Ales Bialiatski – 2014 Civil Rights Defender of the Year

Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna, is the recipient of the 2014 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. For over 30 years, he has pursued a life of continuous struggle to campaign for democracy and human rights, first in the Soviet Union and then in Belarus

Ales is one of eleven political prisoners held in jail by the Belarusian authorities in a country often referred to as ”the last dictatorship in Europe”, sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for tax evasion in a trial with clear political overtones. He was arrested on 4 August 2011. Since then he has been imprisoned and prevented from communicating freely with the outside world. Being the head of the country’s leading human rights organisation Viasna Ales Bialiatski is a central figure in Belarusian civil society.

Photo: via creative commons

Photo: via creative commons

Valiantsin Stefanovitj is vice president of Viasna:

“It is important for Ales to receive this recognition. He is a strong and warm person who is extremely passionate about democracy and human rights. An external show of support like this award goes a long way to strengthening both him and all of us at Viasna and also provides the inspiration to continue to fight for a democratic Belarus. Only with pressure from the outside world can we bring about long lasting change. It was really exciting for me to write the letter to Ales and tell him about the prize. Unfortunately I do not know if the letter arrived as we have not yet received a response,” said Valiantsin.

Since the establishment of Viasna in 1996, Ales has been arrested over 20 times. Many of these arrests have been for minor infringements such as handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The trial of Ales Bialiatski was initiated despite international protests and demands for his release. The process of prosecuting Ales was directly linked to his human rights work and the verdict serves as a warning to the entire Belarusian civil society”, says Robert Hårdh, Director of Civil Rights Defenders.

Ales has previously been honoured with several other awards, including the Swedish Per Anger Prize, The Sakharov Prize and Homo Homini Prize. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 2006 and 2007.

The Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award is handed out on 4 April, which is the date of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The award is given during Civil Rights Defenders’ annual conference Defenders’ Days, when human rights defenders from around the world gather in Stockholm. Ales’ colleague Tatsiana Revjaka and his wife Natalia Pinchuk are in Stockholm to receive the award on his behalf.

Prime Minister Committed an Act of Discrimination

Commissioner for Protection of Equality found that the statements Ivica Dacic made about LGBT people represent harassment and humiliation. The leaving Prime Minister, according to the Commissioner’s recommendation, has to refrain from making such statements which offend dignity of LGBT people, and has to receive a delegation of Labris in order to immediately find out what kind of problems LGBT persons are facing

Commissioner for Protection of Equality found that leaving Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, when speaking about the Pride Parade in his address to the media on September 23, 2013, committed an act of discrimination by making harassing and humiliating statements that offend the dignity of LGBT people.

Specifically, in his address to the media a few days before the fourth ban of the Pride Parade, Dacic stated:

Photo: sfgate via creative commons

Photo: sfgate via creative commons

“They are equal with other citizens, but do not tell me that this is normal when it is not. If this is normal, why are we the exceptions?”

“Homosexuals have the same rights but not the right to set any rules of conduct. I don’t hate them, I just cannot accept that this is normal because it is not natural. If this is the minority and the exception, then they should be careful not to offend the feelings of the majority.”

“If it exists in the EU that does not mean that we should support this phenomenon. So please, I don’t want anyone to tell me that it’s a model according to which we are going to raise and educate our children. They have the right to assemble, but I’d rather they do not gather because of security reasons.”

Dacic also stressed that it is still not known whether the Pride Parade will be held, but that he found it is not normal that someone is planning that gathering.

Considering these statements as discriminatory and as fuelling prejudice toward LGBT people as “unnatural and sick”, Labris, together with other civil society organizations (Autonomous Women’s Center, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Gayten LGBT – Centre for the Promotion of LGBTIQ Human Rights, Gay and Lesbian Information Centre, Goosi – Gay organization of persons with disabilities, Support group for young LGB people – “Izadji” (Come out), Women’s Space, YUCOM – Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Queeria – Centre for the Promotion of culture of nonviolence and equality, Kulturpark, the Network of Committees for Human Rights in Serbia – Chris, Regional Centre for Minorities Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Safe pulse of Youth and many individuals) filed a complaint according to the Antidiscrimination Law.

