e U.S. named career foreign service officer Randy Berry its first-ever envoy for LGBT rightsthis week. IGLHRC welcomed Berry’s appointment, saying “The U.S. envoy can contribute to a new era in which the conscience of governments everywhere can be focused on the destabilizing impact of prejudice and abuse that inflicts suffering on millions worldwide.” Also commenting was Ugandan LGBTI Activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera: “We join the US in welcoming the newly appointed LGBTI envoy. It’s not going to be easy inviting Mr. Berry to countries where human rights of LGBTI people are not respected. However, it’s a step in the right direction. Eventually, countries such as Uganda will have to respect their partners’ foreign policies if they are to have great relations. I look forward to working with Mr. Berry.” Also this week, Alfonso Lenhardt, acting director of the US Agency for International Development, “highlighted a new initiative to enhance LGBT rights movements in Eastern Europe and countries within the former Soviet Union during an event at USAID’s headquarters in downtown Washington.”
We have previously noted country reports being produced by the Being Gay in Asia project, which assess social, religious, and political barriers to LGBT equality. This week, representatives from the UN Development Programme, the U.S. and Swedish Embassies in Bangkok, and the US Agency for International Development launched Phase 2 of the “Being LGBT in Asia” regional initiative. During Phase 1, dialogues were hottest and country reports produced in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The second phase will help national and community-based human rights organizations strengthen their capacity to advocate for policies to overcome stigma and ensure access to health services as well as educational and economic opportunities.
The Daily Best posted the latest in its series of discussions with global LGBT activists, this one withAnastasia Smirnova, who fled the country after having been arrested for posting an LGBT banner at the Sochi Olympics.
In an era of division on the matter of Human Rights for LGBT people; it is perhaps expected that the U.S. Government should be the first country in the world to appoint an Envoy for the express purpose of supporting Gay people in other countries, in their quest to be treated as ‘normal’ human beings, whose sexual-orientation happens to be different from the majority but whose need for respect and equal human rights should be recognised.
It is not expected that homophobia and sexism will be conquered overnight by the appointment of a U.S. Envoy for the LGBT Community, but at least, it is an overt encouragement for a minority of human beings to be considered worthy of justice and peace in their own countries. This appointment, by a Western Government, is also a reminder to the Christian Church of its call for compassion and understanding of a situation which in still a cause of conflict within its own ranks.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand