The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Monday that the agency is launching a sweeping new initiative to promote LGBT rights in developing countries.
According to Maura O’Neill, USAID’s Chief Innovation Officer, the LGBT Global Development Partnership has the potential to make a tremendous difference in the everyday lives of LGBT people around the world and their communities. Because LGBT individuals in many foreign nations can be evicted legally from their homes or arrested for just being themselves, establishing helpful relationships and building a community of empowered LGBT leaders is critical.
Approximately 85 countries and territories now criminalize same-sex relationships, according to USAID; of those, seven countries impose the death penalty. Since 2009, the government of Uganda has been considering a “Kill the Gays” bill. In South Africa, lesbians often are subjected to “corrective” rape, while throughout Africa and the Middle East, LGBT persons are murdered and/or tortured because of their sexual orientation, said Dr. Claire Lucas, USAID’s Senior Advisor for Public-Private Partnerships.
Working alongside foreign LGBT groups, the USAID initiative will provide leadership training, research and other vital assistance. Countries where LGBT people feel persecuted, outcast and defenseless will get the helping hand of the U.S. government. The program’s first acts of service will take place in Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Colombia. In particular, USAID officials have cited increased violence against transgendered persons in Honduras, since a 2009 coup in the Central American country.
Fortunately, people around the world are recognizing that violence, prejudice and governmental intolerance are no longer acceptable. In 2011, the United Nations passed a landmark resolution endorsing LGBT human rights. Likewise, President Obama issued a mandate that foreign aid and development agencies “enhance their ongoing efforts with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”
The USAID program, a four-year $11 million initiative, is a direct result of both the UN resolution and Obama’s mandate; it is a public-private partnership between USAID and Olivia Cruises, UCLA’s Williams Institute, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.