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2006-11-08

26. Fundamental Rights and the Fight against Homophobia

SPEAKING NOTES 
 
Fundamental rights and the fight against homophobia;  
contribution to the PES-LIBE-FEMM Joint Conference “Fundamental Rights for LGBT people: The EU’s Role on the eve of 2007”. 
(Brussels, 8-9 November 2006)
 
 
 
Joke Swiebel 
Former Chair of the EP Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights (1999-2004)
 
 
-Congratulate two Co-odinators (Lizzy Groener and Martine Roure) -- joint initiative 
- Commend them with success : first time that de PES Group takes up the topic of LGBT human rights 
- It is about time. 
 
I was asked to talk about  
- the most effective tools at the disposal of the European Socialists to defend fundamental rights and to fight against homophobia. 
We could talk a lot about: education, information, new legislation, training etc. 
At a higher level of abstraction, the European Socialists need four things: 
 
 
1 - a vision 
2 - a plan 
3 - a network 
4 – credibility 
 
 
 
1. A Vision 
The European Socialists are inclined to link homophobia (and other forms of intolerance) very much to the extreme right. See, for example, the campaign Diversity Yes/ Intolerance No. Of course, fighting the extreme right and the homophobia and other forms of intolerance that they spread around, is important in itself. 
But a more common form of homophobia is much more widespread: old fashioned prejudices about the proper roles of men and women. Rigid gender roles are the common enemy of both the feminist movement and the LGBT movement. They form the basis for the resistance to realize gender equality and to recognize LGBT rights as fundamental rights (or human rights). 
 
Another, similar trap is to link homophobia to religious extremism, esp. to muslim fundamentalism. 
 
In my view, the European Socialist should base their fight against homophobia on the principle that the rights of LGBT people are human rights. Moreover, the European Socialist must not be afraid to discuss the homophobia inside their own parties.  
As long as Socialist parties take the dominance of heterosexual male norms and interests for granted, LGBT people cannot be bought off with a extra place at the table; like women’s groups, LGBT groups inside these parties will also challenge the menu. All this does mean that a serious introspection and a honest discussion inside the PES is inevitable. 
 
 
 
2. A plan 
The European socialist need a plan. A position paper or a programme that spells out what it means that LGBT rights are human rights. It means that these rights are non-negotiable. It means that the PES Party and the PES Group must to see to it that LGBT human rights are integrated in all EU policy-making, both in the internal and in the external policies of the EU. 
Examples; social polices, free movement, but also the enlargement process and the activities and relations with other parts of the world.  
PES party should also put the issue on the agenda in a Europe- wide socialist dialogue and stimulate the member parties to take this issue seriously.  
Why not make at start at the PES Congress in Porto next month? 
 
This is a tremendous job. It will have to cover freedom of assembly and the prevention and punishment of hate crimes, but also migration policies, labour law, education and health care. 
Demands a vision, but also expertise, time, patience and political skills. 
History of women’s struggle within political parties shows that such an exercise is necessary. 
 
The Declaration of Montreal – adopted this summer at the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights of the 1st World Outgames in Montreal (Canada) – could function as a source of inspiration. 
 
 
3. A network 
The PES party needs a network of LGBT activist in the member parties around Europe. In order to be effective, such a network must have an official status and some resources of its own. It should function as an early warning system concerning developments in all European countries and stimulate the member parties to take appropriate action to fight homophobia. Therefore, it should not be dependent on the goodwill of the member parties only. It should aim at gender balance, i.e. make an extra effort to get women on board. The function and internal rules must be transparent and it must have some guarantee for continuity.  
I welcome the recent establishment of Rainbow Rose. I hope it can develop into the type of network that we need. 
 
 
4. Credibility 
If the European Socialist are really serious in fighting homophobia, a vision, a plan and a network are not enough; we also need credibility. In my view, this means the following. 
 
Open display of political will. The top leaders of the PES party and the PES group should declare in public that LGBT Human Rights are on their priority list, and act accordingly. They are only credible if they do not only lend moral support, but also offer practical help and allocate financial means for this purpose. 
 
Visibility. More openly gay men and lesbian women, and bisexual and transgendered persons should get a fair chance to be appointed at important positions of leadership, in the member parties, but also in the PES party and in the PES parliamentary group. 
 
Authenticity and authority. The PES must take the lead in fighting homophobia in Europe. This can in the end only be done if our drive is real and if we are prepared to invest our energy in the development of a vision, the collection and dissemination of knowledge and information. This will not come by itself, but demands a deliberate and genuine effort. 
As a stepping stone, I recommend that the PES discusses the Declaration of Montreal and considers endorsing it, as 15 other political parties and elected bodies around the world have already done.  
 
 
 
JS/161106 

 

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