U.S. Calls Out Gay-Rights Violators Around the World

Violent quelling of protests and antigay laws highlighted in the State Department’s annual report.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Feb. 27, 2014, 7:16 a.m.

The United States is put­ting nearly 80 coun­tries on no­tice: If you take away the rights of mem­bers of the LGBT com­munity, there are con­sequences.

In an­noun­cing the State De­part­ment’s an­nu­al re­port on hu­man rights, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry high­lighted the per­se­cu­tion of same-sex per­sons around the world, es­pe­cially in light of a bill signed by Uganda’s pres­id­ent that crim­in­al­izes ho­mo­sexu­al­ity.

“These laws con­trib­ute to a glob­al trend of grow­ing vi­ol­ence,” Kerry said Thursday. “They are a front to every reas­on­able con­science.”

Kerry fur­ther called for a world “where pro­fess­ing one’s love does not lead to per­se­cu­tion.”

Vi­ol­a­tions against same-sex rights have been a pri­or­ity for the U.S. in re­cent years, which par­tic­u­larly came in­to fo­cus in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in So­chi. Rus­si­an law “ef­fect­ively crim­in­al­izes pub­lic ex­pres­sion and as­sembly for any­one who would ad­voc­ate LGBT equal­ity,” the State De­part­ment re­port says. The re­port also goes after oth­er na­tions for crim­in­al­iz­ing same-sex sexu­al activ­ity in Afric­an na­tions such as Ni­ger­ia, Uganda, Cameroon, and Zam­bia.

Kerry de­tailed these vi­ol­a­tions, along with oth­ers seen around world, es­pe­cially in na­tions that are su­per­powers. It’s hard for the United States to ig­nore its stra­tegic re­la­tion­ships with coun­tries such as China and Rus­sia, as both are key play­ers on eco­nom­ic and dip­lo­mat­ic is­sues. But they are also two of the worst vi­ol­at­ors of hu­man rights.

China is cri­ti­cized for its tight con­trol of the In­ter­net and for break­ing up protests that cri­ti­cize gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion. Rus­sia, for its part, is cri­ti­cized for go­ing after gov­ern­ment op­pos­i­tion, while also vi­ol­at­ing the rights of re­li­gious and eth­nic minor­it­ies, and the LGBT com­munity.

This re­port, re­quired by law, is of­ten used by Con­gress to make its de­cisions on wheth­er to pass sanc­tions or provide aid to oth­er na­tions. Kerry con­ceded that there’s even an “on­go­ing struggle” here in the United States, list­ing LGBT rights and equal treat­ment of wo­men.

“We don’t speak with ar­rog­ance but con­cern for the hu­man con­di­tion,” he said.

What should be con­cern­ing for the U.S. is that sev­er­al na­tions the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed faith in con­tin­ue to vi­ol­ate hu­man rights, in­clud­ing the new na­tion of South Su­dan and an in­creas­ingly un­stable Egypt, which the State De­part­ment notes has used “ex­cess­ive force” to quell an­ti­gov­ern­ment protests.

Kerry also men­tioned Ukraine; even be­fore it was in the news for crack­ing down on pro-European Uni­on protests, the Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment was in­creas­ing its pres­sure on civil so­ci­ety, journ­al­ists, and pro­test­ers, he said.

Ob­vi­ously, the re­port cited the usu­al sus­pects, in­clud­ing the al­leged use of chem­ic­al weapons by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and the con­tin­ued op­pres­sion by the gov­ern­ments of North Korea, Cuba, and Ir­an. The State De­part­ment calls these vi­ol­a­tions “de­plor­able” and does not de­tail any pro­gress in these places. On Ir­an, of­fi­cials say there has been “little mean­ing­ful im­prove­ment in hu­man rights from the Ir­a­ni­an gov­ern­ment” since Pres­id­ent Has­san Rouh­ani took of­fice.

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