First of all, I would like to thank ILGA and the various co-sponsors for enabling this panel discussion, and thank the audience for being present.
Yesterday, after having pronounced my oath as newly re-elected municipal Councillor of the City of Geneva, I reflected a few minutes on the theme of today’s panel, that is what was described as a « Growing Consensus of governments towards the end of criminalization based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And I looked around me.
I looked around me and I saw the President of the Genevan lesbian association Lestime, Catherine Gaillard, also the first openly lesbian President of the City Parliament, I saw the secretary of the national gay organization, Jean-Paul Guisan, elected as municipal Councillor in the same parliament, and I saw and remembered many other gays and lesbians, bi or trans persons, activists or not, who had made things go forward, at all levels, here in Switzerland and elsewhere.
Then I remembered further back, thinking about the first times lgbti activists spoke in front of the UN, in 1994, 17 years ago, in the very room where the Human rights Council is taking place today, a few steps from here: Douglas Sanders, Giselda Fernandes and a few others. I was among them, and I can assure you that all heads were turning, then, at the mere mention of words such as « gay », « lesbian », « bisexual » or « trans », turning to see who were those people who dared to speak out.
Since then, of course, other activists have spoken out, coming from less secure places, and some of them have died, such as David Kato, from Uganda, Noxolo Nogwasa, from South Africa and Fanyann Viola Eddy, from Sierra Leone. More recently, here in Geneva, a lesbian activist, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, just received the Martin Ennals prize for her achievements in the frame of LGBTI rights.
Today, I look around me, and I see even more reasons to believe that if there is a growing consensus among governments around the world on LGBTI rights, it is because, everywhere, activists have been active, vocal, to reaffirm that if human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, then they also have to include the rights of people discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
At a different scale, but also as a form of tribute to all those activists and organizations, the Parliament of the City of Geneva unanimously accepted, last November, a motion asking for the launching of an international Coalition of cities against homophobia and transphobia. The aim of this motion, which I wrote with my colleague Ariane Arlotti, is to try to establish a chain of solidarity going from one city to another in order to fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Many actions could be taken by this coalition – and I say « could » because we still do not know what options this coalition would chose, since it will be to the member cities to decide :
? the cities members of this coalition could share good practices, as it already is the case in various fora in Europe and elsewhere;
? the coalition could support organizations or finance projects, especially in parts of the world where it is most needed;
? the coalition could also have its own « prize » or « award » to be given to individuals or organizations fighting in the field;
? the coalition could have an office, and if this office is based in Geneva, it could also help and welcome lgbti delegates coming to this city on various occasions;
? last but not least, the cities member of the coalition could encourage their governments to support future initiatives such as the government joint statement signed in March of this year.
So, one of my many hopes is to be back in this room in a few year’s time with news of recent developments on these issues.
Thank you for your attention.
Yves de Matteis
Yves de Matteis is a Municipal Councillor in the City of Geneva for the Green Party. He was also a founding member of various LGBTI organisations, former member of the ILGA Board and, until March 2011, Co-President of the national LGBT organization of Switzerland Pink Cross.
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