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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues in South and Central Asia

For more information on the human rights situation in countries around the world, check out the human rights reports.

To create your own maps, or to find out more about mapping data, stop by DevelopmentSeed.org.

 


United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love.

The United States worked with the main sponsor, South Africa, and a number of other countries from many regions of the world to help pass this resolution, including Brazil, Colombia, members of the European Union, and others. This resolution will commission the first ever UN report on the challenges that LGBT persons face around the globe and will open a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.

All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing. Today’s landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal. People cannot be excluded from protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The United States will continue to stand up for human rights wherever there is inequality and we will seek more commitments from countries to join this important resolution.

 


White House Statement on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

President Obama believes that advancing the human rights of minorities and the marginalized is a fundamental American value. The President 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.

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. This morning, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, some 85 countries joined the United States in reaffirming our joint commitment to end acts of violence and human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
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.

(end text)

 


Fact Sheet: Joint Statement on the Rights of LGBT Persons at the Human Rights Council

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC

At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 85 countries joined a Joint Statement entitled “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” This follows previous statements on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons issued at the United Nations, including a 2006 statement by 54 countries at the Human Rights Council, and a 2008 statement that has garnered 67 countries’ support at the General Assembly. The United States is amongst the signatory states to both previous efforts. The United States co-chaired the core group of countries that have worked to submit this statement, along with Colombia and Slovenia.

Key facts about the new statement:

A core group of over 30 countries engaged in discussions and sought signatures from other UN member states for the statement. In many places, United States diplomats joined diplomats from other states for these conversations.
This statement adds new references not seen in previous LGBT statements at the UN, including: welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights fora, encouraging 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.
20 countries joined this statement that were neither signatory to the 2006 or 2008 statements.
The statement garnered support from every region of the world, including 21 signatories from the Western Hemisphere, 43 from Europe, 5 from Africa, and 16 from the Asia/Pacific region.
The full list of signatories and text of the statement follows:

Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity

Delivered by Colombia on behalf of: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela

1. We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;

2. We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;

3. We recall the joint statement in the General Assembly on December 18, 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by States from all five regional groups, and encourage States to consider joining the statement;

4. We commend the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms including relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies and welcome continued attention to human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. As the United Nations Secretary General reminded us in his address to this Council at its Special Sitting of 25 January 2011, the Universal Declaration guarantees all human beings their basic rights without exception, and when individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the international community has an obligation to respond;

5. We welcome the positive developments on these issues in every region in recent years, such as the resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity adopted by consensus in each of the past three years by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, the initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions to integrate these issues within the work of national human rights institutions in the region, the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the increasing attention being paid to these issues by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the many positive legislative and policy initiatives adopted by States at the national level in diverse regions;

6. We note that the Human Rights Council must also play its part in accordance with its mandate to “promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner” (GA 60/251, OP 2);

7. We acknowledge that these are sensitive issues for many, including in our own societies. We affirm the importance of respectful dialogue, and trust that there is common ground in our shared recognition that no-one should face stigmatisation, violence or abuse on any ground. In dealing with sensitive issues, the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination;

8. We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to explore opportunities for outreach and constructive dialogue to enhance understanding and awareness of these issues within a human rights framework;

9. We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms;

10. We call on States 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.

 


Secretary Clinton: Statement at Human Rights Council Statement on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Today, 85 countries from every region of the world joined together in a historic moment to state clearly that human rights apply to everyone, no matter who they are or whom they love.

The United States, along with Colombia and Slovenia, took a leading role on this statement along with over 30 cosponsors. Countries around the world participated including many that had never supported such efforts. And we hope that even more countries will step up, sign on to the statement and signal their support for universal human rights.

This statement is an example of America’s commitment to human rights through dialogue, open discussion and frank conversation with countries we don’t always agree with on every issue. In Geneva, our conversations about the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals with countries where sexual orientation is not only stigmatized, but criminalized, are helping to advance a broader and deeper global dialogue about these issues.

As I said last June, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. 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. 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.

 


Statement  by the Press Secretary on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

President Obama believes that advancing the human rights of minorities and the marginalized is a fundamental American value. The President 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.

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. This morning, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, some 85 countries joined the United States in reaffirming our joint commitment to end acts of violence and human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 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.

 


U.S. Supports the Drafting of the Ombudsman’s First Report on the Constitutional Justice Observatory

Within the framework of the International Day of Human Rights, the Ombudsman’s Constitutional Justice Observatory launched the report entitled 15 years of Constitutional Jurisprudence. USAID’s Human Rights Program provided gfinancial and technical support for the report which was formally presented in an event held in the Bolivar Room of the Tequendema Hotel. Among those present at the event were Colombian Ombudsman Volmar Perez; USAID’s director for Human Rights in Colombia Jene Thomas; top Colombian officials from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches; as well as academics and representatives from social organizations. USAID’s initiative for this project totalled $90 million Colombian pesos.

