Hosted by three local organisations – Tīwhanawhana, RainbowYOUTH and Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand – the event marks 40 years since the establishment of The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the global organisation advancing the human rights of LGBTI persons.
“This is the first time that ILGA holds its world conference in Oceania,” said André du Plessis, Executive Director of ILGA. “This is an historic occasion for our global family to learn about the unique Pacific perspectives on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and sex characteristics. Many of us come from countries where being who we are puts us at risk, but we feel welcome here, and we are truly grateful to the Host Rōpū and the 100 volunteers who have made this conference possible”.
Sadly, the conference happens at a tragic time for New Zealand: “We mourn with you and all the people of Aotearoa and the world for the horrific loss in Christchurch last week,” said Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA. “We stand in solidarity, sorrow and love with the Muslim community here. Queer people are not strangers to hate: they are us; and we are you. In the gloom, in the darkness, in the storm: we will shine a light for you.”
With more than 70 sessions and 14 pre-conferences, the ILGA World Conference has opened up spaces for the most marginalised and least visible communities in our global family. For the first time in the history of the event, pre-conferences were dedicated to address what it means to be LGBTI and indigenous, a sex worker, or a young person.
The opening plenary welcomed on stage Georgina Beyer, a former New Zealand Parliamentarian and a Maori pioneer of the trans movement, as well as the New Zealand Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson and activists from all over the world - united in addressing how we can learn from the past and shape the future of the global LGBTI movement.
Despite the advances that we have witnessed, the reality is bleak for too many in our communities. ILGA has launched the 13th edition of the State-Sponsored Homophobia report here in Wellington, its landmark publication that compiles laws affecting people on the ground of their sexual orientation worldwide.
“As of March 2019, 9 countries’ constitutions explicitly mention sexual orientation as a protected ground from discrimination, but 70 UN Member States continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity,” notes Lucas Ramón Mendos, Senior Research Officer of ILGA and author of the report. “Even if positive change is truly happening around the world, with growing protection in all regions, many States are still denying rights to our communities. There is still a lot of work to be done”.