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The Trump administration is covering up homophobic torture and persecution in ‘gold standard’ international human rights reports

Emma Powys Maurice October 22, 2020
Trump

The Trump administration reports removed crucial information about LGBT+ rights abuses. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty) Images)

The Trump administration’s efforts to erase LGBT+ issues from its annual assessments on global human rights have been laid bare in a damning new report.

The shocking research by the Asylum Research Centre (ARC) identifies multiple, serious omissions of human rights issues — including torture, reproductive rights and homophobic persecution — in the US state department’s country reports.

These annual reports have been compiled by the US since 1976 and had long been viewed as a “gold standard” of objective information about the state of human rights around the world. In the UK they are used by the Home Office to inform decisions about whether asylum seekers should be forcibly returned to their home countries.

Comparing reports from the last year of the Obama administration to the first three years of the Trump administration, the ARC found that references to anti-LGBT+ persecution had been virtually scrubbed from the record, along with multiple references to women’s healthcare and other civil and political rights.

Violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people, organisations and activists was omitted altogether from reports on Iraq, despite well-documented examples of homophobic violence in the country.

The latest Iran report scrapped all references to societal discrimination and abuse affecting LGBT+ people, and the earlier judgement that conversion therapy “may constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international law” was no longer included.

Similar attempts to obscure and de-emphasise LGBT+ rights abuses were seen on reports of Eritrea, Pakistan and Sudan. Claims of improvements in these regions were also “inadequately substantiated”, the ARC said.

Chillingly, all of the Trump reports removed the “Reproductive Rights” section and replaced it with “Coercion in Population Control”, omitting information related to accessing reproductive rights, contraception and pre- and post-natal healthcare.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert claimed the administration was not “downgrading coverage of LGBT or women’s issues” — but the ARC research cites a 2018 Oxfam report which proved that reporting on LGBT+ issues abroad is down 21 percent under Trump, and reporting on women’s rights is down 32 percent.

The ARC’s findings were welcomed by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, “given the importance of the US Department of State reports in deciding asylum claims in a number of countries including the UK”.

Executive director Leila Zadeh warned: “Omitting this information could result in LGBTQI+ people being returned to danger.

“Decision-makers should consider country background evidence with a more critical eye, as lack of reporting on the risks LGBTQI+ people face in their countries of origin doesn’t automatically mean such risks don’t exist.”

More: Asylum Research Centre, trump administration, us state department

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