely reluctant to report abuse or seek redress. During the year an “antigay” caucus was formed in parliament, although its only action was to inquire why the government had not taken stronger action against LGBT individuals and organizations. The National Assembly majority leader stated that homosexuality was as serious an issue as terrorism but resisted calls for new anti-LGBT legislation. Several NGOs conducted anti-LGBT political campaigns, including one that announced a drive to collect one million signatures on a petition against homosexuality.
- In Russia, a 2013 law criminalizes the “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. The law effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wish to publicly advocate for LGBT rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal. Examples of what the government considered LGBT propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of people who are in nontraditional sexual relationships.” LGBT persons reported heightened societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to increasing official promotion of intolerance and homophobia. Gay rights activists asserted that the majority of LGBT persons hid their orientation due to fear of losing their jobs or their homes as well as the threat of violence. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBT persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice.
In light of the findings of this report, HRC once again calls upon Congress to pass the International Human Rights Defense Act. The bill, which was first introduced last summer, would institutionalize the position of the newly appointed special envoy for LGBT human rights at the U.S. State Department as well as enshrine in law U.S. policies to help prevent and respond to discrimination and violence against LGBT people. It would also make permanent the State Department requirement to report on human rights violations against LGBT people in the future. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in the Senate and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) in the House.
“We call on the Congress to enact legislation to ensure that the State Department is statutorily required to include human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity in every report in the future,” said Cobb.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.