Item 8: General Debate on Follow-up to the Vienna Declaration And Programme of Action
Delivered by Paula Schriefer
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
Head of the U.S. Delegation to the 25th Human Rights Council
Human Rights Council 25thSession
Geneva, March 24, 2014
The Vienna Declaration notes: “While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States… to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The United States is gravely concerned that legislation in many states restricts the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, thereby affecting not only these people , but also friends, families, and loved ones. Local culture and belief do not justify these draconian laws.
Laws criminalizing homosexuality are on the books in at least 79 countries. We are especially concerned by the proliferation of new and even more restrictive legislation in countries such as Russia, Nigeria, and Uganda. These laws offend people’s dignity and negatively affect their enjoyment of their human rights. They unduly limit the right to freedom of expression and may chill the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.They also create a climate that encourages violence targeting persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such an outcome is unacceptable and constitutes a growing threat to the recognition of the universality of human rights and the dignity of human beings.
In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act is more than a danger to the gay community. It is a step backward for all Ugandans and reflects poorly on Uganda’s commitment to anti-discrimination. The law puts in jeopardy important public health gains, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and has led to media reports that further stoke intolerance and put lives at risk. We call on the government to halt implementation of this law, and call on all persons of conscience in Uganda, especially those in the government, to condemn any incitement and prevent violence.
We are also deeply concerned by Nigeria’s misleadingly titled “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.” This law directly restrains the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly for all Nigerians. Since the enactment of this law, violence and harassment of the LGBT community has increased. We are also concerned about this law’s potential to set back public health efforts, particularly those that fight HIV/AIDS and which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.
Additionally, restrictive Russian laws were enacted under a false claim of protecting children, but they are clearly inconsistent with Russia’s international human rights obligations. We have seen an increase in harassment and violent attacks against LGBT persons in Russia following the adoption of the so-called propaganda law.
The community of nations must continue to work to promote human rights for all people, and not allow historical, cultural, or religious beliefs to be used to justify discrimination, violence, and the denial of human rights. The United States will continue to stand up for freedom, justice, and equal rights for all persons, regardless of whom they are or whom they love.