Posts Tagged ‘gay rights’

Human rights defender profile: Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel from Mongolia

March 10, 2017

Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel has advocated for the rights of LGBT persons in Mongolia for many years. On 6 March 2017 the ISHR published the following interview with him:

I am a co-founder of LGBT Center of Mongolia and worked as Advocacy Program Manager and then Executive Director from 2009 to 2014. We conducted workshops and training on LGBTI rights to raise awareness among the general public and  law enforcement officers, health professionals, NGOs, public and private schools, etc. LGBT Center also worked hard in cooperation with other organisations to become one of the leading rights-based civil society organisations (CSOs) in Mongolia, contributing to the overall civil society development in the country and the mainstreaming of LGBTI issues into human rights issues as a whole. One of the highlights of what we have done collectively is the successful use of UN mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Committee against Torture (CAT) and Human Rights Committee to make the Government of Mongolia acknowledge its sexual minorities for the first time, express its political will to protect our rights and commit to implement the UPR and treaty bodies’ recommendations.

What motivated you to become involved in human rights work?

Having lived, studied and worked in Japan for 7 years, I felt that I needed to contribute to the development of my own country. As a young gay man who has seen the world, I was optimistically ambitious and daring enough to slip my hand into a tiger’s mouth, as the Mongolian saying goes. However, the situation for the LGBTI community was quite bleak with no rights-based NGO for the community operating. Then I joined the Mongolian Red Cross Society and where I met other co-founders of the LGBT Center. My personal desire for a better future for LGBTI Mongolians, the invincible passions of the co-founders Robyn Garner and Anaraa Nyamdorj, and the remarkable feminists and human rights defenders of vibrant, active Mongolian civil society motivated and still inspire me to work on LGBTI issues at home and abroad.   

What risks, challenges or threats do you face as a human rights defender in your country? 

Together with fellow activists I appeared on TV shows and gave interviews especially before, during and after UN and domestic advocacy efforts. Personal risks involved automatically “outing” my friends, family members and everyone around me, and in the process passively encroaching upon their right to privacy. They were so understanding and loving that they endured the negative attitudes, threats and attacks. Most of these threats come from a lack of information and misconceptions about LGBTI people and issues, as well as fear of being associated in any way with sexual minorities. I had to deactivate my Facebook account a few years ago to protect my family and what’s left of my privacy. Nevertheless, the situation is getting better after all these awareness-raising activities and LGBT Center’s work with the government and civil society, and I think now the private sector needs to join the cause for the sake of a better future for all.     

What is the legal situation for NGOs and human rights defenders in Mongolia? What changes would you like to see to create a fully enabling environment for their work?

The NGO Law of Mongolia allows many NGOs to emerge and operate. The LGBT Center struggled initially to be registered as a legal entity back in 2007-2009. Since then we have not had any issues with the authorities in terms of the NGO registration. However, there is no law that enshrines the rights of human rights defenders (HRDs). In addition to the challenges of engaging in human rights work, LGBTI activists further suffer verbal and physical abuse and intimidation, family pressure and violence, financial obstacles, housing difficulties and even terrible treatment by landlords of NGO offices. Therefore, we desperately need a state policy and legislation on human rights defenders.

Can you give some examples of how you have engaged with the UN Special Procedures?

Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, made an official visit to Mongolia in 2012. I met her towards the end of her visit and updated her on the situation of the LGBTI community. Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda observed that “the recent economic achievements made in Mongolia has not benefited the country’s poor” and highlighted vulnerable groups, including people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI persons.

In 2013, the Special Rapporteur’s report was released, concluding that “there is a high level of inequality at a time when the country is experiencing a major economic boom.” Given the pervasive inequality affecting the LGBTI community and the government’s recently expressed political will, the Center was encouraged to collect our own data on how poverty affects the LGBTI community and its root causes so that our advocacy efforts would be better informed and effectively targeted. 

What have you achieved through this engagement? 

The study – “Poverty and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community in Mongolia” – was conducted in 2014. Its main author Dr. A. Bulbul discovered that the unemployment rate of survey participants was 10.4%, higher than the official rate of 7.8% among the general population, and approximately 22% lived below the national poverty line. The study concluded that enabling a legal environment to ensure equal access to education and employment and changing public perception and attitudes was necessary. This study – inspired by the Special Rapporteur’s visit – was significant since we got to utilise the UN Special Procedures and started to gather evidence to better inform the public and the relevant officials in the government and international organisations for better advocacy.  

How do you think using the international human rights system assists in achieving domestic advocacy goals? 

