Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You Are Not Alone

For those of you who did not have the pleasure to listen to Secretary Clinton’s speech on Recognition of International Human Rights Day yesterday, I found her remarks incredibly powerful and inspiring.

In her speech in Geneva, Secretary Clinton clearly spelled out why the respect and fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people worldwide is a moral imperative.

She made it crystal clear that LGBTI rights are human rights and human rights are LGBTI rights by saying “All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

What resonated with me most though was what she specifically addressed to LGBTI women and men worldwide:

“Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone.  People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face.”

You are not alone.

I think of the activists in Sierra Leone who were part of our LGBTI training just two weeks ago.  I think of our Sierra Leonean partners Why Can’t We Get Married and Dignity who are fighting for their rights under incredibly difficult circumstances.  What an inspiring, and yes comforting, message for them to hear.

“You are not alone” goes to the very core of Global Rights’ work.  As Suraya Pakzad of Voice of Women, a partner in Afghanistan, puts it, Global Rights works “shoulder to shoulder” with activists to break down barriers that deny people their human rights.  We work alongside activists and partners to provide skills and adapt tools for individuals to create change so that human rights can thrive. 

We know change must come from the ground up - from the communities in which we work.  But Secretary Clinton called on all people to bring an end to the injustices and dangers LGBTI people face.

And that is why Global Rights is doing its part to work in Sierra Leone and Nigeria to empower its LGBTI advocates - to fight for their dignity and for their human rights.

The Secretary called on individuals to make a difference.  She called on the international community.

She also heeded a special request to government leaders:

“To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this:  Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for.  It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same.  It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws, because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes.  They can and they do, just like straight people.  And when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a crime to be gay.”

These government leaders have made the news these last few months. Ugandan and Nigerian lawmakers have made efforts to pass discriminatory anti-homosexuality legislation.  The government of Sierra Leone formally rejected recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to abandon legal provisions targeting sexual orientation and consenting adult sexual activity.  This action was taken in spite of government rhetoric of “protecting all Sierra Leoneans regardless of sexual orientation.”

Members of the LGBTI community, you are not alone.

But Secretary Clinton would not say the same thing to those who continue to discriminate. She made an excellent insight on the history of human rights:

“…The march toward equality and justice has continued.  Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them.  Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.”

I sincerely hope government leaders take Secretary Clinton’s point carefully to heart.  I hope they decide to join the right side of history.


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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