Such statements not only justify discrimination and violence against LGBT people, but also promote discrimination and violence toward LGBT people as a socially desirable behaviour. Besides making the additional distance between heterosexual and LGBT persons, these statements represent sexual orientation as something that is a matter of choice; disregarding the fact that sexual orientation is a given characteristics, one of the many personal characteristics of an individual.

Invited to comment on the allegations in the complaint, Dacic continued further discrimination, and while ignoring the responsibility of his position, he said that the opinion of the majority is what is relevant and what is to be supported, because that is what democracy is.

We are wondering if there is any place for minorities in such a democracy, where he, as a Prime minister only supports the attitudes of the majority.

Following this vision of democracy, the question would be, whether he would, for example, support violence and discrimination against asylum seekers and Croats, as the majority attitude of the citizens of Serbia towards these minority groups is negative? We would like to remind Mr. Dacic, as well as other representatives of public authorities, that protection and promotion of the rights of minority groups is one of the basic features of a democratic society.

Commissioner for Protection of Equality stated that such discriminatory statements do not contribute to the development of tolerance and they are just further deepening animosity and hatred against LGBT people.

The statement that homosexuality is not normal or natural, represents unacceptable labelling and insulting the dignity of the persons, creating a humiliating and offensive environment for them. These statements have special weight bearing on mind that they were made by the highest state official whose constitutional and statutory duty is to comply with principles of anti-discrimination and equality of all citizens and not just the opinion of the majority.

Giving such statements is degrading and insulting, and contributes to the creation and maintenance of stereotypes and prejudices, stigmatization and intolerance. This is especially so taking into account the extremely negative social perception of LGBT people and the high level of homophobia, which is not an innate human characteristic, but rather an ideological position that is adopted by socialization and reproduced through practices based on ignorance. Bearing this on mind, everyone else who by its authority, influence the creation of public opinion, aware of their responsibility for public spoken word must be especially careful. Therefore, this makes their commitment not to encourage and act in support of stereotypes of LGBT people even more important.

We use this opportunity to remind that in Serbia, the Anti- Discrimination Law entered into force in spring 2009 and that, among other groups, discrimination against LGBT people based on their personal characteristics – sexual orientation – is prohibited by Article 12.

Labris expresses satisfaction over another complaint that was resolved in favour of LGBT people and we will continue to respond to the cases of discrimination in the future by using the mechanisms for the protection of human rights and by monitoring the implementation of those regulations that protect the basic human rights of the LGBT community.

Ministry of Education closes the door to the homophobia

Representatives of Labris presented results of an analysis of the discriminatory content of high school and college textbooks to the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development, g. Tomislav Jovanovic

Referring to the anti-discrimination law, the law on the textbooks and other teaching aids, the Anti-discrimination Strategy, the recommendations issued by the office of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality (recommendations to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Serbia, the National Council of Education and the Department of improving the quality of education for removal of discriminatory content from the teaching materials and practices, and to promote tolerance and respect for human rights), as well as the latest analysis of the books part of high school and college (Labris, 2014), Labris representatives at the meeting held on Wednesday, 29 January of 2014. reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development about the necessity of the changes of discriminatory content on the same-sex sexual orientation from teaching material.

Photo: B92

Photo: B92

Discriminatory content, which is prohibited by Article 4 of Law on textbooks and other teaching aids, is presenting same-sex sexual orientation, as a sick, pathological, abnormal, and still is presented in the textbooks of high school and college textbooks, is shown in analysis done by Labris in period from 2006 to 2014.

