Saturday, March 19, 2011

Can Barney out legislate Bahati?

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones:  On Tuesday, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, moved a human rights amendment to the Financial Services Bill out of committee on a unanimous vote. The amendment urges the U.S. Treasury Department to advocate that multilateral development banks supported by the U.S. not assist nations engaging in gross human rights violations, including denial of the freedom of religion and physical persecution because of sexual orientation or gender identity. KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power  protest
against Uganda's  Anti-Homosexuality Act,
a.k.a. Hang-the-Gays Bill, in New York City.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Congressman Barney Frank, in his press release about the amendment, used the physical persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda as an example of the sort of human rights violations that his amendment would discourage, so most of the press has interpreted it as being targeted singly at Uganda's pending Anti-Homosexuality Act, otherwise known as the Hang-the-Gays bill, or, the Bahati bill, after its author Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati. Last week the New Vision, Uganda's state-owned newspaper, reported that Uganda's Speaker of Parliament has summoned MPs to report on March 22 to take up “unfinished business,” including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Liberian born Emira Woods, Co-Editor of the Institute for Policy Studies' Foreign Policy in Focus, and one of the African advocates at the March 2nd Congressional briefing on the UN Mapping Report on Congo atrocities, told KPFA that although LGBT rights activism had most likely inspired Frank to write the amendment, it should apply to the whole range of human rights violations. She added, however, that an enforcement mechanism is hard to imagine:

Emira Woods:  With the amendment and press release coming forward, what Congressman Frank has done is call much needed attention to the anti-gay legislation and I think we should commend that, and yet I think it is difficult to imagine how that will be implemented by Treasury using its leverage on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the other international financial institutions. I think this is an instance where a Congressman is using the political, sort of like a bully pulpit.

KPFA:  And then you think the amendment's advocacy might be expanded to stop other gender violence such as the sexual terrorism in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Emira Woods:  I think its first important to applaud the attention that he's bringing to the issues of the anti-gay legislation in Uganda.  That's huge.  And I think it's much needed.  And all of the champions and defenders of human rights broadly, of LGBT right in particular, throughout Africa, welcome the statements and the actions from Congressman Frank.   So I think wee have to applaud that first.   Acknowledge it, support it, strengthen it.  And then, I think, moving further to encourage a similar bully pulpit be used to address the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

KPFA:  For Pacifica, KFPA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

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