International human rights norms and standards definitely guide defenders to identify gaps, to better use the mechanisms established and available for us and to network with other like-minded activists, scholars, diplomats and UN officials. I would also like to thank organisations such as ISHR, ARC International, OutRight Action International, ILGA, COC Netherlands, OSCE, Open Society Foundations and FORUM-ASIA which act as a bridge between us – local and national activists – and the international and regional human rights systems, allowing us to lobby our government and make our advocacy more effective through their financial and technical assistance and support.      

What if anything could the UN do to make the Special Procedures system easier/safer for you to engage with?

From experiences of working as an activist at the UN in Geneva and New York, I know that the UN is a political institution. However, it has been reformed to genuinely ensure the representation and participation of civil society. The UPR is a prime example because it brought LGBTI issues to the attention of our government, leading to legal reform. I would like to see those who work in the Special Procedures’ teams be present both online and offline. Country visits by Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda and meetings with diverse stakeholders were truly amazing and productive. Online presence of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Mr. Maina Kiai, who listens to activists’ voices from the ground is absolutely impressive. And most importantly, I wish the UN work at the headquarters could be translated into the UN country offices as swiftly, effectively and efficiently as possible.  

Source: Human rights defender profile: Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel from Mongolia | ISHR

Profile of Jacobus Witbooi, LGBTI human rights defender from Namibia

August 31, 2016

Profile of Jacobus Witbooi, human rights defender from Namibia, working at the Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (PAI).

In June 2016 he completed ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme and The Monitor of 27 June contained the following piece:
Jacobus Witbooi knows himself to be an ‘innate activist’ and says that his passion for human rights ‘comes from the inside.’ It has always been a strong part of who he is, taking up the challenge to advocate for those without a voice at a very early age. When still attending school, he recalls campaigning for education on safe sex and sexual health information and advice before it was even considered by national school policy makers.

‘Everyone knew that there were young people having unprotected sex, but they also didn’t have access to condoms, let alone information or advice from community health services about sexual health and safety, especially if they contracted a STI…They felt judged, couldn’t take steps to protect themselves or get help they needed.’

As he matured as a young professional he continued to pursue the issue and played a key role in eventually getting sex education on the national school curriculum in Namibia. He also helped to create a platform for young people to have a say in the design and evaluation of sexual and reproductive health programs, as well as assist health services to provide a caring and sympathetic environment for young people, enhancing accessibility.

Creating a network to drive change

Jacobus’ human rights advocacy journey has brought him to Pan Africa ILGA, a recently formed and rapidly expanding membership-based network for activists working to advance sexual orientation and gender identity rights. He delivers a continent-wide outreach strategy to small, grassroots LGBTI  activists and defenders, helping to develop their skills and confidence to engage with both the UN human rights mechanisms and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), and grow their ability to achieve meaningful and lasting human rights change.

The issue is close to his heart. He remembers coming out at a time in Namibia when it was unsafe, denied and denounced by all corners of the community.

‘I didn’t feel welcome in my own country, and was told I should leave.’

Whilst Pan Africa ILGA is rapidly expanding – it now has over 100 members – Jacobus is aware of the limitations his service can provide, and the needs of local LGBTI community organisations.

‘There’s a gap between the amount of work we can do to support local human rights activists, and how far we can teach them to carry forward UN outcomes and recommendations into their country.’

But he adds that he refuses to accept that it is a gap that cannot be closed. In May, Jacobus had a key part in delivering the third PAI regional LGBTI conference in South Africa. Bringing together 184 African delegates from over 34 African States, coming together to convene and share strategies, visions and fostering opportunities to collaborate. More encouraging, was the attendance of Government representatives and members of the African Commission, as well as National Human Rights Institutions.

Highlighting this significant social and political development, Jacobus points out that there is a growing support for sexual orientation and gender identity rights on the African continent, and is optimistic for the future of the LGBTI community. However,  he knows there is a lot more work to be done.

‘I think this space we created was critical as a continent – sharing the success stories. But, how do we move this forward, and deal with the intersectionality of sexual orientation and gender identity issues?’

Expanding his human rights advocacy potential

He identified that one way forward for him was to better harness the UN international human rights mechanisms and expand his human rights advocacy potential and successfully applied to participate in the ISHR Human Rights Advocacy Programme.

‘It’s helped me a lot. I’ve broadened my understanding of available UN-mechanisms beyond the Universal Periodic Review alone. I’ve learnt that there is a wide range of approaches to doing human rights advocacy through the UN. This awareness combined with the confidence I’ve now gained will be vital for me on the ground back home.’

He has also noticed his own approach to engaging in human rights advocacy has transformed.

