Joe Biden, who has promised a foreign policy that carries America’s “democratic values”, has made defending the rights of sexual minorities around the world a priority, more than any other president of the United States before him, and out of step with Donald Trump.
The Democrat relaunched an initiative taken in 2011 by Barack Obama to “promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people around the world.”
In his first foreign policy speech, President Biden on Thursday called on US agencies operating abroad to present an action plan within 180 days to make it a strong focus of their interventions.
“All human beings must be treated with respect and dignity and must be able to live without fear, no matter who they are and who they love,” he wrote in a presidential memorandum released the same day.
While announcing a spectacular increase in the number of refugees who will be hosted in the United States, after an equally drastic turn of the screw under the Trump era, Joe Biden notably promised to “protect LGBTQ asylum seekers”.
He called on his government to fight discriminatory laws abroad.
A special envoy will be appointed to “further strengthen attention to these issues,” a senior State Department official told AFP.
Beyond the intentions, the American diplomacy Biden version has already begun to send its first warnings. The State Department, through its first openly gay spokesperson Ned Price, harshly criticized Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s verbal attacks on sexual minorities.
LGBT activists welcome this turning point.
“For President Biden to publish this very comprehensive presidential memorandum so early in his term, it clearly shows that this is a political priority for him,” said Jessica Stern of the pressure group OutRight Action International.
She says she hopes the American state, like several European countries, will increase its funding for non-governmental organizations.
But she warns that American support, to obtain results on the ground, will sometimes have to be discreet.
“One of the most effective and consistent ways to discredit LGBTQI people and our movement is to accuse them of being products of the West and of a form of colonization, pointing to funding from foreign donors,” says on guard Jessica Stern.
“Our watchword is always to listen to the activists on the ground and to work with them on these subjects to get their opinion on how to move forward,” replied the senior State Department official, promising an approach to the case by case.
Pompeo and “inalienable” rights
The lessons of the Obama years can be of use to the Biden administration.
The ex-Democratic president had cut aid or canceled preferential trade status for Uganda and The Gambia in response to laws punishing homosexuality with prison terms. But this hard line had also pushed other countries, like Nigeria, to pass their own draconian laws.
However, progress is noticeable, albeit slow. Same-sex relationships are now legal in nearly two-thirds of countries, and 28 of them allow same-sex marriage, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
Phillip Ayoub, professor at Occidental College in California, believes that local activists should be left to decide how to fight.
“Some will say that it is too early to come out of the shadows completely because this risks increasing violence towards their community”, explains this researcher. “This kind of foreign policy cannot be imposed from above. This must be done with caution, in partnership with civil society in each country. ”
Not only did Donald Trump not defend this cause, but he even reversed several rights acquired by trans people in the United States.
Its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a fervent evangelical Christian who never concealed his opposition to gay marriage and whom his critics blamed for past statements equating homosexuality with “perversion”.
It has restricted visas for partners of gay foreign diplomats to enter the United States and banned American embassies from displaying the rainbow flag on Gay Pride days.
This ultraconservative also emphasized the defense of “inalienable rights”, a controversial formula denounced by many associations as a way of restricting the field of human rights by relying on a religious interpretation, to the detriment in particular of the rights of people. sexual minorities.