Clinton urges end to discrimination against gays worldwide

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged an end to discrimination worldwide against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals (LGBT), and announced a fund to advance their cause.

In an impassioned speech at UN offices in Geneva, Clinton said Washington has committed $3.0 million to start a Global Equality Fund that will support civil society organisations working for LGBT rights worldwide.

The announcement came as US President Barack Obama directed government agencies to fight against the criminalisation of LGBT activity abroad and to combat discrimination, homophobia and intolerance.

Clinton said the Global Equality Fund will help civil society organisations "so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets and train their staff, and forge partnerships with women's organisations, and other human rights groups."

The chief US diplomat, who received a standing ovation at the end of her speech, said LGBT rights were universal human rights.

"It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave," she said.

"It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished," Clinton said.

"It is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay," she said.

She rejected those who believe that "homosexuality is a Western phenomenon and therefore people from outside the West have grounds to reject it."

She added: "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.

"Gay people are born into -- and belong to -- every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors, and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes," she said.

President Obama meanwhile directed agencies involved with foreign aid and development to engage governments and civil society groups abroad to "build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons."

He also directed swift and meaningful action to respond to human rights abuses against LGBT people perpetrated by foreign governments and required all agencies to produce an annual report on progress towards all the initiatives.

He required the departments of State and Homeland Security to ensure that LGBT asylum seekers are properly protected and noted that the US government could resettle highly vulnerable people who need urgent protection.

© 2011 AFP

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