The document is a collection of academic works that examine some of the Constitutional Court’s sentences since 2001 and was drafted by a group of officials from the Office of the Ombudsman. USAID helped to strengthen this group by providing the support of an external consultant. The report compiles sentences related to the protection of the rights of children, youth, the elderly, people with disabilities, prisoners, people with a different sexual orientation, people stricken by poverty, ethnic groups, victims of forced displacement and labor unionists. It also includes sentences on basic rights in the criminal process, habeas corpus, habeas data, the right to petition, and the right to political participation as well as collective rights.  The report also includes analyses of jurisprudence issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as accepted by the Colombian government.

This first report is a valuable reference tool for judicial operators, public officials, teachers, researchers and academicians, as well as social leaders, human rights’ and victims’ organizations, and the public in general.
Bogota D.C., December 10, 2008

 


Remarks at An Event Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Month

Thank you. Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Gee, let’s do this every week. (Laughter.) It’s great after a hard week to tell you how delighted I am to join with all of you from the State Department and USAID and indeed from departments across our government and many guests who are here in the State Department celebrating Pride Month.

And the purpose of this occasion is to recognize with gratitude the contributions made by LGBT members of the State Department family every single day. We celebrate the progress that is being made here in our own country toward advancing the rights of LGBT Americans, and we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done but that we are moving together in the right direction. And we reaffirm our commitment to protect and advance the rights of all human beings, as Cheryl just said, of members of the LGBT community around the world. I want to thank Administrator Raj Shah who we are so delighted, is leading USAID into a very positive future. I want to thank Eric Schwartz, who has traveled tirelessly on behalf of his bureau here at the State Department, dealing with population, refugees, migration. And I want to thank Bob Gilchrist, the outgoing GLIFAA president, for his leadership.

I look around this room and there are not only familiar faces, but there are some longtime friends whom I have had the great personal pleasure of knowing over the years. And I must say that knowing my friends who are here, and assuming much about many of you, I know that this occasion is really part of a deeply personal effort that has impacted lives and has helped to create, as Cheryl said, more space and time for people to lead their own lives. And people in this room – I know from experience – have marched in parades and demonstrations; have lobbied our government and other governments to overturn discriminatory laws; have demonstrated courage, both in public and private, to confront hatred and intolerance; and have helped to build a national movement that reflects the diversity of America.

I have been really moved and greatly motivated by the personal stories and the testimonies of so many whom I have known over so many years. Ten years ago, I was the first First Lady – that is often a phrase that I hear – I was the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade, and it was so much fun. (Applause.) And one or two of you marched with me and I am still grateful to you. (Laughter.) As a senator from New York, I was proud to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would grant equal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees; and the Matthew Shephard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law this year. (Applause.)

Now, we, though, in the State Department have to continue the work that many of you have begun and many of you carry on around the world. And I’m very proud that the United States, and particularly the State Department, is taking the lead to confront the circumstances that LGBT people face in just going about their daily lives. So as we enjoy today’s celebration and as we mark the progress that has been truly remarkable – I know that when you’re in the midst of a great movement of change it seems like it is glacial, but any fair assessment, from my perspective, having lived longer than at least more than 75 percent of you that I see in this room – (laughter) – is that it is extraordinary what has happened in such a short period of time.

But think about what’s happening to people as we speak today. Men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors.

These dangers are not “gay” issues. This is a human rights issue. (Applause.) Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all. (Applause.)

So here at the State Department, we will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We are elevating our human rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Our Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor produces an annual Human Rights Report that include a section on how LGBT persons are treated in every country. And recently, that bureau announced a new grant to provide emergency aid to human rights defenders in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East who are at risk, either because they work on these issues or because of their LGBT status.

Our regional bureaus are working closely with our embassies on this issue. The Bureau of African Affairs has taken the lead by asking every embassy in Africa to report on the conditions of local LGBT communities. And I’m asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority. (Applause.)

Today, we are joined by four human rights activists from Africa who are working to protect LGBT rights in their communities. I want to welcome them to the State Department and ask if they would stand: our four African activists. (Applause.) I thank you for the work you do, often in unfriendly, even dangerous circumstances, to advance the rights and dignity of all people.

Now, the United States is also focused on threats facing LGBT refugees. Eric Schwartz is working to increase protection for refugees who face persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Dr. Eric Goosby, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, is working to ensure that HIV prevention, treatment, and care are provided to all members of the LGBT population. For example, in the greater Mekong sub-region, we support the Purple Sky Network, which helps protect the health of gay men and transgender people who are too often overlooked or excluded from lifesaving social services.

