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Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, apologized to LABRIS – Lesbian Human Rights Organization for discriminatory statements about LGBT persons

Serbian Foreign Minister met with representatives of the organization Labris and the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and apologized for committing acts of discrimination


Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has met on Saturday, February 21, with representatives of Labris, Jovanka Todorovic and Dragana Todorovic, in the Office of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and apologized for his earlier statements which were qualified by the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Nevena Petrusic, as discriminatory, upsetting and humiliating. At that time Minister Dacic was the Prime Minister of Serbia.

Photo: Beta

Photo: Beta

Labris representatives have discussed the consequences of discriminatory statements with the Minister Dacic (one of which was that homosexuality is “not normal and not natural”) from September 23, 2013, which he made before the Pride Parade, which was scheduled to take place in Belgrade on September 28, and was ultimately banned for alleged security reasons.
Apart from this, the discussion was focused on everyday problems of LGBT persons, which are, according to numerous surveys, are one of the most discriminated social groups in Serbia.

Minister Dacic has expressed remorse for his statements, agreed with representatives of Labris that discrimination against LGBT persons is unacceptable and expressed willingness to intensify cooperation with Labris in implementing international normative standards for the respect and promotion of human rights of LGBT persons, and in particular in implementing Council of Europe Recommendations.

“I am sorry that my statements sounded as an insult to the LGBT population. I had no intention of offending anyone,” Dacic told media reporters on Saturday, February 21, after the meeting with representatives of Labris.

Together with 14 organizations and 11 individuals, Labris has filed a complaint to the Commissioner for Protection of Equality who ascertained that the dignity of LGBT individuals has been violated, and recommended Minister Dacic to invite a Labris representatives to a meeting.

In 2013 Minister Dacic has said that members of the LGBT population are equal with other citizens and that one should not go to the other extreme and ingratiate oneself with them. “I feel no hatred towards them. I just cannot accept that that is normal, because that is not natural,” Dacic said, posing the question: “Should I become gay so that this be pro-European?”
This is the first time since the adoption of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in 2009, that the perpetrator of discrimination met with the complainant, which is a big step forward towards the development of a culture of dialogue and respect for human rights in Serbia.

Statement on Nigel Warner’s inclusion in New Year’s Honours List 2015

ILGA-Europe extends our warmest congratulations to close friend and colleague Nigel Warner who was included in the New Year’s Honours list, announced on 30 December 2014.


The awards recognise an individual’s outstanding personal achievement, service or bravery and are usually presented by the reigning British monarch, following advice from the government. Nigel was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his tireless work in support of the LGBTI community, both in Europe and internationally.

Photo: ILGA Europe

Photo: ILGA Europe

Nigel has contributed to ILGA-Europe’s work throughout much of its existence, with involvement in the early campaigning of the organisation in the late 1970s and 80s, acting as treasurer from 1986 to 1993, preparing its first applications for consultative status at the Council of Europe and at the Economic and Social Council of the UN in the late 1980s, and helping develop ILGA-Europe into a professional, funded organisation in the early 2000’s. He served on the board of ILGA-Europe as treasurer from 2000 to 2005. He currently serves as ILGA-Europe’s Council of Europe Advisor, a position he has held since 1998.

Nigel led ILGA-Europe’s work in advocating for the world’s first-ever comprehensive intergovernmental agreement on LGBT rights, namely the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on LGBT rights in 2010. Paulo Corte Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, remarked: “In his work at the Council of Europe, Nigel has earned the respect of fellow advocates and Council of Europe staff alike for his sound expertise, his thorough analysis and constructive contributions. But even more importantly, he ensures that the voices of LGBTI people are heard in all debates. His dedication is unparalleled.”

Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe Executive Director, also commented: “Speaking as a colleague, Nigel is someone I admire hugely. He has been at the forefront of the LGBTI movement for decades and continues to be an unwavering supporter for LGBTI activists across Europe, consistently sharing his knowledge and empowering them to advocate for their own rights. And speaking as a friend, rarely have I met someone of such integrity, kindness and humility. This is why Nigel is a role model for so many of us”.

Heartfelt congratulations to Nigel from the staff, interns and board members of ILGA-Europe. We simply cannot thank you enough.

Source: ilga-europe.org

Children of Same-Sex Parents Found to be Happier, Healthier than Peers

In the largest study published of its kind worldwide, the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families recently published its results from a survey of 315 same-sex parents representing 500 children aged 0-17. This study aimed to expand research on same-sex parenting that had been previously limited by smaller scope and sample sizes, and to investigate the impact of social stigma on the wellbeing of the children. However, the study overwhelmingly found that children with same-sex attracted parents scored higher than population samples on measures of child health.

The health and wellbeing of the children was assessed along multiple axes, using three standardized scales “used to measure multidimensional aspects of functioning and health-related quality of life” as well as a standardized behavioral screening that assessed social and emotional wellbeing. Perceived stigma was the other main outcome measure recorded by the study, and were assessed by a standardized stigmatization scale and compared to the health and wellbeing scales.

Of the children who participated in the study, ninety-one had male parents (18% of the results), four hundred had female parents (80% of the results) and five (1%) had an other-gendered parent.

