The State Department’s annual human rights report, released on Tuesday, notes that anti-LGBTQ persecution and violence remain rampant in many countries around the world.
The report notes that consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Jamaica and dozens of other countries. Iran and Afghanistan are two of the few countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.
The report specifically cites the case of Alireza Fazeli Monfared, an Iranian man whose relatives were killed in May 2021 after it was discovered he was gay and non-binary. The report also notes that the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021 “increased fears of repression and violence among LGBTQI+ people, with many people hiding to avoid capture by the Taliban”.
“Many fled the country after the takeover,” the report read. “After the takeover, LGBTQI+ people faced increased threats, attacks, sexual assaults and discrimination from Taliban members, strangers, neighbors and family members.”
The report includes statistics from the Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais, a Brazilian transgender rights group, which indicates that 80 trans people – most of whom were Brazilians of African descent under the age of 35 – allegedly killed in the first six months of 2021. The report also cites Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist human rights group in Honduras, which documented 17 “violent deaths of LGBTQI+ people” in the country between January and August 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters there were more than a million political prisoners in 65 countries. These include Yoav de la Cruz, a Cuban gay man sentenced to six years in prison last month after live-streaming the first anti-government protest that took place on the island on July 11, 2021.
The report notes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ongoing efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights, which include a decree his government issued on August 6, 2021, which restricted the sale of children’s books with LGBTQ-specific themes. The report also includes incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, discrimination and hate speech in Poland.
This report focuses on 2021 and does not include details of human rights abuses Russian forces committed against Ukrainian civilians during the ongoing war in their country. Blinken nevertheless criticized Russia throughout his remarks.
“For many consecutive years, we have witnessed an alarming recession of democracy, of the rule of law, of respect for human rights in many parts of the world,” Blinken said. “Since the publication of our previous report, this decline has unfortunately continued. In few places have the human consequences of this decline been as brutal as in the Russian government’s brutal war on Ukraine.
Blinken also called human rights “universal”.
“People of all nationalities, races, genders, disabilities and ages are entitled to these rights, regardless of what they believe, who they love or any other characteristic,” he said. “It is all the more important that a number of governments continue to assert, wrongly, that human rights must be applied according to the global context. It is no coincidence that many of these same governments are among the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses.
The report also notes the progress of LGBTQ rights around the world.
The Botswana Court of Appeal in November 2021 upheld an earlier ruling that decriminalizes homosexuality in the country. The report also notes that the European Commission sanctioned Hungary for its efforts to restrict LGBTQ rights and Poland in response to so-called “LGBT-free zones”.
“We do not claim moral height”
President Biden released a memorandum in 2021 committing the United States to promote LGBTQ rights abroad.
Last June, the White House named Jessica Stern, then executive director of OutRight Action International, as the next U.S. special envoy for promoting LGBTQ rights overseas. The State Department began issuing passports with “X” gender markers on Monday.
The State Department released its report less than a month after Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law his state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Lawmakers in dozens of other states across the United States have introduced similar measures and others that specifically target transgender children.
“We’re not trying to pretend that these aren’t issues we face here in the United States,” said the acting assistant secretary of the department’s Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. of State, Lisa Peterson, in response to a question from the Washington Blade. about the publication of the report against the background of anti-LGBTQ measures in the United States “This report, because it is very clearly focused on the rest of the world, we are digging into other countries. We are not mandated to report on our own situation.
“The universal nature of human rights also means that we must hold ourselves accountable to the same standards,” Blinken said. “Even though this report covers countries around the world, we have recognized from day one of this administration that we have challenges here in the United States.”
“We take our responsibility to address these shortcomings seriously and know that how we do it matters; with citizens and communities, openly, transparently, without trying to pretend the problems don’t exist, or sweep them under a rug,” he added.
Peterson echoed Blinken before taking questions from reporters.
“We cannot be credible human rights defenders abroad if we don’t uphold the same principles at home,” Peterson said. “We do not claim a high moral position, but we are resolved, in the words of our Constitution, to form a more perfect union, which means that we must continue to meet the many challenges of human rights in our own country.”