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Banners of COAL used in Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras
ECOSOC: LGBT voices at the United Nations / The Coalition of Activist Lesbians at the UN

in AUSTRALIA, 11/04/2007

A lesbian organisation lobbying at UN.

Before ILGA-Europe and the Danish and German federations, LBL and LSVD were granted ECOSOC status last November 2006, only two other groups, two lesbian organisations, enjoyed the right to enter the United Nations forums. We’ve interviewed members of both the Coalition of Activist Lesbians (COAL) in Australia and the International Wages Due Lesbians WDL) to learn more about the way they’ve used this right in the past and what has been their experience of UN work.

The Coalition of Activist Lesbians (COAL) in Australia was formed in 1994 to work towards the end of discrimination against lesbians. COAL lobbies the Australian Commonwealth and State Governments to remove discrimination against lesbians. The organization produces research papers about lesbian health, violence against lesbians, lesbophobia and lesbian domestic violence. It has participated at various national and international gathering on women related issues.

Why did you decide to apply for UN consultative status a few years ago?

The Coalition of Activist Lesbians (COAL) in Australia first gained UN accreditation to CEDAW (the women’s convention) in about 1994 for the 1995 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing. The Beijing government had claimed it would not provide visas for lesbians. Many of our Australian women’s organisations were run by lesbians working for the human rights of other women, e.g., refugees and young women; and we realized we needed a specific lesbian feminist voice. Most mixed LGBT organisations were dominated by men’s issues, and lesbian rights rarely rated an agenda item. COAL consulted across Australia, received government funding, provided training, spoke at conferences, e.g., during the Sydney Gay Games, participated in Sydney Mardi Gras and wrote several position papers. Our ECOSOC status was granted as a part of the Beijing process.

When you received the UN consultative status a few years ago, was it as difficult as it has been for the three new LGBT organisations which obtained it in 2006?

Our status had been granted earlier, but COAL had to provide evidence that we were not a group including paedophiles and that we represented Australian lesbians. It was not a difficult process.

Why is it only in December 2006 that most LGBT organisations got to know that you had received the ECOSOC status? Do we have to consider that is again linked to the invisibility and invisibilisation of lesbian issues, even within the LGBT movements?

Despite COAL providing reports to CEDAW regularly, including the Beijing +5 Review and the 10 Year Review and our having representatives at those meetings, we have not been widely acknowledged for our work. I guess that reflects the feminist base of our organisation and our concentration on working with the CEDAW Convention alongside our sister organisations. It also highlights the invisibility of lesbian feminist work within mixed LGBT organisations. We have not received any funding since the Liberal Coalition Government came to power in 1997 in Australia and have continued to exist using volunteer energy.


Interview to Jack Draper by Patricia Curzi, ILGA



Kim Vance, Arc International, gave a speech on behalf of the lesbian group COAL
Watch the speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, October 2006.

Watch the speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, October 2006.

 

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