Thursday, 17 December 2009

Hillary Clinton talks about Uganda in human rights speech

clinton georgetwon

Source: LGBT POV

Four days after President Obama delivered his well-received Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered remarks Monday at Georgetown University on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century worthy of her inspiration - Eleanor Roosevelt, facilitator of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In this speech, Clinton not only discussed the situation in Uganda – where it is now reported that the death penalty for homosexuals remains in the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 – but she also talked about how the State Department has “elevated” its dialogue about LGBT rights. Remembering what then-First Lady Clinton said in Beijing in 1995, “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights” – one might argue that in this speech Clinton says LGBT rights are human rights and human rights are LGBT rights.

Here’s an example. This question was the first one asked by a student skipping a final exam to hear Clinton speak:

QUESTION: Hello, Secretary Clinton. Thank you so much for speaking to us today. You spoke about the situation in Uganda. Could you please talk to us a little bit more about how the United States can protect the rights of LGBT people in areas where those rights are not respected?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And first let me say that over this past year, we have elevated into our human rights dialogues and our public statements a very clear message about protecting the rights of the LGBT community worldwide. And we are particularly concerned about some of the specific cases that have come to our attention around the world. There have been organized efforts to kill and maim gays and lesbians in some countries that we have spoken out about, and also conveyed our very strong concerns about to their governments – not that they were governmentally implemented or even that the government was aware of them, but that the governments need to pay much greater attention to the kinds of abuses that we’ve seen in Iraq, for example.

We are deeply concerned about some of the stories coming out of Iran. In large measure, in reaction, we think, to the response to the elections back in June, there have been abuses committed within the detention facilities and elsewhere that we are deeply concerned about. And then the example that I used of a piece of legislation in Uganda which would not only criminalize homosexuality but attach the death penalty to it. We have expressed our concerns directly, indirectly, and we will continue to do so. The bill has not gone through the Ugandan legislature, but it has a lot of public support by various groups, including religious leaders in Uganda. And we view it as a very serious potential violation of human rights.

So it is clear that across the world this is a new frontier in the minds of many people about how we protect the LGBT community, but it is at the top of our list because we see many instances where there is a very serious assault on the physical safety and an increasing effort to marginalize people. And we think it’s important for the United States to stand against that and to enlist others to join us in doing so.

But the other seriously significant aspect to her Georgetown speech was how she held the US accountable, as well as other nations:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves.


By holding ourselves accountable, we reinforce our moral authority to demand that all governments adhere to obligations under international law; among them, not to torture, arbitrarily detain and persecute dissenters, or engage in political killings. Our government and the international community must counter the pretensions of those who deny or abdicate their responsibilities and hold violators to account.


In the end, this isn’t just about what we do; it is about who we are. And we cannot be the people we are – people who believe in human rights – if we opt out of this fight. Believing in human rights means committing ourselves to action, and when we sign up for the promise of rights that apply everywhere, to everyone, that rights will be able to protect and enable human dignity, we also sign up for the hard work of making that promise a reality.

Here is Clinton’s full speech, as posted on the State Department’s website.


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