“Among homosexuals there are plenty of masochists”, “A special group of sexual disorders includes homosexualism (male and female) and transsexualism”, “Homosexual acts are, however, sometimes executed to avoid the development of a malignant paranoid psychosis. It has been noticed that sometimes homosexualism is accompanes by, simultaneously or alternately, transvestism, fetishism and exhibitionism” (M. Popović, V. Jerotić: Psihoterapija i psihodinamika neuroza, Beograd, Nolit, 1985) – These are only few examples which are presented in the Labris analysis.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and representatives of Labris agreed that such examples undoubtedly affect the formation of discriminatory environment for LGBT students as well as creation of an atmosphere of social intolerance and intolerance toward this minority group.

Addition to the presentation of the legislative framework, the negative attitudes in textbooks, coordinators of Labris reminded The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development on the recommendations in relation to this subject drafted by the Commissioner for Protection of Equality. The Office of the Commissioner for Equality in December 2010 formed the working group for the analysis of the curriculum and teaching materials in terms of their compliance to the principles of education for human rights and inclusive society. The working group had a task to collect, analyze and summarize the results of analysis of the curriculum, textbooks and other educational materials for high school and college and based on that analysis to develop a proposal of recommendations on how are relevant issues related to human rights, non-discrimination, tolerance , nonviolence, equality, acceptance of diversity and etc. are to be integrated into the curricula and textbooks in accordance to the principles of education for human rights and inclusive society. The working group was consisted of members of the relevant civil society organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The working group, among other things, proposed following measures:

  • The introduction of affirmative and accurate presentation of same-sex sexual/emotional orientation, as well as transgender and intersex identities in all textbooks (both natural and social sciences), including examples LGBTTIAQ individuals as a part of historical and modern democratic societies;
  • The removing of the stereotyping of gender roles, professions and encouraging varieties; insisting on the multiplicity and complexity of human identity, value the individuality, the solidarity and the creativity regardless of gender;
  • The expulsion from the textbooks and curricula terminology which is outdated, obsolete and offensive, especially the expulsion of content abound medical approach, stating the diagnosis and prejudices in relation to the capacity of children, especially children with disabilities;
  • The curriculum and teaching material should present different models of families in the modern society (single parents, foster families, families without children, same-sex families, etc.);
  • The teaching materials in its content, and teachers in their teaching practices and ways of working with the students, should foster awareness of diversity, promote non-violent culture, equality and non-discriminatory practices, as postulates of the democratic society based on respect for the human rights.

Labris demands that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the National Council of Education and the Department of improving the quality of education urgently act according to the current anti-discrimination law, the law on the textbooks and other teaching aids, the Anti-discrimination Strategy, the recommendations issued by the office of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and to remove content that discriminate and marginalize a part of the society. There is no doubt that the development of any society depends on young people finishing education and entering the labor and intellectual forces of one country and that is why it is good for us to pay special attention on this issue especially in regards of the European course for which the Government of Republic of Serbia is committed.

Schools and collages with outdated textbooks are the source of violence not only for the students but also for the teaching staff. Due to the lack of interaction with peers who are in any way “different” and due to lack of understanding of universal social diversity, and consequently the rejection, deepens the discriminatory behavior, violence and exclusion. Labris belives that it’s time for change!

Novi Sad: Labris presented the results of monitoring of implementation of the Recommendation of the Council of Europe.

On December, 18 in Novi sad, at Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, Labris – Lesbian Human Rights Organization, presented the results of monitoring of implementation of the Recommendation of the Council of Europe regarding the ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

The Model Law on Gender Identity, which would regulate rights of transgender persons, was also presented at the conference, by Gayten-LGBT, the Center for Promotion of LGBTIQ Rights.

Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

During 2012 and 2013, Labris – Lesbian Human Rights Organization, in cooperation with ILGA Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Association), monitored the implementation of the Recommendation of the Council of Europe, regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Recommendation CM/Rec (2010) 5).