‘I’ve become more strategic now. Because I have a deeper understanding of the UN system, it means that I can use multiple mechanisms to get outcomes, such as the Treaty Bodies and the Special Procedures.’

Contributing to the first UN Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

With his training coinciding with the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, Jacobus became heavily involved in contributing to the Working Group advocating and lobbying for a strong resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity. He describes this as,

‘My first real hands on experience advocacy at the Council, working with states delegations and diplomats, trying to bring across an argument that is sensitive and difficult to move on, and coming from a region where it is very difficult to even talk about. It has given me a better understanding of how these things work, what components come into play when these decisions are made.’

Contact: jacobus@panafricailga.org or follow him on Twitter @jacobuswitbooi

Source: Defender profile: Jacobus Witbooi, human rights defender from Namibia | ISHR

In historic but controversial move UN Human Rights Council appoints expert on protection of LGBT

July 6, 2016

In a historic vote on 30 June 2016 the UN Human Rights Council created an Independent Expert dedicated to sexual orientation and gender identity issues. The “Independent expert on protection from violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people“, as the official title runs, was warmly welcomed by the LGBTI community around the world. Twenty-three Council members voted for the new position, 18 members against, and six abstained. Read the rest of this entry »

MEA laureate Kasha urges UK Home Office not to deport Ugandan lesbian

December 12, 2014

Under the title “FAMED UGANDAN ACTIVIST URGES UK HOME OFFICE NOT TO DEPORT LESBIANMelanie Nathan reports in her post of 11 December 2014 on O-blog-dee-o-blog-da that Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the MEA laureate of 2011 has intervened strongly with the UK not to force Judith Twikiriz back to Uganda. “The UK has been very supportive of the Uganda Gay rights movement and it will be an embarrassment that your office doesn’t live up to its expectations in protecting those that need the protection most from persecution” Kasha writes in her letter. She would be sent back to the country where she already experienced torture and where she now faces likely persecution. The letter contains detailed arguments against deportation.

2011 Laureate Kasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COPY OF THE LETTER to be found in the original post:

 

 

 

via Famed Ugandan Activist Urges UK Home Office Not to Deport Lesbian | O-blog-dee-o-blog-da.

Greek justice minister shows clear signs of homophobia

December 3, 2014

The Guardian of 2 December 2014 reports that Greece’s justice minister, Haralambos Athanasiou, has been accused of homophobia after unequivocally denouncing gay marriage and opposing even same-sex unions, saying they pose dangers to society, especially a society that “respected traditions”.  Complying with EU demands to legalise partnerships for homosexual couples was also problematic, he said, because it was not without potentially adverse consequences for society.

[Athens was fined by the European court of human rights last year for failing to extend protective rights, including domestic partnerships, to gays and lesbians, a move the tribunal described as discriminating to same-sex couples. Following the judgment, the prime minister Antonis Samaras’s conservative-dominated coalition signalled that it would redress the wrong but got cold feet when rightwingers and clerics reacted in fury. Greece and Lithuania stand alone in refusing to grant such rights.]

[This year the Greek Orthodox bishop of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, called homosexuality “a perversion of human existence”.]

Andrea Gilbert, a LGBT activist, said: “Greece wants to present itself to Europe and the rest of the world as a modern democratic country that respects the rights of all its citizens. These are really very shocking statements when the man making them is the minister of justice, the person who is meant to protect citizens, not a crackpot member of Golden Dawn.” [In April, Ilias Panagiotaros of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, denounced same-sex relationships as a “sickness”]

Greek justice minister denounces gay marriage | World news | The Guardian.

Group of Governments and Agencies formulate policies on LGBTI issues and human rights defenders

November 21, 2014

On the Occasion of the Annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons held in Washington from 12-14 November 2014, the governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay, as well as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Union, UNAIDS – the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme, adopted a communiqué, which is relevant to human rights defenders in particular through the following paragraphs:

Introduction

…..

We further recognize the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders from whom we have heard over the last three days. We commend their tremendous dedication and resolve to bring about a world free from violence and discrimination. We are gravely concerned by the serious challenges, difficult circumstances, and in some instances violent attacks that human rights defenders and organizations face as they work to achieve this important goal. We are inspired by their commitment, and recognize their rich diversity and unique views from different regions and across different cultures and traditions.

Together we affirm the following:

….

