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Congress Sends Letter to Indonesia to Stop Government-Sponsored Anti-LGBTQ Actions

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and 35 other members of Congress sent a letter to the Indonesian government, calling on them to put a stop to recent government-sponsored anti-LGBTQ actions there.

The letter was written in response to a number of horrific reports out of Indonesia, including the arrest of more than 140 men suspected of homosexuality on May 21. The police released several photographs of the arrested men to the media, exposing their identities to family and friends and potentially putting them at risk of social ostracism and violence. 

A few days later, on May 23, two gay men in Aceh province were publicly caned and were photographed and humiliated in front of a crowd of spectators. The following day, the police force in West Java announced plans to establish a task force to specifically target LGBTQ people, with the police chief calling homosexuality “a disease,” and that LGBTQ people will “face the law and heavy social sanctions.”

The Congressional letter sends a clear message to the Indonesian government that they “cannot turn a blind eye to the persecution of minority communities, whether women, religious minorities, or LGBTQ people.” It warns the Indonesians that “such attacks can metastasize and put an entire country’s stability, security, and foreign investments at risk.” It therefore urges the government there to “exercise its responsibility to investigate and put a stop to repressive and discriminatory actions against minorities” while asking them to “affirmatively protect the civil and human rights of all its citizens, no matter their identities, sexual orientations, genders, religions, or religious views.”

“The horrific violence targeting LGBTQ people in Indonesia is part of a troubling yet growing trend driven by hate and fear around the world, including in places like Chechnya, Bangladesh, and elsewhere,” HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. “With an absence of action from the Trump administration on these human rights abuses, we are grateful for Rep. Maloney’s leadership in calling for an end to this violence and putting Indonesia officials on notice that the eyes of the world are closely watching.”

“Indonesia is an important leader and regional ally in Southeast Asia – and they have a responsibility over there to set a good example of what a democracy should look like, but lately they haven’t been living up to that responsibility,” Rep. Maloney said in a statement. “Oppressing your own citizens because of their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation undermines democratic values and erodes civil society and I won’t stand for it.”

The full letter can be found here.

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USAID Nominee Pledges Support for LGBTQ Human Rights

In a hearing before a U.S. Senate committee, Ambassador Mark Green, the nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), pledged that, if confirmed, he would work to ensure that USAID’s programming reaches vulnerable LGBTQ people around the world.

Ambassador Green (not to be confused with the anti-LGBTQ Mark Green who was forced to withdraw his nomination as Army Secretary) was nominated to lead USAID, America’s largest provider of global development assistance, investing nearly $16 billion in foreign aid each year in more than 100 countries.

Green hails from Wisconsin and has served as a member of Congress and as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. He now serves as the president of the International Republican Institute, a non-profit that supports the development of democratic institutions around the globe.

On June 15, Green appeared  before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his nomination hearing to be USAID Administrator, and was introduced by three fellow Wisconsinites, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and the Senate’s only openly LGBTQ member, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a longtime champion of LGBTQ rights and lead sponsor of the Global Respect Act, asked Green how he would handle countries that are harming LGBTQ people.

“We need to make sure that our programming reaches all marginalized communities, and in many parts of the world LGBT marginalized communities,” he said. “Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as our American values….No country can rise if it is discriminating against any marginalized community.  No country can be a vibrant democracy if it isn’t listening to all of its voices.”

Just days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told another Congressional committee that he has not raised the atrocities in Chechnya with his Russian counterparts even once, Green’s response was welcome news.

If confirmed, Green will be tasked with carrying out USAID’s policy that prohibits any discrimination against LGBTQ people in the conduct of USAID programs. USAID was the first U.S. agency to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination abroad, which has not been replicated in other agencies. He will also face extraordinary challenges, since USAID is facing steep budget cuts in the administration’s FY2018 budget proposal, many of which will harm LGBTQ people abroad who depend on U.S. funding of health and human rights programs.

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