Dragana Todorović, on behalf of Labris, spoke about how institutions responded to surveys, which institution did most, and where there was no progress at all. Recommendations, monitoring process and the first results were also presented during 2012, in Belgrade and Novi Sad. During 2013, the process of monitoring continued, and the report was updated with new information, such as the introduction of hate crime to the existing Criminal Code of Serbia.

The operational text of the Recommendation has four main requests: overview of existing measures in order to eliminate all types of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, implementation of effective measures to fight this type of discrimination, assuring that victims have access to effective legal remedies and assuring that the Recommendation is translated and disseminated as much as possible. Another request is, also, for the member states to act according to the principles and measures in the annex of the Recommendation.

Although Serbia has committed to promote, respect and strengthen the rights of the LGBT persons, by ratifying numerous international agreements and documents, and by adopting numerous sectoral and national laws which protect LGBT rights, these laws are not implemented efficiently. The laws where sexual orientation and/or gender identity are explicitly mentioned are the Antidiscrimination Law, Labor Law, Law on Higher Education, Law on Public Information, Law on Broadcasting, Law on Youth, Amendments and Addendums to the Law on Health Insurance, Social Security Law and Law on Amendments and Addendums of the Criminal Code.

There is a lack of systemic approach regarding the effectiveness and improvement of provisions in the existing antidiscrimination laws and bylaws, as well as in the analysis of what could be done in other spheres which are not directly connected to the existing laws, including lack of research and state statistics about cases of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

There is evidence that shows that state authorities are incapable to efficiently deal with violence and threats, whether this is due to a lack of capacity, whether it has to do with lack of political will. Although there is a relatively adequate legal framework and legal remedies for victims do exist, these are not efficiently applied. Evidence shows that LGBT persons often do not report incidents, as they live in fear of further victimization, and even if they do decide to report an incident, it often happens that the court won’t initiate any legal action, or the court simply delays these cases. Although, there have been good examples of efficiency of police and court work.
Serbia has just recently started promoting and implementing the CMCE Recommendation, which is the result of taking part in the LGBT Project of the Council of Europe, along with Albania, Italy, Montenegro, Latvia and Poland. This is a significant positive signal that Serbia is willing to implement the CMCE Recommendation seriously, since the CMCE Recommendation is the main framework for the LGBT project, which, apart from other activities, includes the development and implementation of the Action plan.




on implementation of the Recommendation CM/
Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member
states on measures to combat discrimination on
grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity in

First BH LGBT Conference December 16, 2013, Sarajevo

Sarajevo Open Centre and Open Society Fond BiH are organising a regional conference on„Advancing human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons in Western Balkans“, on the occasion of the International human rights day on 16th of December.


This is the first time that a conference focusing on the status of human rights of LGBT persons, not only in BiH but in the region as well, is organised in Bosnia and Herzegovina..

Conference will be participated by the representatives of the national institutions for protection of human rights and the representatives of the civil society from the Western Balkans, as well as the representatives of European Union institutions, which will discuss national mechanisms for protection of human rights and share their best practices.

Programme of the conference and the names of the participants can be found on this link.

Labris celebrated its 18th birthday

Labris – Lesbian Human Rights Organization celebrated its 18th birthday by giving awards to its partners for their special contribution to the work of Labris in 2013

On the evening of December 10th, Labris marked the International Human Rights Day and at the same time celebrated its 18th birthday by giving awards to its best partners in 2013.

The ceremony was held at the Belgrade Cultural Center “Grad” and awards were given to 17 individual and organizations for their outstanding contribution to the work of Labris and organisational and staff development, advocacy on LGBT issues, networking, volunteer work etc.

