In her talk in San Francisco on May 27, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the following in response to a question about abuses of gay human rights abroad:
"And the United States issues something called a Human Rights Report every year that talks about the human rights conditions in each country and so -- very much in line with the notion that every citizen needs to be represented and rights protected. We believe that this is the way to handle this situation."
The State Department's latest annual human rights report was issued on February 28 and, after a few Google searches, does not seem to have generated any news coverage in either the gay or mainstream press. (Source: State Dept. report )
I looked at the reports for countries where I knew anti-gay activities had occurred and to my surprise, the reports were rather inclusive of the terrible bashings, governmental discrimination and detention, murders and other forms of harassment suffered last year by gays, lesbians, transgenders and people with AIDS. Who would expect the Bush administration to give a damn about the widespread abuse of gay human rights around the globe and to consider the abuses worthy of inclusion in a human rights report? Not me.
Now that we know the State Department's human rights report documents the discrimination gays face abroad, what steps should the department take to both prevent and prosecute the abuses our brothers and sister suffer? What is State doing about the reports of gay human rights abuses? Offering help to the victims and issuing condemnations? Maybe withholding foreign aid until gay human rights are protected by abusive governments?
One thing I'd like to see is press attention, perhaps tied to Rice's comments in San Francisco, as a way to keep pressure on the State Department to at least monitor the situations faced by gays around the globe.
Here are many excerpts from the 2004 human rights report that were of interest to me. It is not a comprehensive list of all the country reports that mentioned gay rights, but a large sampling of what's in the full report, which I hope will be read by more gay activists.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005
The AHRG claimed that police targeted the country's homosexual community. According to the General Secretary of Gay Albania, the police often arbitrarily arrested homosexuals and then physically and verbally abused them while they were in detention. In October, the General Secretary of Gay Albania claimed that he was refused citizenship because he was homosexual.
In 2003, the AHRG claimed that police targeted the country's homosexual community. According to the General Secretary of Gay Albania, the police often arbitrarily arrested homosexuals and then physically and verbally abused them while they were in detention. However, the police denied these charges and stated that when homosexuals were arrested, it was for violating the law--such as disturbing the peace--not for their sexual preference.
There was a history of societal violence against homosexuals. Although the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, state and federal laws do prohibit such discrimination, and the federal and state governments remained committed to combating it.
According to the Ministry of Health, there were approximately 180 killings of homosexuals during the year.
No further information was available, and none was expected, in the August 2003 trial of military police officers accused of the 2000 beating death of transvestite Henrique de Souza Lima in Curitiba, Parana.
In December 2003, state prosecutors charged Mayor Elcio Berti of Bocaiuva do Sul, Parana State, with violating state and federal antidiscrimination laws and abuse of administrative power for issuing a decree in December 2003 prohibiting homosexuals from living in the town. The town's public prosecutor convinced Berti to revoke the decree to avoid a public investigation and filing of the case. In a hearing on June 16 for a civil case against the mayor, filed by the human rights NGO Grupo Dignidade, Berti claimed that the decree was an internal joke that was mistakenly released to the press. Grupo Dignidade filed a further case against the mayor with the National Council to Combat Racism. The case remained pending at year's end.
During the year, four gang members convicted in the 2000 killing in Sao Paulo of Edson Neris da Silva received sentences ranging from 2 to 19 years in prison.
The Secretariat of State Security in Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with NGOs, operated a hotline and offered professional counseling services to victims of anti-homosexual crimes.
In November, Rio de Janeiro state lawmakers reversed the governor's veto on a bill that gives same-sex partner benefits to government employees. The state's 70-member assembly voted 37 to 21 to override the veto and the law went into effect. In July, a Sao Paulo state court ordered 15 health insurance companies to recognize same-sex couples in their coverage.
In April, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights launched the "Brazil Without Homophobia" program, which sought to stop violence against homosexuals, provide legal counsel to victims of violence, and prevent anti-homosexual sentiment by providing tolerance training for school-aged children. According to the National Secretariat for Human Rights, the program aims to strengthen public institutions and NGOs that promote homosexual rights and combat homophobia; offers training to professionals and representatives in the homosexual community; creates publicity campaigns to raise awareness and disseminate information about homosexual rights and to promote homosexual self-esteem; and encourages reporting of violence against homosexuals.
Many citizens view homosexuals with scorn. The penal code contains provisions against "sexually abnormal" behavior that have been used to bring charges against gays and lesbians who have drawn unfavorable attention to themselves.
Nevertheless, homosexuals have a certain degree of protection through societal traditions. Transgender performers commonly provide entertainment at traditional observances. Some are spirit ("nat") worshipers and, as such, they have special standing in the society. They participate in a well?established week?long festival held near Mandalay every year. The event is considered a religious event, free of sexual overtones or activities, and is officially approved by the Government. No one, including the military or police, interferes with the festival.
During a 2?month period in 2002, Government border officials had administered involuntarily HIV/AIDS tests to returning citizens. Those who tested positive were forced first into a hospital and then into a detention center. The Foreign Minister reported this situation to the Ministry of Health as discrimination, and the Health Ministry ended the practice. Nevertheless, HIV?positive patients were discriminated against, as were the doctors who treated them. The Government worked to address this issue and has drafted a protocol for Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing for HIV/AIDS that is intended to provide protection for the right to privacy. It was not promulgated by year's end.
