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Clinton on women’s rights

8 December, 2011 4 comments

Coming more than 36 hours later, I’m not going to claim to present Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech on Tuesday on LGBT rights as news. It was a great speech though, and well worth watching if you’ve only read the text.

The important message from her speech is that she is not talking about any special rights for gay people, as Governor Rick Perry so wilfully misunderstands.
As Clinton says,

Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

It is wrong to make legal distinctions, prohibitions against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people because no one should be subject to any special exception from human rights. It is not about creating exceptions, but ending them. Culture and religion can be no excuse for an infringement on human rights.

As I posted on Facebook, she didn’t start being great on Tuesday. This speech consciously mirrors her speech in Beijing at the Fourth World Conference on Women. This is a speech should be read again now by all those inspired by her speech on Tuesday,

It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.

The problems she refers to are unfortunately as alive today as they were 16 years ago, and we must continue to scrutinize our approaches to human rights issues around the world to ensure that we do not place the right to life and personal autonomy of any individual on a lower scale for any reason.

If the Middle East were a gay rights issue

13 June, 2010 3 comments

It’s not. But if it were, the balance would lie with Israel, the most liberal of states in the Middle East, whether in civil liberties or in fostering a strong economy. While there is no process of civil marriage for any couples in the state of Israel, marriages performed by others are fully recognized, whether those married by religious authorities within the state, or by other jurisdictions, and since 2007, this has included gay couples. While the United States is still pondering the consequences of allowing gay men and women to serve in the army, the Israeli army now has a good record of acknowledging its gay soldiers. This week as ever, Tel Aviv held its annual gay pride parade. There are a few openly gay members of the Knesset, Israel’s popularly elected parliament.

Which is why the decision of the Madrid gay pride parade to ban a delegation from Israel is highly questionable. A spokesperson for Tel Aviv, Eytan Schwartz, comments “We invited the organisers of the gay pride event in Madrid to join a march this Friday in Tel Aviv, the only place in the Middle East where you can be gay in public. They would be able to talk to Arab gays who travel here secretly because they would be murdered at home if they revealed their sexuality.”

It’s not that the good record of Israel on this and certain other issues should exempt them from criticism, in either their international actions or other internal policies, but I find some in the gay rights movements conflate their grievances on different issues. At the recent protest here, Labour LGBT marched against Israel’s actions. Even aside from the irony of their flag being captured near that of Hamas, organizations that shares few values in common, I wonder why they would not have marched simply as Labour, as Labour Youth or on behalf of an international committee of the party.

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