The recipients of the awards were:

  • Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the support and the trust, as well as for successful cooperation in 2013 and for introducing Labris to the several relevant Dutch Institutions;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Embassy of the United States, for extencive and generous support, on the personal and institutional level. The contribution of the Embassy of the United States to the work of Labris through personal involvement was immense and immeasurable;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • National Democratic Institute, for the contribution to organizational development and capacity building for the working team of Labris in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Reconstruction Women’s Fund for advocating for lesbian human rights in Geneva when presenting Serbia’s alternative report to the CEDAW, as well as for advocating the for lesbian human rights in the Parliament of Serbia;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Trag Foundation for raising Labris capacity in philanthropy and fund-raising in the 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) for recognizing Labris advocacy and networking potentials and capacities in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Civil Rights Defenders for identifying the needs of lesbian community, for cooperation through which Labris has learned a lot. Civil Rights Defenders are more than donors to Labris;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Incest Trauma Centar – to Dušica Popadić and Ljilja Bogavac for their contribution to strengthening lesbian community in Serbia. For successful training session whitin Labris trainings, and for recognition of the importance of the cooperating with Labris;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Pharmacy and Physiotherapy School in Belgrade – for recognizing the importance of sensitizing the professional teaching staff in relation to LGBT issues;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Outline creative for expediency when it is necessary, for cooperation which is a great pleasure for Labris;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Zorica Mršević, consultant at the Institute of Social Sciences for her contribution to the development of Strategy for the Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and the respective action plan, as well as persistent, uncompromising fight against hate speech graffiti in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Dragana Vučković to successfully de-constructing the mechanisms of homophobia in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Miroslava Vuković for successful cooperation in creating The Manual for the counselling and psychotherapy with people of different sexual orientations other than heterosexual, and for identifying LGBT issues as important in the work of Institute for Student Health Care in Belgrade;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Andrej Obradović for his courage to share personal testemonies as a part of the Living Library and for participating in Labris educational trainings;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Desanka Drobac for the contribution to Labris activism, and for great volunteer support in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Mina Damnjanović for being the Best volunteer in 2013;
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris

  • Nina Plakalović the generous volunteer work in developing Labris web site.
Photo: Labris

Photo: Labris


Labris is the oldest LGBT organization in Serbia and one of the oldest in the region (established in 1995.) and has significant experience in working with people of different sexual orientations other than heterosexual. Through Labris activities in the fields of education, information centre for lesbians, advocacy and legal assistance, Labris seeks to strengthen the LGBT community, reduce prejudice against LGBT people and help strengthen independent institutions. Labris systematically informs members of the LGBT community about their rights and works to increase their awareness of the general mechanisms of human rights protection.

The awards were developed by a sculptor Marija Kućan from the organisation “Prostor” and here we would like to use the opportunity to extend our gratitude to her and the photographer Tamara Gavrilović and music playlist by Magda Janjić.

Denver: 29th International Conference LGBT leaders

Labris’ activist took part in 29th International Conference LGBT leaders, organized by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute in Denver, Colorado, on December 5-8, 2013.

Three-day Conference, that geathered nearly 600 attendees was hosted by Colorado House of Representatives Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

Foto: Labris

Foto: Labris

Though most attendees are U.S.-based, out elected officials and advocates from countries including Spain, Japan, Colombia, and Australia particated as well.

Speakers for this year’s event included Harvey Milk Foundation Co-Founder & Board President Stuart Milk, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine), Rep. Jared Polis (Colorado), Rep. David Cicilline (RI), Rep. Mark Takano (Calif.), and Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.)

The annual conference, which started in the mid-1980s with just a couple dozen attendees, eventually grew into the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials.

It is our great honour to share with you that Victory Institute and Labris will conduct the Project LGBT leaders in Serbia and Balkans during 2014/2015.

Jovanka Todorovic

U.S. officials affirm support of LGBT rights in foreign policy at summit

By Michael K. Lavers on December 6, 2013

Jovanka Todorovic of Labris-Lesbian Human Rights Organization in Serbia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jovanka Todorovic of Labris-Lesbian Human Rights Organization in Serbia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Global LGBT rights factored into Human Rights First’s annual summit that took place this week at the Newseum in downtown Washington.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice stressed support of LGBT rights remains an essential part of U.S. foreign policy during a speech she gave on Dec. 4. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday said equality for LGBT people, women, immigrants and those with disabilities are “examples of what we can accomplish if we persevere against what is often long-standing prejudices.”

