At a United Nations (UN) strategy meeting on Tuesday, December 10, United States Ambassador Samantha Power condemned countries with laws that oppress and punish homosexuality, calling it “barbarism.”
“To criticize the criminalization of LGBT status is not cultural imperialism,” said Power. “To deny gays and lesbians the right to live freely and to threaten them with discrimination and even death is not a form of moral or religious Puritanism. It’s in fact barbarism.”
During the meeting, where over thirty LGBT activists were in attendance, Power targeted Russia’s ever-controversial propaganda laws, labeling them not only “outrageous” but “dangerous.”
“The recent enactment of Russia’s anti-propaganda law is as outrageous as it is dangerous,” said Power. “It is a reminder that whether the struggle of equality takes the form of equal employee benefits or protection from being imprisoned or executed, we have a long way to go.”
According to Power, there are still seventy-eight countries that criminalize homosexual acts. In Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—to name a few—same-sex sexual activity is cause for the death penalty.
“We are all well into the twenty-first century, and yet some seventy-eight countries still have laws that criminalize consensual sex between adults,” she said.
But Power also brought to light the fact that LGBT equality and protection is not solely an issue abroad, but within our own country as well.
“The struggle for equality does not respect national borders,” Power said. “It was not until President Obama came to office that the issue of fair treatment became a key building block of US overall human rights policy. And it was not until, quite literally, June of this year that my own gay and lesbian employees’ spouses could receive the same health benefits as their heterosexual colleagues. Just this year.”
“If we are to continue changing laws, ending violence, enlightening minds, and opening hearts, we must go forward on every front,” Power added. “Locally, as you all demonstrate, and globally.”
In addition, Power spoke of the late Nelson Mandela, who passed on December 5.
“The death this past week of Nelson Mandela reminds us of what one fearless and passionate voice can achieve when raised in a righteous cause,” said Power.
Power’s speech is available to read in its entirety here.