Press Release: Advocates for Youth Statement on the Introduction of the International Human Rights Defense Act

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2014

Rachel Cooke // 202.419.3420 x45 rachel@advocatesforyouth.org

Today, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and more than 20 co-sponsors introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act (IHDRA), an admirable and timely bill that calls on the U.S. State Department to continue its efforts to promote and defend lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights internationally. IHDRA aims to ensure that the rights of the international LGBTQ community remain at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy and asserts the U.S’ opposition to the laws in the roughly 80 countries that criminalize homosexuality.

In many countries, LGBTQ youth are alone and afraid, too often facing violence or prison based solely on who they are.

In many countries, stigma and discrimination leave LGBTQ youth without access to sexual health information and services. LGBTQ youth who come out to their family or community often face rejection, homelessness, and limited educational and economic opportunities. This ultimately leads to increased rates of substance abuse, suicide, and risk of HIV infection among LGBTQ youth.

“Nigeria has the second highest rate of HIV in the world. This new anti-LGBTQ spirit will stop people from seeking treatment for fear they’ll be marked as gay. We can’t let the prevention and education we’ve worked so hard on be derailed by intolerance,” stated Stephen Chukwumah an activist with Advocates for Youth.

The International Human Rights Defense Act directs the State Department to place the prevention of and response to discrimination against the LGBTQ community as a foreign policy priority and develop an explicit blueprint to guide the Department’s efforts. The bill also directs the Department to galvanize and coordinate action with nongovernmental partners, multilateral organizations, and the private sector.

Addressing the violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community is a human right and global health imperative, and is particularly necessary in light of the trend of deplorable homophobic and transphobic legislation seen internationally, such as the anti-homosexuality bills passed in Nigeria and Uganda or Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda.”

“Implementing this strategy with a particular emphasis on centering the needs of the local LGBTQ communities and keeping in mind the nuanced cultural context will be key to successful long term change,” says Urooj Arshad, Associate Director of International Youth Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth. “Advocates for Youth continues to stay committed to connecting foreign policy to the on-the-ground work of local partner organizations and activists to ensure that the most culturally appropriate and relevant actions are taken to further LGBTQ rights around the world.”

The International Human Rights Defense Act provides an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. government to support the LGBTQ community internationally and to integrate their rights and needs into human rights and global health efforts. Advocates for Youth applauds Senator Markey for his leadership on this issue and looks forward to continuing the conversation around how the U.S. Government can best serve LGBTQ persons on the ground.


Advocates for Youth is a national nonprofit that champions programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. Advocates’ Youth Activist Network stands 75,000 strong on 1,000 campuses and in tens of thousands of communities.