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Thursday criticized the Russian and Cuban governments’ human rights records.

The Republican, whose family fled Cuba after the 1959 Cuban Revolution during which Fidel Castro took power, singled out Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. Ros-Lehtinen again criticized the Philadelphia-based Equality Forum and other organizations that have honored Mariela Castro for her LGBT advocacy efforts in Cuba.

“Mariela Castro does not support LGBT rights, no matter how many fake awards and medals are bestowed upon her,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It is fundamentally impossible to support LGBT rights without supporting human rights more generally.”

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post on Thursday moderated a panel on how the U.S. can advance LGBT rights abroad.

Russian journalist Masha Gessen, Kaspars Zalitis of the Latvian LGBT advocacy group Mozaika and Jovanka Todorovic of Labris-Lesbian Human Rights Organization of Serbia were panelists. Russian LGBT Network Chair Igor Kochetkov had also been scheduled to take part in the panel, but he cancelled his appearance at the summit due to recent threats against his organization.

“I am very sorry that I cannot be with you,” said Kochetkov in a statement that Capehart read. “The current situation around LGBT organizations is seriously complicated, with attacks on activists and ordinary members of the LGBT community.”

Gessen said during the panel she feels the Russian government has launched “an all-out war on LGBT people.”

She noted Russia’s highest court earlier this week upheld the broadly worded law that President Vladimir Putin signed in June that bans gay propaganda to minors. Gessen said she expects the lawmaker who has proposed a bill that would strip gays and lesbians of custody of their children will reintroduce it after the 2014 Winter Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Gessen said she, her wife whom she married in the U.S. in 2004 and their children plan to leave Russia in less than three weeks.

“This is the Kremlin’s worldview,” said Gessen as she further discussed her aforementioned decision and the Kremlin’s ongoing LGBT rights crackdown. “This is really what Putin and his cronies think. They think that we are the enemy; we represent the enemy of the Russian state and the enemy of Putin personally and that mysterious foreigner that is out to destroy Russia and the traditional family and the Orthodox culture.”

Zalitis noted Latvia’s Central Election Commission last month allowed anti-LGBT groups to begin collecting signatures for a referendum on whether to introduce a measure that would ban gay propaganda in the former Soviet republic. Latvian voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“Nothing bad is going to happen because we’re prepared for anything,” said Zalitis in response to Capehart’s question about what may happen to him and the other panelists once they return to their home countries. “[Latvia is] not Russia. It’s not Uganda. It’s not Saudi Arabia. I’m going to go back and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Todorovic said LGBT Serbians continue to confront homophobia, transphobia and violence in spite of recent legislative advances that include the approval of an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in 2009. An LGBT-inclusive hate crimes statute takes effect in January.

The Serbian government in September cited threats of violence from anti-gay extremists for the reason it decided to cancel a Pride march in Belgrade, the country’s capital, hours before it had been scheduled to take place. Todorovic said the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby and officials from Sweden and the Netherlands had planned to take part in the event.

“Sometimes it is good to have the support, but sometimes even the support and pressure are not enough,” she said.

Founded in 1978 as the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights, Human Rights First seeks to advance global human rights. The organization has offices in D.C. and New York.

The summit took place less than a week before the 65th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We believe American leadership is essential in the struggle for global human rights,” said Human Rights First President Elisa Massimino on Dec. 4 as she opened the summit. “We urge our government to respect human rights at home and use its influence to encourage them abroad.”

Zalitis and Todorovic told the Washington Blade in separate interviews they welcomed the opportunity to attend the summit.

“It is good to see how you are doing things here [in the U.S.] and to adjust to our reality,” Todorovic said.