After adjusting for socio-demographic factors, the average scores for general behavior, health, and family cohesion were 3%, 6%, and 6% higher for children from same-sex parents on the Child Health Questionnaire compared to general population values. The conclusions reached by the study were that though perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health, the children in the study with same-sex attracted parents scored higher than their peers on multiple measures of child health. The study looks toward the future in its conclusion section, stating that “[f]uture work should further explore the ways in which stigma affects the mental health of children with same-sex attracted parents and in particular ways in which these children can be protected from experiences of discrimination,” as the study and studies like it have established that mental health impact on children of same-sex couples is a result of the stigma measure, rather than an inherent feature of same-sex parenting.

Labris at EXIT Festival

A festival attendee signs a petition at Labris's stand at EXIT.

A festival attendee signs a petition at Labris’s stand at EXIT.

Last weekend, Labris was invited to participate in the NGO sector of EXIT Festival in Novi Sad.  EXIT is a music festival that is held within the Petrovaradin Fortress that has garnered a reputation for being one of the largest and most highly-renowned festivals in Europe, attracting an audience of around 200,000 people from all over the world.

EXIT has been rooted in a tradition of civic engagement and activism since its beginnings in the year 2000 as an anti-Milošević student protest. Today, this tradition continues with an area of the festival being allocated to various NGOs and similar organizations promoting their causes during the festival. It was in this section that Labris had a table.

 

During the four days of the festival, representatives from Labris passed out materials from various campaigns in partnership with IDAHO Beograd and PFLAG including pins, bags, stickers, and flyers. Festival visitors were encouraged to sign two petitions at Labris’s stand: one against discriminatory language regarding homosexuality in psychology and biology textbooks, and one supporting Labris’s draft of a same-sex partnership law. This experience allowed us to talk to and explain the aims of our organization to people from not only all over Serbia and the Balkans, but from many other places in Europe as well.

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Mina from Labris hands out information at the NGO stand at Exit.

Art as Advocacy: Subversion at International Art Show Manifesta 10

After much international disagreement over whether or not the “roving European Biennial of Contemporary art” Manifesta should be held in its chosen location for 2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia in light of Russia’s recent LGBT-related human rights abuses including the “anti-propaganda law” that has been widely publicized in international media, International Foundation Manifesta released a response last August that they would maintain St. Petersburg as the site for Manifesta 10. The Foundation stated that “[they] believe it is vital to play an active role in this dialogue” on progressing the narrative and human rights of LGBT people in Russia, and that “[o]n principle Manifesta cannot and should not only perform in the ‘safe haven’ of the West… This inevitably involves dialogue with those with whom we may disagree.”

This response may have been a contributing factor to many of Manifesta’s participating artists choosing the route of subversion rather than boycott that had been suggested (and that, in the end, some had chosen). An article by The Guardian examines the queering of this international yet intentionally Russian art space piece by piece, from Marlene Dumas’s collection of portraits paired with quotes called Great Men which examines gay men who have made contributions to cultural history while facing discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, to Wolfgang Tillman’s photography exhibition which he references as “the gayest show [he has] done” in the article.

Upon farther inspection of Manifesta 10’s website, queer themes seem to pervade the art show and directly confront Russian culture, including a “lecture-performance” called The Tranny Tease (in English) on Turkic languages spoken in Russia and former Soviet states performed the group “Slavs and Tartars.” (Russian language description and information available here). Marlene Dumas’s Great Men shows a Russian audience the faces of Russian success, from Tchaikovsky and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, contextualized not only by their successes but also by their sexuality and subsequent oppression. Manifesta 10 is not just a island of queered space situated temporarily and impotently against Russia’s vast expanse. In these moments, it is a direct engagement with and aggression against a country that can celebrate Tchaikovsky as a countryman but criminalize mention of his sexuality. It is in these spaces where art can uniquely engage with and challenge cultures of oppression — in Russia and beyond.

Brenda Howard: Mother of Pride

June is Pride Month — a designation that came out of the Stonewall riots and organizing the years after by American bisexual activist Brenda Howard.

 

“The next time someone asks you why LGBT Pride marches exist or why Gay Pride Month is June tell them “A bisexual woman named Brenda Howard thought it should be.”

- Tom Limoncelli, Bisexual Activist, July 2005

Brenda Howard at an early Gay Rights protest in the 1970s.

Brenda Howard was an American LGBT and feminist activist who is known for organizing the first Pride parade. Howard was an original participant in the 1969 riots at Stonewall Inn, which are widely recognized as the most important event for the gay rights movement in the United States. To commemorate this event the following year, Howard organized an event called Christopher Street Liberation Day March, which became known as the first ever Pride parade in the world. In addition to the march itself, Howard was also the originator of week-long Pride events surrounding Pride marches as well as the name “Pride” itself.

In addition to these accomplishments, Brenda Howard was involved in many other aspects of LGBT and feminist activism through movements such as the Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, Stonewall 25, and through her foundation of the New York Area Bisexual Network. Today, there exists a Brenda Howard Memorial Award founded by the Queens, NYC chapter of PFLAG — the first of its kind to be named after an openly bisexual person, which is given annually to an individual or organization that works for the promotion of the LGBT and, more specifically, bisexual, community.