The White House announced on Tuesday it will begin to use foreign aid to promote gay and lesbian rights abroad.
President Barack Obama issued a memo directing United States agencies to look for ways to combat attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality, The New York Times reported.
“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting L.G.B.T. persons around the world,” Obama said in the memo, The Times reported. “Whether it is passing laws the criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful L.G.B.T. pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
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The memo follows US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton telling other diplomats that cultural practices or religious traditions are no excuse for discriminating against homosexuals, the Associated Press reported. Clinton criticized countries that tolerate abuse of gay, bisexual or transgendered people or that criminalize gay behavior, without identifying them by name.
The Obama administration’s memo comes on the heels of Uganda’s parliament deciding to reopen a debate on a controversial bill that seeks to outlaw homosexuality and could even be expanded to include the death penalty, The Times reported.
South Africa’s disadvantaged areas are also known for being intolerant of the country’s black lesbians and transgender men, the Daily Maverick reported. They are regularly confronted with hostility and abuses from their families, communities and even in their workplaces according to the Human Rights Watch report, “We’ll Show You You’re a Woman.” Practically all of those interviewed for the report said they had been subjected to frequent verbal abuse and harassment, the Daily Maverick reported.
Read more about the global battle over gay rights at GlobalPost's special report The Rainbow Struggle
Obama’s memo said that the State Department will lead other federal agencies to help insure the government’s “swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights” of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people abroad, The Times reported.
USA Today reported that some of the specific orders the president listed included:
-- Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad.
-- Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
-- Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination.
-- Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBT Persons Abroad.
-- Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBT Discrimination.
-- Reporting on Progress. 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.