No laws criminalize private homosexual activity between consenting adults. The 1997 criminal code abolished the crime of "hooliganism," which had previously been used to prosecute gay men and lesbians. In 2001, medical authorities removed homosexuality from the national diagnostic handbook of psychiatric disorders. In May, prohibitions on homosexuality were dropped from regulations governing the behavior of individuals serving sentences. In July, the country's delegation to the 15th annual AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, included representatives of an NGO advocating gay rights. Gay men and lesbians stated that official tolerance has improved in recent years. However, societal discrimination and strong pressure to conform to family expectations deter most individuals from publicly discussing their sexual orientation.
During the year, the Government officially outlawed discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B under a new Contagious Disease Law and adopted regulations forbidding employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B. However, discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained widespread in many areas. Hospitals and physicians often refused to treat HIV-positive patients.
In February, the Government created the State Council AIDS office, putting policy formation regarding the AIDS issue at the highest Government level. The Government also introduced the China CARES Program, the goal of which was to provide care and treatment to 60,000 poor, rural people with HIV/AIDS. The program began in 51 pilot counties in April and added an additional 76 counties in June. The day before World AIDS Day, President Hu Jintao publicly shook hands with an AIDS patient and spoke about the need for the country to address the disease candidly without stigma. Regulations were also revised to permit, for the first time, those with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B to work as civil servants.
Information about the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country remained difficult to gather and assess. Officials acknowledged that over 1 million citizens were infected with HIV, although the Government had not updated its official estimate of 840,000 persons infected.
Activist Li Dan was beaten and Pan Zhongfeng detained in Shangqiu, Henan Province, during a July demonstration protesting closure of an AIDS orphanage and school. Henan Province activists Wang Guofeng and Li Suzhi claimed they received inadequate treatment while detained and that authorities refused to provide them with test results or allow them to travel to Beijing to see specialists after they were released on bail (see Section 1.c.).
In 2002, three domestic human rights associations, as well as two international organizations, presented their allegations and findings to the U.N. Committee Against Torture (the "Committee"), a subcommittee of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The Committee's report expressed concerns about the continued implementation of the state of emergency; consistent reports of torture and ill treatment; abuse of juveniles and homosexuals; the continued use of administrative detention; the lack of access by victims of torture to the courts and lengthy proceedings; and disparities in the awarding of compensation.
Although the law does not explicitly criminalize homosexual acts, police have targeted homosexuals using Internet-based "sting" operations leading to arrests on charges of "debauchery." There were no reports of new internet entrapment cases during the year (see Sections 1.c, 1.e., and 2.a.).
In February 2003, a court rejected the appeal of foreign national Wissam Toufic Abyad, who had been convicted of "habitual debauchery" after arranging to meet a police informant posing as a homosexual man on an internet site. Abyad, serving a 15-month sentence, was unable to get his case heard by the Court of Cassation. He was released in May.
In February 2003, a Court of Appeal in Agouza, Cairo upheld the 3-year sentences of 11 allegedly homosexual men convicted of "habitual debauchery." A twelfth defendant was tried in juvenile court and later sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment. Lawyers for the 12 appealed the case to the Court of Cassation, but no court hearing date had been set, and the 12 remained in prison during the year.
Individuals suspected of homosexual activity and arrested on "debauchery" charges regularly reported being subjected to humiliation and abuse while in custody.
In March, the HRW Executive Director visited the country to unveil the new report "In a Time of Torture," which focused on harassment and abuse of alleged homosexuals.
During the year, there were no reports of widescale internet entrapment of homosexuals.
Police sometimes threatened commercial sex workers with false drug charges to extort money or sexual favors. Police sometimes harassed homosexuals or transvestites with similar threats of false charges. Suspected gang members sometimes were imprisoned without charges or with false drug charges. Detainees were not always promptly informed of the charges filed against them.
On July 7, Lesbiradas, an organization for the promotion of the rights of lesbians, received at least six threatening phone calls. The Public Ministry was investigating the case at year's end.
In September, AI alleged that thousands of homosexual and transgender persons in the country faced discrimination and attacks on a daily basis.
On August 27, the Government granted legal recognition to three NGOs working on homosexual issues: the Violet Collective, the San Pedro Gay Community, and Kukulcan.
In September 2003, AI reported that approximately 200 homosexual and transsexual workers were killed between 1991-2003. In July 2003, two policemen allegedly shot and killed Eric David Yanez, a transgender member of the NGO San Pedro Sula's Gay Community. The investigation into the killing was pending at year's end.
HIV positive persons were at risk of discrimination. In 2002, UNAIDS estimated the overall HIV prevalence rate at 1.9 percent, although available data on HIV/AIDS incidence was underreported. The male to female ratio of HIV infection was 1.2:1. UNAIDS estimated there were at least 63,000 adults living with HIV and almost 14,000 orphans in the country due to HIV/AIDS related deaths. An estimated 30 to 50 percent of total AIDS cases are still not reported. According to the Ministry of Health in July, 21,196 HIV positive cases had been reported, with 16,346 AIDS cases (9,580 men and 6,765 women).