“J-FLAG disappointed by GOJ’s attempts to block its participation in

For immediate release
(Kingston, Jamaica —–June 8, 2008)

“J-FLAG disappointed by GOJ’s attempts to block its participation in
UN AIDS High Level meeting”

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays, J-FLAG, is disappointed by the Jamaican government’s attempt to block its participation in a June 10 – 11 United Nations meeting in New York to review global progress on the fight against HIV and AIDS. The organisation was denied accreditation for the meeting after the government objected to its presence on an international list of non-governmental organisations. Jamaica is one of three countries that objected to their national gay and lesbian non-governmental organisations attending the meeting. The other Governments were Zimbabwe and Egypt.

That the government of Jamaica should find itself on a list alongside countries such as Zimbabwe
and Egypt that suppress dialogue and are known for their poor human rights records is worrying.
Coming on the heels of Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s declaration on the BBC programme
HARDtalk that there was no place in his cabinet for gays, the attempt to bar J-FLAG from
participating in this meeting is even more troubling, since it does further damage to Jamaica’s
reputation on the international scene. Together with the ongoing perception that some of the
country’s Dancehall artistes routinely incite violence against gays and lesbians, this interference on the part of the government further cements the view that Jamaica is a country where the silencing of gays and lesbians is not only preached by cultural icons but actively supported by the government.

As a legally registered human rights non governmental organisation, J-FLAG believes that it has
the right to advocate and press its concerns in national and international forums. Further, it views the right to voice, especially where there is disagreement, as a fundamental principle in any democratic society. J-FLAG therefore considers the attempt to bar it from participation in the UN meeting as a violation of the right to expression and a hostile move against all civil society.

J-FLAG is particularly disappointed because the government itself has acknowledged that homophobia fuels the HIV epidemic and this attempt at silencing J-FLAG, Jamaica’s leading LGBT organisation, further undermines the country’s efforts to combat HIV.

Like our Dancehall artistes, the government has been willing to risk tarnishing the country’s name on the international stage in such quick succession indicating that it will stop at nothing to make its gay and lesbian citizens into pariahs. J-FLAG reminds the government that this is not only contrary to the democratic traditions it claims to uphold but also contrary to the interests of the country. It also calls on the government to desist from its illogical targeting of gays and lesbians for discrimination.

Jason McFarlane, Programmes Manager, J-FLAG
Tel: (876) 978-8988
Email: admin@jflag.org

UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All

UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All
General Assembly Should Reverse Ban on Human Rights and Sexual
Health Groups
(New York, June 5, 2008) -The United Nations General Assembly should reverse its
decision to exclude three human rights and sexual health non-governmental organizations
from its June 10 high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS, a coalition of human rights
groups and international AIDS organizations said today.

Assembly members Egypt, Zimbabwe and Jamaica blocked the participation of the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

According to a resolution passed last year, the President of the General Assembly was
responsible for compiling a list of relevant civil society organizations, which Member
States reviewed and approved. The three organizations were initially included on the
General Assembly President’s list but denied accreditation after the General Assembly
accepted their respective governments’ objection to their participation.

“This meeting is about expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Joe
Amon, HIV/AIDS Program Director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s hypocritical of UN
member states to block organizations from attending who are working to ensure that
access truly is universal.”

The UN meeting is intended to review global progress made in the fight against AIDS.
General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member
states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2010 and to achieve “universal access” to
HIV prevention, care and treatment. Greater involvement of civil society has been
identified by the UN as a critical strategy to combat AIDS. In a resolution tabled late in
2007, civil society was specifically encouraged to be involved in this year’s meeting.
“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said Jason McFarlane, Programme
Manager of J-FLAG. “The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that
homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only LGBT
organization – undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”

This is not the first time that key human rights groups have been excluded from the UN
high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS. The South African government caused an uproar in
2006 by excluding the internationally acclaimed and outspokenly critical group
Treatment Action Campaign, which has challenged South African Health Minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for statements questioning the efficacy of anti-retroviral
medicines and promoting garlic, beetroot, olive oil and lemon.

“If the United Nations is to allow member states to exclude organizations, they should
insist that the process be transparent,” said Hossam Bahgat, Director of Egyptian
Initiative for Personal Rights. “We applied for accreditation to attend the meeting along
with dozens of other NGOs that we work with daily. All of these groups were approved
while we were – without explanation – excluded.”

