The collaborative effort between USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, gay rights groups and private sector actors will bring foreign assistance to support LGBT equality in developing countries.
“I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” said President Obama in December of 2011.
He issued seven recommendations to immediately support the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Recommendations included working against the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers and foreign assistance to protect the rights of LGBT persons.
“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights,” said President Obama.
The announcement seventeen months later represents further commitment by the administration towards the protection of the rights of LGBT persons. Partners pledged $11 million dollars over the next four years to support the work of advocacy groups starting in Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala. The aim is to strengthen existing civil society organizations that support the LGBT communities in the target countries through direct financial means as well as leadership training and research into the economic impact of discrimination.
This announcement comes at a time when 85 territories and countries criminalize LGBT behavior. The death penalty is punishment for homosexuality in seven countries. That is why the UN issued a declaration calling for the decriminalization of LGBT laws in 2010.
“I get phone calls everyday about people being abused by their own families, threatened by neighbors, refused health services, expelled from schools, all because they are LGBT,” said Frank Mugisha in a letter to USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg.
UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon remarked on Human Rights Day 2010, “Together, we seek the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality, that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that encourage violence.”
The new partnership comes at a time when the US Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a federal ban against gay marriage and President Obama has taken a stronger stance in support of gay rights. In his second inaugural address, President Obama invoked the Declaration of Independence by arguing that taking up sexual equality is a realization of the founders’ dreams.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
The rights-based argument is reflected in the USAID announcement of the new program.
“Our aim is to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people globally who are LGBT to have the freedom and dignity to contribute fully to their families, communities and nations,” said Maura O’Neill, USAID’s Chief Innovation Officer.