And around the world, members of the U.S. Foreign Service continue to stand with LGBT communities in ways both large and small. There are two people who are not here that I want to mention and recognize, because they are indicative of both what people face as they fight for these rights and what our embassies and posts across the globe are doing to support them.

In Albania, a young man named Klodian Cela recently came out on a popular television program called Big Brother. Soon after, our ambassador, John Withers, went on television to publicly express support for this man. He visited his hometown and he invited him to an event at our Embassy, conveying to all Albanians that the United States supports his rights and respects his courage.

In Slovakia, at that nation’s first ever Pride Parade last month, our chargé, Keith Eddins, marched to represent the United States. There were anti-gay protestors who became violent and the police used tear gas, which our chargé and other diplomats were exposed to – a quite unpleasant experience, but in service to a just cause.

So as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here.

At the State Department, USAID, and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for the contributions of all of our team. And I just want to say thank you, thank you to those of you who serve, thank you for doing so by being open and honest about who you are and helping others see the dignity and purpose of every individual. Our work is demanding and we need every person to give 100 percent. And that means creating an environment in which everyone knows they are valued and feels free to make their contribution.

Last year, I received a petition with more than 2,200 signatures supporting equal benefits to same-sex partners. And I was delighted that soon after, the President signed an executive order to that effect. This month, the Bureau of Consular Affairs issued new regulations making it easier for transgender Americans to amend their passports, ensuring dignified and fair processing. And today, I’m pleased to announce that for the first time, gender identity will be included along with sexual orientation in the State Department Equal Employee Opportunity Statement. (Applause.)

Now, we know that a lot of work lies ahead, and I really want to challenge each and every one of you. Whether you’re LGBT or not, if you’re here, you obviously care about or at least were curious enough to come, and therefore are exhibiting an interest in what we are attempting to achieve here. And in looking at you and seeing a group of accomplished, successful, well-educated, professionally challenged people reminds me that many in our own country, let alone around the world, who are LGBT don’t have those tools, don’t have those assets to be able to speak for themselves, to stand up for themselves, to be in a position to claim who they are.

I used to, when I represented New York, have the great joy and honor of traveling across New York state, so I could go to a Pride Parade in New York City and then I could be a few days later somewhere in upstate New York, where someone would take me aside after an event and whisper their fears about the life they led and wonder whether there was anything we could do. And I used to remind my very activist friends in the Pride movement that they were doing this not for themselves, because basically many of them were well enough off to be able to construct a life that would be fairly immune from the outside world, but they were doing it for so many others who did not have that opportunity, that luxury, if you will.

Well, I still believe that. We’ve come such a far distance in our own country, but there are still so many who need the outreach, need the mentoring, need the support, to stand up and be who they are, and then think about people in so many countries where it just seems impossible. So I think that each and every one of you not only professionally, particularly from State and USAID in every bureau and every embassy and every part of our government, have to do what you can to create that safe space, but also personally to really look for those who might need a helping hand, particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life. So I would ask you to please think of ways you can be there for everyone who is making this journey to defend not only human rights globally, but to truly defend themselves and their rights. The struggle for equality is never, ever finished. And it is rarely easy, despite how self-evident it should be. But the hardest-fought battles often have the biggest impact. So I hope that each and every one of us will recommit ourselves to building a future in which every person – every, single person can live in dignity, free from violence, free to be themselves, free to live up to their God-given potential wherever they live and whoever they are. And I thank you for being part of one of history’s great moments.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

 


U.S. Co-Sponsors High-Level Panel on LGBT Rights at United Nations in Geneva

The United States is pleased to have been a co-sponsor of the September 17, 2010 panel discussion “Ending Violence and Criminal Sanctions on the Basis of Sexual Orientation” at the United Nations Office in Geneva during the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The panel brought U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, and human rights defenders from three regions: Alice Nkom, a lawyer and activist from Cameroon, David Clarke, from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Guyana and Sunita Kujur, from Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action, India.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a written message appealing for an end to the criminalization of people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The responsibilities of the United Nations and the obligations of States are clear,” the UN Secretary-General said in a message which was read to the group by High Commissioner Pillay. No-one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

In a special video message recorded for the session, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “Sexual orientation like skin color is a feature of our diversity. How sad it is that when God’s children are facing such massive problems – poverty, disease, corruption, conflict – we are so often obsessed with human sexuality.”

“Is there not already too much hate in this world, without also seeking to persecute those who love?” Archbishop Tutu asked.

The panel discussion was moderated by Daniel Baer, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, on behalf of the co-sponsors: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, East Timor, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States.

“The human rights of LGBT people are not a gay issue, they are a human rights issue,” Baer said in introducing the panel.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay noted that individuals in 78 countries still face criminal sanctions on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Our first task, I believe is to frame this squarely as a human rights issue and demand that it be tackled as such,” Pillay said. “… Redressing this situation is a test of our existing human rights framework and international human rights institutions.”