The resolution that the German Greens have adopted at their last congress: For a colourful queer movement in Belgrade, Istanbul, Moscow and Berlin

For a colourful queer movement in Belgrade, Istanbul, Moscow and Berlin
– Equal rights for everyone all over Europe!

In the end of June this year the Istiklal in Istanbul flourished in rainbow colours. More than 60.000 people demonstrated against homophobia and discrimination as well as equal rights. These pictures give us hope that there is movement for queer demands.

However: If in Russia, where a law has been put into place on the 30th June against the propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” which already led to massively increasing assaults against homosexual people and societal exclusion. If in Serbia, where the Pride Parade has been banned again and can only take place – if possible at all – under huge police presence and queer activists need to be in fear of physical assault every day. Or if in France, where a big counter movement to the opening of marriage has formed – everywhere it becomes clear: Despite progress in some areas homo- and transphobia are still growing in many parts of Europe.

Photo: via creative commons

Photo: via creative commons

Especially the situation in Russia is alarming. Everywhere in the world people went to the streets in order to demonstrate against the law against propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations”. But also in other countries of the former Sowjet Union the situation is more than worrying. In countries like Ukraine, Moldavia, Armenia and Belarus similar laws are being planned – if they have not been implemented yet. This situation has to change!

BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN have always been fighting for equal rights for Lesbians, Gays, Biand Transsexuals, Transgender, Intersexuals and queer people (LGBTTIQ) in the European Union and in all over Europe. Freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as protection from discrimination are inalienable human rights. We want to raise awareness around these unacceptable ongoings. We are fighting for a Europe where equal rights for all and a life without fear are possible.

One of our most important partners in this struggle are local and international civil society
. We are concinved that change in society needs to come from the street as well. That is why we are fighting for strong colourful queer movements in Germany and Europe!

Antidiscrimination politics in the EU

The European Union is not pushing enough for progress in the field of antidiscrimination politics anymore. Because of a lack of implementation of antidiscrimination directives in many Member States the EU is no longer an example in this field.

Until today, the antidiscrimination directive has been blocked within the council by some states – led by Germany. This directive is supposed to secure people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation in their everyday life. At the same time it is supposed to give a basis for the legal recognition of multiple discrimination. We still do not have minimum standards in the fields of services and goods, education, health care, and social security related to sexual orientation. There is still no union suit right in the EU. This needs to change!

Post-war societies in the Balkans

Especially when linked to nationalist ideologies homo- and transphobic rhetorics become a threat for security for queer activists very quickly. In 2010 during the attack on the Pride Parade in Belgrade 160 people were harmed – many of them severely. The different churches also play a very problematic role in the reproduction and spreading of homophobic rhetorics and attitudes.

At the same time all states in the South-East of Europe want to join the European Union after the accessions of Slovenia and Croatia. We Greens support this process and see the accession to the EU as the only long-term peace perspective for the region.

A big part of the population of these countries want a societal opening, a strong civil society and secured human and civil rights. They are hoping for positive impulses from the EU. We are in solidarity with these people and fight so that everyone can build their future independent of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Gay parade as a ticket into the EU?”

Still there are strong nationalist movements that try to deepen social conflicts in the society by agitating against Roma and Sinti, LGBTTIQ or other minorities. The Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic made his homophobic and anti-European attitude explicit when he said that he does not care about entering the EU “if the gay parade is the ticket to it”. This attitude is not rare and marginal in the Serbian society.

Photo: The Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic made his homophobic and anti-European attitude explicit when he said that he does not care about entering the EU “if the gay parade is the ticket to it”.

Photo: The Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic made his homophobic and anti-European attitude explicit when he said that he does not care about entering the EU “if the gay parade is the ticket to it”.

