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Frank Welcomes Progress in Efforts to Use Financial Pressure to Stop Persecution on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Religious Belief in Developing Countries

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Washington, DC, April 14, 2011 | comments

WASHINGTON – Congressman Barney Frank today released a letter from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner which marks a promising step in efforts to reduce violence on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation or gender identity that is condoned by governments of developing countries.

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Congressman Barney Frank today released a letter from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner which marks a promising step in efforts to reduce violence on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation or gender identity that is condoned by governments of developing countries.

Geithner’s letter is a response to a joint letter from Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) to the Secretary urging the Treasury Department to use its influence at the multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, which provide economic assistance to developing countries, to use their financial leverage to pressure governments that support state-sponsored physical persecution of those individuals to end such abuses.

The joint letter by Frank and Bachus specifically mentions the example of Uganda, which “was a major beneficiary of multilateral debt relief initiatives, [while] there is active persecution of people who are members of sexual minorities.”

The bipartisan effort began with an amendment Frank introduced in the House Financial Services Committee during consideration of its “Views and Estimates on the Administration’s 2012 Budget.”  While votes on most bills in the committee fall along party lines, Frank’s amendment was deemed uncontroversial and it passed on a voice vote and with the strong support of Committee Chairman Bachus who urged his colleagues to support it:

“I commend the ranking member for bringing this amendment. I think it is very important that the United States be an advocate for human rights. And he has mentioned… what we have witnessed as gross human violations, people put to death because of their religious beliefs or people physically persecuted because of their sexual orientation. . . At this time, I would argue all members to strongly support this amendment.”

In their letter to Geithner, Chairman Bachus and Ranking Member Frank wrote that “we believe this is important not only as a matter of public policy and the advancement of American values, but also politically in terms of our ability to generate the necessary support to enable the U.S. to continue to play a significant and influential role at these institutions."

Although the Treasury Department does not have the power to mandate policy at the multinational development banks, the Frank/Bachus letter points out that the U.S. has a particularly influential role at those institutions, which rely in part on funds authorized by Congress.

In his response, Secretary Geithner expressed "concern about the incidents of human rights abuses, including persecutions based on religion and sexual orientation" and he acknowledged the important voice the US has at the multilateral development institutions.  Geithner also stated that he would instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at each multinational development bank to “seek to channel MDB resources away from those countries who governments engage in a pattern of gross violations of human rights."

In response to the letter by Mr. Geithner, Frank stated that he “appreciates the fact that Secretary Geithner is making a special point of recognizing the primary importance of the issues raised by the measure adopted by the House Financial Services Committee.  This clearly has application to Uganda because of the severe attacks on LGBT people there that the government continues to condone and encourage.  I am pleased that America will now be engaged in trying to do what we can to block such practices wherever they occur.”

Attachments:

Frank-Bachus letter to Secretary Geithner
Geithner letter to Frank and Bachus

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