6. We dedicate ourselves to exploring ways to strengthen our international assistance and diplomacy efforts to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, through cooperating with additional governments and identifying new sources of funding and engagement, including from the private sector;

7. We will strive to ensure flexible and timely support, especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable persons worldwide, including LGBTI persons;

8. We intend to guide our assistance and diplomacy efforts on the basis of need and when possible on the basis of needs assessments. We also recall the importance of co-ownership of assistance and diplomatic efforts with host governments as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons;

9. We underline that governments, funders, civil society organizations and other implementing organizations should ensure involvement of local LGBTI communities and their allies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of human rights and development cooperation efforts as appropriate;

…….

12. To further strengthen cooperation, coordination and communication of assistance and diplomatic efforts, we plan to continue to meet annually to discuss implementation of this communiqué and other relevant issues. The next meeting is expected to be organized by the Netherlands in early 2016.

For further information, please contact Chanan Weissman at WeissmanC[at]state.gov.

for full text: Joint Government and Multilateral Agency Communique From Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for LGBTI Persons.

Indian star Celina Jaitly shows Erykah Badu the way

May 10, 2014

A few days ago Erykah Badu on Twitter remained obstinate over her scheduled performance in The Gambia. Other bloggers (e.g. http://yafri.ca/erykah-badu-faces-criticism-over-her-performance-for-gambian-president/) are adding to the noise by pointing out that President Jammeh’s regime consistently cracks down on the opposition and the media. In its submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Gambia, the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, stated “Since Gambia’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated. The government continues to stifle freedom of expression and commit other human rights violations with impunity.” An online campaign has been put in place by web users to enlighten the singer about the Gambian dictator. See Facebook and twitter campaign of disapproval [@fatbellybella]. HOWEVER in the meantime it seems that Erykah Badu has decided NOT to attend Gambia’s much publicized Roots Homecoming Festival. Especially Gambian dissidents based in the United States have repeatedly prevailed on the Grammy winning artist not to attend the festival. ..Interestingly  the singer’s likely absence has angered Gambian artist Gibou Balla Gaye, who goes with the street name Gee.  Perhaps good to note here that Gee is the son of Balla Gaye, Gambia’s former Finance Minister. 

Anyway it is nice to be able to point to better examples, such as Celina Jaitly in India who tackled the taboo of gay relations. The United Nations Free & Equal Campaign published on 29 April 2014 this first-ever Bollywood music video for gay rights, featuring Bollywood star Celina Jaitly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lihVCIFamb0 [sorry you have CONTR/click as the embedding does not work – but worth a view!!].

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/erykah-badu-unapologetic-about-her-human-rights-performance-and-plans-to-repeat-in-the-gambia/

http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Homepage/tabid/36/newsid367/9872/Gee-The-Fake-Ass-Gambian-Artist-Is-Crying-Over-Erykah-Badus-Failure-To-Attend-Gambias-Roots-Homecoming-Festival–/Default.aspx

Thilaga Sulathireh, Malaysian LGBTI human rights defender, in the limelight

April 27, 2014

The ISHR Newsletter of 24 April carries an interesting portrait of Malaysian human rights defender Thilaga Sulathireh. She states that she initially joined the struggle for LGBTI rights in Malaysia in response to her own experience of discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. She now devotes herself to promoting and protecting the rights of others. The violence and discrimination inflicted on the LGBTI community in Malaysia, particularly on trans people, strengthened Thilaga’s determination to promote transgender rights, and challenge patriarchal norms and oppressive religious traditions and values.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gay rights in Africa: Judge in Zimbabwe gives bit of hope with ruling for human rights defender Martha Tholanah

March 4, 2014

With the Ugandan anti-gay law signed by President Museveni last week (in spite of the fascinating news that broke only afterwards that his own daughter came out publicly as lesbian opposing the law), attention on LGBTI rights in Africa has been mostly negative. The more reason to point to a small ‘victory’ in neighbouring Zimbabwe where a mostly independent judiciary had the courage to squash the charges against human rights defender Martha Tholanah of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). Read the rest of this entry »

Rihanna adds star power to campaign for gay rights in Russia

February 18, 2014

Last week I blogged about the mixed record of star power (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/) and it is nice to add a positive example: Rihanna.
Rihanna has 34 million followers on Twitter.
On 16 February 2014 Faith Karimi and Neda Farshbaf wrote for CNN how pop star Rihanna is adding major star power to the campaign for gay rights in Russia. The singer behind hits such as “Disturbia” and “SOS” tweeted a photo of herself wearing a hat emblazoned with P6, short for Principle 6. This campaign speaks out against Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law as the nation hosts the Winter Olympics. And Rihanna has 34 million followers on Twitter! The photo links to her Instagram account, which has about 12 million followers. In subsequent tweets, she posted links to other articles highlighting the issue.

Rihanna adds star power to P6 campaign for gay rights in Russia – CNN.com.