A memorandum from US President Barack Obama to heads of US executive departments and agencies on the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons (LGBT) could have wide-ranging impact on Jamaica.
The memorandum, issued Tuesday by the White House, sounds the charge for increased pressure on countries that refuse to end discrimination against non-heterosexuals -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.
The memo specifically requires that US agencies target, among other things, countries that criminalize the status or sexual behaviour of these groups.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Human Rights Day & LGBT rights abroad with US hlelp - December 6, 2011, Geneva
Obama noted his deep concern about violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, "whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation".
He reiterated his recent stance at the United Nations, where he declared that no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, and that all countries must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.
"Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we, as the United States, bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.
"By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons," wrote the president in his memo.
Among the agencies sent the directive are departments of state, the Treasury, Defence, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank and the United States Trade Representative.
Specifically, Obama directed them to "strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalisation by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct".
Secondly, the memo covers persons seeking asylum because of anti-gay violence and persecution.
"In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the departments of State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum," he said.
Thirdly, the memo directed that agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development enhance their efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in foreign countries in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.
The remaining directives cover the provision of swift and meaningful US responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engaging international organisations in the fight against LGBT discrimination; and speedy reporting on the progress of the new initiatives.
"All agencies engaged abroad shall prepare a report within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, and annually thereafter, on their progress toward advancing these initiatives," the memo said.
All such agencies are expected to submit their reports to the Department of State, which will compile a report on the Federal Government's progress in advancing these initiatives for dispatch to the president.
Also see: A Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the President's Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today, President Obama directed all agencies to protect and promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons abroad. At the United Nations, we have strongly supported efforts to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for the LGBT community, and the President’s action adds yet more force to our urgent fight.
Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly within the UN system to advance the human rights of the world’s LGBT persons. Early on, we signed the UN General Assembly’s Statement on Sexual Orientation on Gender Identity. We joined the LGBT Core Groups in Geneva and New York. We won NGO consultative status for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. We championed the first UN resolution dedicated to advancing the basic and fundamental rights of LGBT persons. Last December, on Human Rights Day, we pledged to restore language including LGBT individuals in a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings. Within two weeks, we did so.
There is far more work to do before our LGBT friends, neighbors, parents and children live in a world free of discrimination. Through steadfast defense of our universal values, persistent engagement with international partners, and the full force of U.S. efforts under the law, we will get there. I look forward to continuing our work and proudly carrying out the President’s directive.