OutRight Signs On With 170 Other Organizations Condemning Recent US State Department Directive

Contributed by: 

OutRight with one hundred and seventy other organizations signed on to a community letter to Secretary of State Tillerson in response to the media reports detailing the United States State Department plans to eliminate content from the 2018 Human Rights Report on women’s and LGBTQ people’s rights. The letter has been shared with the State Department and many offices on the Hill, who are also quite galvanized by this issue. Politico reported:

...organizations that deal with human rights, health and development issues signed on to a letter to the State Department expressing concern over the department's decision to pare back "critical language" in its annual report on global human rights.


Monday's letter follows reporting on the issue by POLITICO. The State Department is following a directive to eliminate sections of the annual report regarding societal views on family planning. A section of the report on racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination also will be trimmed... the letter follows reporting on the issue by POLITICO. The State Department is following a directive to eliminate sections of the annual report regarding societal views on family planning. A section of the report on racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination also will be trimmed. ( full article » )

Below is a copy of the letter that was sent to the State Department:
( download pdf version » )

February 26, 2018
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We are writing to you as human rights, health, and development organizations to raise our deep concern about news that the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report will no longer highlight the full range of abuses and human rights violations experienced most especially by women, girls, LGBTQI people, and other marginalized peoples around the world.

According to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, officials “will sharpen the focus of the report on abuses of internationally recognized human rights and the most egregious issues.” According to media reports, this means removing or dramatically changing the way the U.S. Government reports on women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights to health, life, freedom from violence, and a host of other rights, including most especially those related to sexual and reproductive health.

As organizations committed to gender equality and women’s human rights, we see in our work how violations of these internationally-recognized human rights are often among the most frequent and egregious abuses women and girls experience. Gender discrimination is a pernicious societal harm that impacts women’s realization of their human rights in extensive and often irrevocable ways. International human rights authorities have clearly established governments’ human rights obligations in the many ways such discrimination is manifest—from violence against women, to maternal mortality, to restrictions on women’s access to comprehensive reproductive and sexual health. Willful failure to include reporting on these rights violations is a callous disregard both of the abuses experienced by women and girls and of established human rights norms that recognize the government obligations to end them.

As the State Department’s Human Rights Reports have historically shown, human rights are indivisible and universal. Threats to women’s human rights cannot be stricken from the report without sending a broader message to abusive governments that the United States will not hold them to account for such violations. When women’s rights are limited, so are broader pathways to empowerment—economic,social, political, or otherwise.

Erasing content that Foreign Service Officers have worked for months to craft based on their expertise and the contributions of civil society and experts around the world undermines efforts of the United States and, more importantly, human rights defenders in their own countries to promote human rights. Although your spokesperson defends this move as an effort to foster efficiency and decrease duplication from other organizations’ reports, you miss the critical point of having the U.S. Government publish them within the context of an extensive human rights analysis. Editing out the breadth of abuses typically covered by this report weakens its usefulness to put governments on notice to address abuses within their borders, and it may embolden them to regress in the promotion of women’s rights.

The power of this report has been putting the full force of the U.S. Government behind the full human rights agenda, and standing in solidarity with rights-based individuals, organizations, and movements everywhere. Publishing this report without all human rights represented jeopardizes this. It will become an incomplete and inaccurate document that is silent on many of the human rights abuses the United States has previously championed to end.

We call on you to uphold the credibility of this important human rights tool—that so many of our
colleagues around the world use to hold governments to account. The rights of all people of all genders to enjoy the full spectrum of rights, without discrimination or government interference cannot be in dispute within your department. Your leadership is needed to immediately intervene and reverse course on this decision.