Speaking for the United States, Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer emphasized that “Human rights are human responsibilities.”

“Men are just as responsible for advocating for and supporting the protection of women’s rights as women are. Straight people who are committed to human rights should be concerned with the protection of those rights for LGBT people. So we should reject the myth that women’s rights are women’s work, or that advocating for LGBT human rights is only the job of the LGBT community.”

“Gay people exist all over the world, in every culture and place, and the problems of violence against gay people also exist all over the world.” Baer said.

In thanking the activists, Baer recognized their courage and said, “When we talk about human rights we often think about those courageous people on the frontlines like you, and the importance of freedom of expression and association for the work you do on behalf of others. But for most of us, human rights are experienced in simpler ways, for us human rights are enjoyed in–as Eleanor Roosevelt said– “small places” close to home. Human rights create the space for us to laugh, cry, worship, celebrate and live our lives with the people we love, and that universal experience is what is behind the conversation we had today.”

“The United States sponsored this panel because we are committed to standing up for the rights of the marginalized, and to making a difference to human rights defenders and victims on the ground,” said Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council.
“As Secretary Clinton has stressed, LGBT rights are human rights. For too long people have been subject to violence- even death – or put in jail because of who they love. We stand with those who say that this is wrong, and we’ll continue to work with those who want to raise the visibility of these issues at the Human Rights Council,” the Ambassador said.

 


Protecting LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Thank you Bob, for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be here today with all of you to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities ahead. I’d like to thank Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) and the Office of Civil Rights for organizing this important event, and for inviting me to participate.

I know you all join me in recognizing Secretary Clinton for her inspiring words, and for her unparalleled leadership and principled advocacy on behalf of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) individuals throughout the world, starting here at the Department of State. And we could not have a better ally at USAID than Administrator Raj Shah.

Let me just echo what you’ve already heard this morning: protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world is a priority for the Obama administration. We will continue to stand against persecution and other violations of human rights against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, anywhere in the world.

For the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), this means identifying and addressing protection challenges for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. We know that in some countries, people are threatened, tortured and even killed for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or for not conforming to social and cultural norms about how men and women should behave, dress, or speak. LGBT individuals who have fled their own countries may continue to face serious threats in countries of asylum, where they may be isolated and reluctant to seek help.

This is a problem that demands a response. Our Bureau will continue to engage with both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organization partners to strengthen our collaboration on behalf of vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

We have raised this issue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at both senior and working levels and will continue to do so. UNHCR’s 2008 Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is an important foundation for enhancing protection for those facing persecution or threats based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. UNHCR must ensure that the Guidance Note is thoroughly understood and implemented by UNHCR personnel worldwide.

This Administration has a strong interest in UNHCR leadership taking effective actions to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. And with our encouragement and support, UNHCR is planning a number of new internal initiatives linked to refugee status determination and resettlement procedures that will focus on identifying protection concerns related to sexual orientation or gender identity. UNHCR will continue training of their staff on these issues, and work with NGOs to clarify the roles and responsibilities for everyone involved through all stages of a refugee situation.

UNHCR is also drafting a revised version of its resettlement handbook that will address these issues. We will remain engaged with UNHCR on these and related efforts, including an upcoming UNHCR-hosted workshop on LGBT refugees.

We have also worked to improve the speed with which we process all highly vulnerable refugee resettlement cases, and the Department will continue to coordinate with our U.S. government, international organization, and NGO partners to ensure these cases are processed as quickly as possible, and that vulnerable individuals, including LGBT persons, are afforded necessary protections.

Earlier this month, PRM hosted a meeting with NGO representatives to exchange information and ideas for enhancing protection for vulnerable LGBT refugees. We will establish a working group to further develop recommendations from that meeting, including on issues related to expedited resettlement to the U.S. and protection challenges overseas. The working group will include NGO representatives, PRM staff, and other U.S. government offices involved in refugee protection and assistance. We look forward to continuing our positive collaboration with members of the NGO community, many of whom I see here today.

We will also continue our efforts to mainstream broader gender issues into our programming in humanitarian settings and in our institutional relationships with international organization and NGO partners. This means assessing the impact of programs we fund on women and girls, and men and boys, and promoting inclusion. It also means enhancing our work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including violence directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This violence is often rooted in destructive notions of how men and women should behave and interact, and we cannot make progress towards achieving gender equality without addressing these fundamental problems.

As Secretary Clinton noted this morning, this is a battle not yet won, but one well worth fighting. Today, we acknowledge those who risk their lives to speak out, and those who advocate tirelessly at home and abroad, for basic principles of equality, justice, and tolerance.

I look forward to working on these challenges with my colleagues in the Administration, and with many of you here, in the coming months.

And I hope that by next June, we have even more to celebrate. Thank you.

 
 

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