In the last year the Pride Parade in Belgrade was banned again – explaining that the security of the participants could not be guaranteed. In Sarajevo in 2008 a queer art festival had to be cancelled after an attack by fundamentalists and also in Croatia demonstrations for equal rights have again and again been under attack – lately the Pride in Split in 2011.

Queer activism is still far too often confronted with intimidation, discrimination and even physical violence. This situation is completely unacceptable. The European Union has to send a clear sign that the commitment to human rights is a pre-condition for successful accession negotiations. In former negotiations with Croatia this has already proven to be possible and things moved inside of the Croatian society. The introduction of a civil partnership law is being discussed in the government now and first steps are being taken against homophobia in schools and universities. Still not everything is perfect.

Most importantly, the EU has to engage more in communication with the society and not only put focus on legal progress. An open communication with the population is especially important when LGBTTIQ are portrayed as scapegoats for a slowing down of negotiation talks. That is why it needs more transparency in accession processes.

Who, if not us…?

Green parties all over Europe have come from different social movements that were very often repressed by state authorities. Especially the Gay and Lesbian movement as well as the women’s rights movement were and still are core for the vision of society that the Greens are pushing for – not only in Germany, but everywhere in Europe and the world.

We are aware that due to former decisions we have a huge responsibility towards countries in the South-East of Europe – especially with regards to peace and human rights. We want to show this awareness through an active support also of LGBTTIQ movements in the region.

Thus, BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN demand and support:

    • The immediate retraction of all misanthropic legislation such as the law against propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” that has been put in place since the 30th June in Russia.
    • A special focus on the situation of LGBTTIQ in all negotiations for accession with the EU.
    • The recognition and integration of LGBTTIQ in laws for protection of hate crimes and hate speech.
    • The strengthening of EU programmes supporting civil rights organisations fighting for
      rights of LGBTTIQ.
    • A strong financial fundament for exchange programmes under the umbrella of the EU and the Council of Europe in order to give incentive to create more contact between queer activists and organisations – especially in the youth field.
    • A stronger queer movement Europe- and worldwide supported for example by international queer and human rights organisations such as ILGA, IGLYO and the Eddy-Hirschfeld Foundation.
    • The introduction of an equal marriage for all in Germany.
    • The full implementation of the antidiscrimination directive in professional life – by giving up the blocking of the 5th antidiscrimination directive in the council.
    • More focus on LGBTTIQ issues in the human rights committee of the United Nations.
    • In concrete terms, the BDK is urging the MPs in the German Bundestag to use the existing majority for an opening of marriage in the Bundestag today to undertake this important step.

Labris participating in the conference: New media and art as tools for human rights advocacy

Defenders is organising a five-day working conference in Przno, Montenegro, from the 22 to the 27 October. The conference is entitled “Empowering people – ideas worth spreading“ and will gather human rights activists from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The goal of the conference is to increase the participants’ capacities in using new media and technology as well as art in their advocacy work

“We want to truly empower activists in using new media and technology in their work as well as giving them the tools to be more effective. New media and social networks are used everywhere and therefore our advocacy efforts must follow the trend. Art is also a well-known tool for <strong and engage people in a debate. During the conference, the participants will share ideas, create new projects and be given a „communications upgrade“ to create online and offline communities, thus making them part of the human rights advocacy network“, said Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.


All of the lecturers attending the conference are renowned experts in their field of work. The lecturers are Chris Michael & Ruben Brunsveld from the Swedish Institute for Public Speaking, David Brewer from Media Helping Media and Hedda Krausz Sjögren, playwright and producer of the documentary play “Seven”.

“Empowering people – ideas worth spreading“ working conference is supported by the Swedish Institute and is part of the capacity building efforts undertaken by Civil Rights Defenders. Through intensive training and workshops, 40 activists from the Western Balkans will learn how to use new media, create communication strategies, learn about video production and theatre as well as civic journalism in advocacy. The participants will exchange ideas and create new ones at the conference, which will provide the foundation for future joint efforts and regional partnerships.