Signed,

1. 9to5, National Association of Working Women

2. Active Projectile Ltd

3. Advancing Girls' Education in Africa

4. Advocates for Youth

5. Alliance for Peacebuilding

6. American Atheists

7. American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

8. American Psychological Association

9. Amnesty International USA

10. APEDDUB

11. Athlete Ally

12. Aube Nouvelle pour la Femme et le Développment

13. AVAC

14. Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament

15. Barnabas Charity Outreach

16. Better World Campaign

17. Beyond Beijing Committee

18. CADIRE CAMEROON ASSOCIATION

19. CARE USA

20. Catholics for Choice

21. Center for Biological Diversity

22. Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

23. Center for Reproductive Rights

24. CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

25. CERPA(Centre d'Echanges et de Ressources pour la Promotion des Actions

Communautaires)

26. ChildFund International

27. CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality

28. Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights

29. Council for Global Equality

30. EngenderHealth

31. Equality California

32. Equality Now

33. F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa

34. Family Equality Council

35. FORGE, Inc

36. Freedom House

37. Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

38. Friends of UNFPA

39. Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer - FEIM-

40. Futures Without Violence

41. Gender Equality Initiative, Elliott School, GW

42. GESTOS- HIV, Communication and Gender

43. Girl Rising

44. GirlForward

45. Global Fund for Children

46. Global Fund for Women

47. Global Health Justice Partnership, Yale University

48. Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches

49. Global Network of Black People working in HIV

50. Global Progressive Hub

51. Global Rights for Women

52. Global Women's Institute

53. Global Women's Institute at the George Washington University

54. GreeneWorks

55. Haus of Khameleon

56. Heartland Alliance International

57. HIAS

58. Housing Works, Inc.

59. Human Rights Campaign

60. Human Rights Watch

61. Ibis Reproductive Health

62. Inclusive Security

63. International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (IANGEL)

64. International AIDS Society

65. International Center for Research on Women

66. International Fellowship of Reconciliation

67. International Rescue Committee

68. International Women's Development Agency

69. International Women's Health Coalition

70. International Women's Rights Action Watch

71. International Youth Foundation

72. International-Curricula Educators Association

73. IntraHealth International

74. Ipas

75. Jacobs Institute of Women's Health

76. JAGO NARI (Fighting For Women Empowerment)

77. John Snow, Inc. (JSI)

78. Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative "Feminita"

79. Khalili Consulting

80. Landesa (Rural Development Institute)

81. Latinoamerican and Caribbean Afrodescendent Women Network

82. Los Angeles LGBT Center

83. MADRE

84. Marie Stopes International

85. Mercy Corps

86. Milaan Foundation

87. NARAL Pro-Choice America

88. NASTAD

89. National Abortion Federation

90. National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

91. National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF)

92. National Black Justice Coalition

93. National Center for Transgender Equality

94. National Council of Jewish Women

95. National Employment Lawyers Association

96. National Network to End Domestic Violence

97. National Organization for Women

98. National Partnership for Women & Families

99. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

100. National Women's Health Network

101. National Women's Law Center

102. NFBPWC-NYC

103. NFBPWC-USA

104. OutRight Action International

105. OutServe-SLDN

106. PAI

107. PARI o DISPARE

108. PaRiter

109. Pathfinder International

110. Peace X Peace

111. People For the American Way

112. Plan International USA

113. Planned Parenthood Federation of America

114. Population Connection Action Fund

115. Population Council

116. Population Institute

117. Pride at Work

118. Promundo-US

119. PSI

120. Rainbow Pride Foundation

121. Refugees International

122. Regional Centre for international development cooperation

123. ReSista

124. Saferworld

125. Save the Children

126. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)

127. Shadhika

128. Sierra Club

129. Simavi

130. Smash Strategies

131. Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies

132. Tahirih Justice Center

133. The Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS

134. The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law & Policy

135. The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF)

136. The HUBB bk

137. The Hunger Project

138. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

139. The Lesbian and Gay Association of Liberia (LEGAL)

140. The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

141. The Voices and Faces Project

142. Tonga Leitis Association

143. TONGA LEITIS Association

144. Too Young To Wed

145. U.S. National Committee for UN Women

146. Union for Reform Judaism

147. United Methodist Church

148. United Nations Association-USA

149. Universal Access Project

150. University of Pennsylvania

151. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights

152. V-Day and One Billion Rising

153. Vision Spring Initiatives

154. Vital Voices Global Partnership

155. What Works Association

156. Witness to Mass Incarceration

157. Women Action for Gender Equality (WAGE)

158. Women Employed

159. Women Enabled International

160. Women for Afghan Women

161. Women for Peace

162. Women for Women International

163. Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS)

164. Women Thrive Alliance

165. Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

166. Women's Refugee Commission

167. Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Moravian College

168. Woodhull Freedom Foundation

169. World Education

170. YWCA USA

171. Zonta International