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White House pushes to end persecution of LGBTs worldwide
by Lisa Keen, Keen News Service
2011-03-30

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The White House announced March 22 that President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff have established a "special rapporteur on LGBT issues at the Organization of American States." It also drew attention to a United Nations declaration, backed by the United States and joined by 85 other countries, calling for an end to violence and persecution against LGBT people.

Obama was in Brazil as part of his first presidential visit to South America. The trip, which was to focus on the economy and trade, has been in stiff competition with the news that American forces—as part of a United Nations action—are now bombing Libya.

Rousseff, who has been in office only two months, also issued a statement March 21 about fighting homophobia.

The White House announcement was issued through Press Secretary Jay Carney's office, saying Obama "was pleased to announce during his trip to Brazil that he and President Rousseff agreed to promote respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals through the establishment of a special rapporteur on LGBT issues at the Organization of American States."

This "special rapporteur" will be the first of its kind in the international system. The Organization of American States currently has three rapporteurships—or study groups—on issues such as the rights of Afro-descendants, indigenous people, and people deprived of liberty. It has four "special rapporteur" looking at the rights of children, women, migrant workers and their families, and the freedom of expression.

The White House press statement Tuesday night also drew attention to a "joint commitment" by the United States and 85 other countries to reaffirm "our joint commitment to ened acts of violence and human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

"Over the past months, our diplomats have been engaged in frank, and at times difficult, conversations about the human rights of LGBT persons with governments from around world," noted the Press Secretary's statement, issued March 22 at 8:44 p.m. "The President is proud of the work we have done to build international consensus on this critical issue and is committed to continuing our determined efforts to advance the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton also issued a statement March 22, saying the United States took "a leading role" in developing the statement with 30 other countries.

"We will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people who are marginalized and discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity," said Clinton's statement. "And we will not rest until every man, woman and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind."

According to a fact sheet issued by the White House late Tuesday night, the United Nations statement is entitled, "Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." Two previous statements—one in 2006 and one in 2008—were signed by 54 and 67 countries, respectively. The 2011 statement, unlike the previous ones, includes a statement welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process. It also notes increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights forms, encourages the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue addressing LGBT issues, and calls for states to end criminal sanctions based on LGBT status."

The United States, Colombia,and Slovenia co-chaired a group of 30 countries that worked actively on the new statement. The 10-point document calls on all countries "to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues."

2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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