Representatives from LGBTI organizations,
Civil society organizations,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
All protocols observed.
Sanibonani! I am honored to be part of this year’s Pride celebration! Recognizing the LGBTQI+ community’s struggle for full equality is an important Human Rights issue, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I commend the organizers and everyone participating for your efforts and dedication to mark Pride Month in this special way. Pride Month is about love, authenticity, justice, and equality, and those are very much worth celebrating. I am pleased to see so many allies and friends coming together to raise our voices in solidarity to uphold the human rights of all people.
Today, we acknowledge and celebrate this year’s Pride Month, and we take this as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to equality and diversity in all its forms, including LGBTQI+ people and their allies. The diverse experiences, perspectives, and contributions of everyone in a community enriches it. We must recognize the contributions of all members of our society and treat people with the same respect, fairness, and dignity we ourselves expect. This is a foundational truth and the core of human rights work.
Pride Month commemorates years of struggle for civil rights and the ongoing pursuit for equal rights for LGBTQI+ individuals, as well as recognition of their accomplishments. Much has been achieved by the movement here in Eswatini, and we celebrate successes like the assembly we are witnessing today—the fifth such occasion for celebrating Pride Month in the Kingdom of Eswatini. To get to where you are today, it has taken courage and resilience, and it is making a difference. However, all worthwhile efforts take a long time to fully achieve. I encourage you to celebrate the victories, however small, and keep the effort moving forward.
As you know, there’s still a lot to do. Work is ongoing, and we cannot become complacent in advancing equity. Whenever one group of people is targeted, all vulnerable groups are less safe. And whenever one group’s rights are protected, societies as a whole become more free, more prosperous, and more secure.
The U.S. has committed to increasing engagement on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) human rights around the world. We do this by working with partners like you who bring to bear expertise on the unique challenges faced by LGBTQI+ individuals and help us develop innovative solutions to build safer, more inclusive communities for everyone.
However, let us also acknowledge the challenges that remain. While many young LGBTQI+ people feel more empowered than ever to be themselves, this group still faces unique mental health risks and challenges. They face higher rates of suicide, drug and alcohol use, depression, and bullying than other young people. In Eswatini, these struggles are real, and becoming more visible. It is vital that they be acknowledged and addressed. We should also strive to increase visibility of, and address the acute challenges faced by, marginalized LGBTQI+ communities, including women and girls; racial and religious minorities; persons with disabilities; and transgender, gender diverse, and intersex persons.
LGBTQI+ persons around the world continue to face discrimination, violence, and other forms of persecution because of who they are and whom they love. Although we still have work to do, the U.S. is proud to lead by the power of our example. In a profound decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 that the employment protections afforded under our Civil Rights Act also apply to gay, lesbian, and transgender persons. The Civil Rights Act ended segregation in 1964 and prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Now, it also applies to LGBTQI+ people. It means that they can no longer lose their jobs simply for being their true selves.
This year the U.S. Embassy in Eswatini illuminated its building for the second year in a row to honor Pride Month. This small act is a visible symbol of our commitment to uphold the human rights of all people, no matter whom they love. The United States is proudly diverse in identity, and we are unified in our shared commitment to the freedom and dignity of all.
My hope for Eswatini is that you embrace diversity and inclusion across society. Diversity is the lifeblood of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship that powers strong economies. Countries flourish when they embrace and harness the entirety of their citizens’ talents – regardless of differences – and this goes for the inclusion of many voices in the expected national dialogue talks, which we hope will be announced shortly. All emaSwati – government and non-governmental, young and old, women and men, gay and straight – all have a role to play in contributing to a peaceful environment that supports constructive, non-judgmental dialogue, positive reforms, and healing. The long-term benefits cannot be overstated.
I am proud to stand alongside you and I am grateful to have this opportunity to support diversity and inclusion, in all its forms in Eswatini.