Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

State Dept. releases human rights report


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton   
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Widespread abuse of LGBT individuals by government and police authorities were found in countries around the world, according to the 2011 Human Rights Report released by the U.S. State Department last week.

Abusive practices from governments and police included brutality, refusal to provide basic social services, a lack of rights for employment and housing, a clamp down on free expression, and simply ignoring hate crimes against LGBT individuals. Countries include those in Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle East, and other regions around the world, according to the report.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reinforced her commitment to working with LGBT communities around the world to gain their rights to live fully within their communities in a statement to the press announcing the release of the report on May 24.

For excerpts on the findings of LGBT issues, visit


RWF reports on Cuban trip

San Francisco LGBT humanitarians recently extended a helping hand to queer Cubans through the Rainbow World Fund.

RWF has been taking members on humanitarian trips to Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and other parts of the world for the past 12 years. Cuba is the most recent of those trips, said Jeff Cotter, executive director of the RWF, who traveled with a group of 13 volunteers to Cuba at the end of March.

The opportunity arose through a sponsorship by the Cuban Council of Churches.

Cotter spoke with the Bay Area Reporter while packing up $50,000 worth of donated medications being sent to Cuba. The shipment is the beginning of the organization's humanitarian efforts, along with the $3,600 dollars raised for the Cuba AIDS Project by volunteers who went on the trip, Cotter said.

"We wanted to visit Cuba and learn how to support the LGBT population down there," said Cotter.

One of the highlights of the journey was meeting Mariela Castro Espin, 50, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, who was in San Francisco last week. Castro has been the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana for the past 12 years, Cotter said.

She has been an outspoken advocate for queer Cubans and spearheaded free reassignment surgery for transgender individuals under the country's universal health care policies that passed in 2008. Prior to her U.S. visit she took to the streets to march for LGBT rights for International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, according to media reports.

RWF hosted three major events for Castro, one of which was at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on May 23, and can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube (see links below).

Castro's U.S. visit was met with praise and skepticism from LGBT Cuban Americans and community members and Republicans who criticized the country's human rights record under the Castro family regime.

In addition to the public discussion, Castro met with LGBT community leaders and toured the city's queer historic sites, including the GLBT History Museum in the Castro neighborhood.

Cotter pointed out that RWF's Cuban trip wasn't about politics, but about helping people.

The trip was eye-opening for Cotter and the volunteers, he said, but it was also a message to LGBT Cubans that "they are not alone and that we care about them and we are here to support them."

"The biggest takeaway was the sense of change happening in Cuba," said Cotter, about the RWF trip. The LGBT community is "hopeful" that "things were going to change for the positive," he said. LGBT Cubans see that "they've got a friend in a very high place and that's helping to challenge homophobic attitudes in Cuba."

Cuba's LGBT community is simply struggling to survive under the weight of widespread homophobia and the ongoing economic impact of the U.S. embargo on the nation. In addition to changing attitudes about LGBT people, Cuban queers were optimistic about the U.S. lifting the "blockade," as they call the embargo, which is one of the contributing factors to widespread poverty in the nation, Cotter explained.

Cotter believes that the new-found relationship with Castro and the U.S. LGBT community will "continue to grow and it's really going to reverberate around the world ... enlighten people," and "in some ways it will help heal the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba."


LGBT Russian activist arrested in Moscow

Russian police arrested an LGBT Russian activist and Orthodox Christians who clashed in Moscow after opponents blocked the demonstrators' unauthorized protest at the city council building demanding the right to hold a Pride Parade on May 27.

A second protest was attempted at city hall, but broken up by police, where Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev was detained by police, reported the Associated Press.

An estimated 40 individuals were arrested on both sides of the demonstration, according to media reports.

Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, and the Organizing Committee of the Moscow Gay Pride, announced in a May 28 press release the theme for the 2013 Moscow Pride Parade, "20 years without the article," referring to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993.

The uprising was just one of the most recent since St. Petersburg's anti-LGBT propaganda law went into effect in April as the issue continues to heat up with reports that a federal law is under consideration in the Russian parliament.

Other countries, such as Hungary and the Ukraine, are also considering similar anti-LGBT propaganda laws.


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or .

Links to Castro's SF talk

To view the discussion with Mariela Castro Espin, see Part 1:; Part 2:; Part 3:; Part 4:; and Part 5:

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