Human rights groups and international AIDS organizations—including Human Rights
Watch (HRW), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), and
the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), joined the three excluded NGOs in
appealing to the UN General Assembly to ensure that the rhetoric of “universal access” is
matched with participation and inclusion, and to each individual government to withdraw
their objections and allow representatives to attend the meeting.

“We are all in this fight together,” said Samuel Matsikure, Programmes Manager for
GALZ. “To succeed in the fight against AIDS we must come together. We can not allow
governments to divide and exclude certain NGOs.”
For more information:
Joe Amon
Rebecca Schleifer
Soha Abdelaty, EIPR + (202) 2794 3606- 2796 2682; Mobile: +2012-3107147

Gay groups gain observer status at UN

One of Europe’s best-known gay rights organisations has been recommended for consultative status at the United Nations.

COC Netherlands, along with Spanish Federacion Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales, will be considered by ECOSOC at its meeting in July in New York.
ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, assists the General Assembly.
Both groups had been denied a recommendation at a January meeting of the NGO Committee, a UN body of 19 member states from all regions whose responsibility includes evaluating NGO applications for consultative status.

In 2005, International Lesbian and Gay Association began its ECOSOC campaign, an initiative aimed at allowing gay, bisexual, lesbian and trans human rights defenders to address the UN “in their own name.”

In 2006 and 2007, after lengthy consideration by the ECOSOC, consultative status was granted to five LGBT organisations:
ILGA-Europe, the Danish, Swedish and German national LGBT federations (LBL, LSVD and RFSL) and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Quebec, CGLQ.
This development has already allowed ILGA members to address the floor of the Human Rights Council (HRC) plenary, which prompted the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to state her support for LGBT rights in that international forum.
The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for some years.

Prior applications from LGBT NGOs were rejected by the NGO Committee, and later approved by ECOSOC.
The positive recommendation for COC Netherlands came as a result of a vote called for by the UK in the last hour of the NGO Committee session last week.
States voted as follows:
Columbia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, UK and the USA In favour of granting the consultative status.
Against granting the status were China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Sudan. Five nations abstained: Angola, Burundi, Guinea, India, Turkey. Cuba as not present.
“Burundi is the country that made the difference,” COC said in a statement.
“They abstained this time instead of voting against (as they did for instance at the January 2008 session of the NGO Committee when the application of the Spanish LGBT Federation was rejected).

“The NGO Committee works by consensus, so the motions for a vote are rare.”
During this second session in 2008 held between May 29 and June 6, the NGO Committee also considered a new application from Lestime, a lesbian women’s group from Geneva, Switzerland, and the deferred application from the Brazilian LGBT Federation (ABGLT).
Both NGOs received more questions from and were deferred without a vote to the NGO Committee session in January 2009.

The questions posed by some NGO Committee members to the applicant NGOs revolved around sexual crimes, particularly paedophilia and relations with people under the age of consent.
Two new questions appeared in this session’s comments from Egypt, Qatar, and Pakistan. One is whether the LGBT NGOs recognised genders beyond male and female.

Qatar’s questions in particular showed confusion between gender and sexual orientation.
The other (rethorical) question was which international human rights treaties explicitly refer to sexual orientation/LGBT people.
The Yogyakarta Principles also made their way into the NGO Committee’s session. Egypt asked COC to express their position in regards to the Yogyakarta Principles, which they introduced as a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but only for homosexuals.”

In the explanation of the vote, the UK reiterated a principle they have been stressing across all NGO Committee sessions, “we may disagree with an NGO, but it does not mean that we should exclude them.” Romania added: “this is a break through for this committee, especially as regards the values and principles we are defending in this distinguished forum.”

More Transgender Information Links

Transsexual Road Map (lots of information about transitioning and links to many sources)http://www.tsroadmap.com/ Lynn Conway’s home page (University of Michigan professor with a very comprehensive site about transitioning – many people start here)

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/conway.html her links pagehttp://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/TGTSISLinks.html

Another well-known transsexual resource pagehttp://www.annelawrence.com/twr/

U.S. – National Center for Transgender Equality (lots of information about legal rights and links to many sources – a very good resource)
http://www.nctequality.org/

Asylumlaw.org – Sexual Minorities & HIV Status information
http://www.asylumlaw.org/legal_tools/index.cfm?fuseaction=&countryID=233

Wikipedia list of transgender rights organizations around the world
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transgender-rights_organizations

World Professional Association for Transgender Health
http://www.wpath.org/