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Posts for January, 2011

President Obama on David Kato’s Killing: “LGBT Rights Are Not Special Rights; They Are Human Rights.”

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2011

From the White House:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 27, 2011

Statement by the President on the Killing of David Kato
I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of David Kato. In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.

At home and around the world, LGBT persons continue to be subjected to unconscionable bullying, discrimination, and hate. In the weeks preceding David Kato’s murder in Uganda, five members of the LGBT community in Honduras were also murdered. It is essential that the Governments of Uganda and Honduras investigate these killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights. My Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all.

Honduras Experiences Large Spike in LGBT Murders

Jim Burroway

December 22nd, 2009
Walter Trochez

Walter Tróchez, showing his injuries after having been kidnapped by suspected members of Honduras security forces.

We reported on the murder and burial of Honduran LGBT activist Walter Tróchez who was murdered in a drive-by shooting on December 13. His assassination is believed to have been carried out by Honduran security forces. He had been kidnapped and beaten in a six-hour kidnapping ordeal by captors who interrogated him about the resistance to the current Honduran government which came to power in a coup d’etat. He escaped his captors, but not before they threatened to kill him.

The Miami Herald investigates a large spike in anti-LGBT murders in the last six months since the Honduran president was overthrown in a right-wing coup. Human rights advocates say that as many as 18 gay and transgender men have been killed in the past six months, which is as as many as the five prior years.

Honduran LGBT Activist Murdered, Laid To Rest

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2009

WalterTrochezHonduran LGBT activist Walter Tróchez was murdered earlier this week. He was a member of the National Resistance Front, a group opposed to the right-wing coup d’etat. He was shot and killed on December 13 in a drive-by shooting. Veteran reporter Doug Ireland says that Honduran security forces were likely responsible for Tróchez’s murder:

Trochez, who had already been arrested and beaten for his sexual orientation after participating in a march against the coup, had been very active recently in documenting and publicizing homophobic killings and crimes committed by the forces behind the coup, which is believed to have been the motive for his murder. He had been trailed for weeks before his murder by thugs believed to be members of the state security forces.

(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Tróchez was buried on Tuesday. His coffin was draped with a rainbow flag.

The Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights in Honduras (which goes by the Spanish acronym CIPRODEH) has more information about his earlier kidnapping and beating:

On December 4th the human rights advocate Walter Tróchez, member of the LGBT community and active member of the Resistance Front was kidnapped and savagely beaten outside the “El Obelisco” Park in Comayaguela, by four hooded men who drove a gray pickup, without plates, presumably of the DNIC [national criminal investigation directorate] (a vehicle of similar description, as he denounced publicly several months ago, had been staking out his house, obligating him to move).

On that day the kidnappers told him they knew him well and they were going to kill him. They hooded him, insulted him, and began to interrogate him about the resistance, asking for information about its leaders and its movements. At that time he managed to escape alive, and the next day he filed a complaint with national and international authorities.

Council for Global Equality’s Top Ten List “Where The U.S. Should Do More”

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2009

Here is something that escaped our notice until now. The Council for Global Equality, in responding to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports, has identified what it calls the “Top Ten Opportunities for the U.S. to Respond” to anti-LGBT human rights abuses which are highlighted in the report. The countries identified by the Council include Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The ten countries weren’t necessarily selected because they are the worst countries in the world for LGBT abuses. Instead, they are identified as the ten countries in which the U.S. has the best opportunity to influence change through diplomatic, political and economic leverage. The details for each country are found at the Council’s web site (PDF: 140KB/8 pages) Here is a rundown for each country targeted by the Council, along with the Council’s recommendations:

  1. Egypt: arrests, beatings and imprisonment of men suspected of being HIV-positive. Egypt is the third largest recipient of foreign AID. “Our partnership with Egypt should extend beyond the Middle East peace process: it should require a broad commitment to human rights that includes the rights of LGBT men and women.
  2. Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh threatened to “cut off the head” of any homosexual in his country. “We should explore using USAID funds to support programs that encourage tolerance, respect for diversity, and a genuine commitment to civil society”
  3. Honduras: Identified as “one of the worst violators of gay and transgender human rights in 2008.” Police routinely round up LGBT youths without cause and Honduran security officials reportedly condone assaults and rapes on gay detainees. Multiple murders were reported, including a leading transgender rights activist. “The U.S. Embassy should offer visible support to LGBT leaders in the country, and should press for accountability within the Honduran government. It should work with Honduran authorities to offer tolerance and diversity training for police and other security forces that are suspected of complicity in human rights abuse. It also should press for a prompt and thorough investigation of the murders and other incidents noted above.”
  4. India: Police often commit crimes against LGBT people, and officials in Bangalore ordered the arrest of transgender people. “Given our increasingly close relationship with India, we should express frank concern to the Indian Government over LGBT violence and discrimination.”
  5. Jamaica: There have been numerous anti-gay mob attacks, sometimes with direct police complicity. Some attacks have resulted in murder. Homes were firebombed, and one individual was hacked to death by a machete. LGBT advocates continue to be murdered, beaten and threatened, driving some into exile. Police have been criticized in many instances for failing to respond. “Senior U.S. officials should urge Jamaica’s Prime Minister to show leadership by condemning this violence and instituting measures to bring these and any future perpetrators to justice. U.S. police assistance should be targeted toward programs that promote tolerance and the defense of vulnerable groups against mob violence.”
  6. Kuwait: Abuses against transgender individuals were cited. “Individual liberties are at the heart of our democracy, and are critical to the development of deep-seated relationships with like-minded friends and allies. We need to encourage this understanding with Kuwaiti and other authorities as part of our dialogue on human rights.”
  7. Kyrgyz Republic: The report notes “a pattern of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse in the Kyrgyz Republic against lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.” The Council notes that Kyrgyzstan receives significant foreign assistance. “if Kyrgyz officials are unwilling to address the problem, we should reevaluate our assistance levels and other bilateral programs.
  8. Lithuania: Political leaders have embraced anti-gay policies and have denied LGBT groups the right to assemble peacefully. “Freedoms of assembly and of association are fundamental rights in any democracy. If Lithuania is to claim its place as a democratic state, it must be challenged to honor these principles in law and in practice.”
  9. Nigeria: Adults convicted of homosexuality are subject to stoning in parts of the country that have adopted Shari’a law. LGBT advocates have been threatened, stoned, and beaten. A proposed law pending in Nigeria’s Senate would not only ban same-sex marriage, but any “coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together …. for other purposes of same sexual relationship.” This would open the doors of arrest for those who are legally married outside of Nigeria and who happen to travel to that country for business or vacation. “We hope it [the U.S. Embassy] will work with European and other embassies in Abuja to voice strong concerns over this dangerous new bill in the Nigerian Senate.”
  10. Uganda: Homosexuality is criminalized. Police arrested members of an NGO for taking a public stand against discrimination, as well as three LGBT activist at an HIV/AIDS conference. “Uganda is one of the largest recipients of PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. In Uganda, the money has been used to empower institutions and activists that have led homophobic campaigns in the country. We need to consider whether the US government’s priority focus on abstinence funding is blunting the effectiveness of the money we’re spending, while also discouraging tolerance-based response to the epidemic.”

Writing on behalf of the council, Mark Bromley highlighted Egypt and Jamaica for special concern:

Egypt was our third largest recipient of foreign aid from USAID and the State Department last year.  I would not suggest cutting off U.S. assistance in a country like Egypt, but I am convinced that our funding should give us more leverage to speak out forcefully against the HIV arrests documented in the report.

… The U.S. government’s diplomatic response to these abuses must be strong and unconditional, and it should also be tied to our financial commitments in the country. Jamaica is a country where carefully-targeted U.S. support to gay rights or human rights groups could be effective in improving both the legal and community responses to LGBT violence.  In addition, we should use the foreign assistance funding that we have allocated over the past several years to professionalize the Jamaican police force to help respond to these attacks.