Annual conference Expressing our differences, challenging our prejudices, developing our alliances, Malta on 29 October - 1 November 2009. The Forum's co-presidents Enric Vilà and Diane Xuereb where present and wrote a report
ILGA Europe has held its 13th annual conference in Malta between 29th October till 1st November 2009. The debate has focused on how to overcome religious and cultural barriers to LGBT equality. Nearly 300 participants from 48 countries have been gathered in the small island with a long history in the Mediterranean. One of the most important things learned: alert with our rights! Like Malta, LGBT rights are an island in a sea of challenges in Europe.
The challenge of the conservative Church hierarchies
The Russian Orthodox hierarchy (east and north) and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy (west and south) are the two classes mostly Christians hinder the full development of LGBT rights across Europe. The irresponsible collusion with both discrimination and the maintenance of privilege within the states, its omnipresence in the spaces of power, ties with conservative parties and extremists using religious arguments in certain countries with a language of homophobia and intolerance account for great challenge to overcome. A European strategy LGBT facing these two hierarchies entails a clear separation of religion from the state to dismantle its privileges in certain States particularly through concordats, supporting the LGBT faithful in front of their hierarchies through networks and organizations, and a clear co-operation with European institutions in defence of LGBT rights in Europe.
A God with a capital letters for LGBT liberation
The European Forum of LGBT Christian groups has led the workshop god / God? Often the God who is present in society is a cruel god who calls human sacrifice, an echo of the ancient gods. This god is destructive, against homosexuals. However, the Christian LGBT community is witnessing another kind of God, the God of Love, the affirmation of collective liberation LGBT group, with a human face in Jesus Christ. The workshop analyzed the best strategies to defend LGBT rights in facing the challenges of the different hierarchies of conservative Christian churches to defend a Europe of freedom and full rights for all LGBT. The strategies must combine action in each country, solidarity among all network defence and collective bargaining voice with the European institutions to expose homophobic hierarchies. Almost 50 participants there were in the workshop.
Hate crimes against homosexuals: an emergency in Europe
The challenge of hate crimes in Europe is already an emergency. After decades of prejudice against homosexuals, including legal equality is not sufficient to protect the LGBT groups of homophobic violence. Cases of violence in advanced countries like the United Kingdom, The Netherlands or others such as Italy and eastern countries, are becoming very worrying. The fear, conservatism, lack of the expectations set in Europe. The “pink wall” is still valid in many eastern countries. The police is repressive and the right to demonstrate is missing as we have seen in Russia and Lithuania, for example. Religion and culture should not be used as an umbrella for these events. All civil society has a responsibility to speak out and campaign with a census of all discriminatory act. Public organizations everywhere have a duty to catalyze change in the situation.
The European institutions are key in defending LGBT rights
The conference has highlighted the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe. This organization fighting since 1959 for the defence of LGBT rights within Europe, beyond the EU. Produce reports, recommendations and resolutions for all countries that belong there. No army or impose sanctions but has called soft power, the power of persuasion and debate and reach agreements between states to combat discrimination. Meanwhile, Parliament has become an LGBT Intergroup after elections in June. Also noteworthy that for the fundamental rights of the European Union has published a paper this year in two volumes that radiography of the current situation in Europe: Homophobia and sexual orientation discrimination in the EU Member States ( Analysis I-II-The legal and social situation). Detailed extensively the current situation of the 27 EU members.
Malta is a pearl in the middle of the Mediterranean. The situation of relative well-being of LGBT rights at home is also an island amid a sea of challenges that surround us. The coming years climate change threatens to submerge many islands by rising water everywhere. The rise of homophobia in Europe can evaporate or flood rights achieved so far, relatively solid. Our society needs the liquid rainbow before the storm. As happened in Europe in the myth, our rights as may be kidnapped. We must be alert!
Among others, some useful documents were delivered during the conference. You can find some of them online:
- EUROPEAN UNION Agency for Fundamental Rights, Annual Activity Report for 2008, Brussels, 2009
- EUROPEAN UNION Agency for Fundamental Rights, Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States, Part I - Legal Analysis, Brussels, 2009
- EUROPEAN UNION Agency for Fundamental Rights, Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States, Part II - The Social Situation, Brussels, 2009
- Global Rights, Credibility and demanding sustaining activism, a guide to sexuality-based advocacy, Washington, 2008
- ILGA, lesbian movements: ruptures and alliances, Brussels, 2009
- ILGA EUROPE, Handbook on monitoring and reporting homophobic and transphobic incidents, Brussels, 2008
And of course ILGA wrote her own report on this conference