ILGA celebrates its first 40 years fighting for equal rights for LGBTI persons worldwide

Geneva, 28 August 2018
– ILGA, the oldest global organisation dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBTI persons worldwide, turns 40.

Born in Coventry, UK in August 1978 during the annual Campaign for Homosexual Equality conference, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) has grown over the years to represent more than 1,300 member organisations from 141 countries across the globe.

“Many of the social, legal and political advances that have happened in the past 40 years seemed unthinkable back then, when a group of visionary activists started coordinating action at the international level,” ILGA Co-Secretaries General Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy recall. “We have seen countries getting rid of unjust colonial laws that criminalised same-sex activity. Our relations and families began to be officially recognised. Activists have started raising awareness of human rights violations faced by intersex persons. Same-sex attraction stopped being considered as a mental illness, and the same is happening for trans identities.

ILGA has been there through all this, and none of these changes would have been possible without the work of our member organisations and the wider sexual, gender and sex minorities' communities worldwide, who have constantly pushed to advance equal rights for all.
The world has changed because we have been there, together, to change it.

Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General

The history of ILGA has indeed been entwined over the last four decades in multiple battles for equality. Born in 1978 from a gathering of activists from Western Europe, Australia and the United States, the then-named “International Gay Association”, or IGA, immediately resolved to coordinate political action at the international level. It soon started being a focal point for global activism, organising conferences where activists gathered from all over the world - every time in bigger numbers – to take stock of successes and setbacks, and shape future advocacy strategies.

After engaging with the NGO Committee at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in 1992 the first-ever LGBT statement at a UN human rights forum was delivered by an activist speaking on behalf of ILGA and Human Rights Advocates. One year later, ILGA was granted consultative status at the ECOSOC: the organisation still holds it today - after losing it in 1994 and gaining it back in 2011 - raising the voice of thousands of LGBTI human rights defenders worldwide on this international stage.

In 2016 ILGA strongly supported the creation of the first mandate at the United Nations to ever specifically address violence and discrimination of the grounds on sexual orientation and gender identity.

While its global network continued to grow in its representativeness, ILGA has also become an important hub for research on laws and attitudes on LGBTI communities worldwide, not only with its landmark State-Sponsored Homophobia report, but also with its Trans Legal Mapping Report, and the largest investigation of attitudes towards sexual, gender and sex minorities ever conducted around the world.

Celebrating the history of ILGA is celebrating the advances and the hard-fought battles of a global movement. This is why the organisation will soon launch a campaign to mark its first 40 years, and highlight the work of its member organisations and the resilience of sexual, gender and sex minorities' communities worldwide.

ILGA will invite its global family to share photos and videos telling their stories of pride and resilience, and showing what groups around the world are doing to help their communities thrive.  A wonderful library of inspiring stories of hope and determination will grow, not only on the website and social media under the hashtag #ilga40, but also in an exhibition that ILGA is preparing for its 2019 World Conference in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.

ILGA will also actively acquire oral histories, photos and conference memorabilia to help tell the diverse stories of the organisation and of the people who shaped it, from its early days in 1978 onwards. All this material will be digitised and maintained as an online collection.

A giving campaign will also be launched to help the organisation continue to empower and support LGBTI human rights groups worldwide.

“This is an exciting time for ILGA: as much as we celebrate what our communities have been able to achieve in these past 40 years, we know that there is still so much more to do,” said ILGA Executive Director André du Plessis. “None of the advances that we have long fought for can ever be taken for granted: all around the world we are still being considered as convenient targets of hate. 

True respect and equality are far from the reach of many in our communities, and we pledge to continue working alongside people everywhere for this to be achieved.

André du Plessis, Executive Director

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