Decriminalization: our guidelines for international support

Proposed by the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation

Deutsche Fassung hier

The Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation was launched in 2007 as th­e human rights organization of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD). It supports non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries of the global South and East by calling for donations and giving all funds collected to these NGOs.

Another key focus is to raise awareness of the situation of LGBTI people among policy makers and the public. Long-term contact with our partner NGOs is crucial for international work on human rights.

Decriminalization of homosexuality and trans identities is a major aim of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation’s efforts, as is the protection of intersex people against medical procedures without their consent.

In recent years people all over the world have become increasingly aware of serious human rights violations against LGBTI people. There are now numerous important multilateral state initiatives as well as a growing civil society movement worldwide.

The Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation is one of the few organizations in Germany that focuses exclusively on these issues. We are often asked what a united international approach to decriminalization and human rights for LGBTI people would look like, so we have compiled some basic guidelines here. 

Sarah Kohrt, LGBTI-Plattform Menschenrechte

*LGBTI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people

Decriminalization: our guidelines for international work

  • Use and strengthen existing mechanisms 
    • Equal Rights Coalition (ERC): strengthen + proactively support
    • UN LGBTI Core Group: strengthen + proactively support
    • UN independent expert on SOGI: safeguard and proactively support positions
    • Global Equality Fund (GEF): continue and expand work
  • Use the mandates and expertise of national, international and multilateral institutions 
    • Know where your own expertise is and use it, e.g. State Dept. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).
    • Use UN mechanisms to enhance South-North, South-South and North-North exchange.
    • Encourage/ demand that embassies know and are in touch with LGBTI people and their organizations on the ground.
  • Support strategic litigation in individual countries 
    • Nearly every country has movements advocating and litigating for change, human rights and decriminalization – they deserve support.
    • Support local movements engaged in litigation and local decriminalization.
    • All success in legal action is a result of long-term commitment by local civil society, e.g. in Belize, Botswana, Mozambique, India, Taiwan.
  • Basic requirements for any campaign 
    • Actively include local civil society and LGBTI organizations in all activities in each country.
    • Regularly consult with local affected communities as to whether a campaign is helpful and not harmful. Take no action without consulting them first.
    • Take no action without a strategy, and take counter movements into account. ave HaLWANever start without an exit strategy.
    • Do not threaten to cut development aid, but use all levels of silent diplomacy. Use positive conditionality linked to human rights. Never play one human right against another.
    • Support anti-discrimination legislation, policies and movements. Support and strengthen organizations. Campaigns need to be lasting and sustainable.
  • All actions and decisions need to follow the basic requirement for development cooperation and international politics: Do no harm. 
    • Make sure there are no unintended negative effects in practice, e.g. negative effects on LGBTI groups on the ground.
    • Address and mobilize majorities; broader society needs to be convinced. Avoid provocations, act in sensitive and focused ways, make sure your public relations are done in a responsible and context-sensitive manner.
  • Credibility
    • International campaigns have to be credible locally and internationally.
    • The motivation must be clear and candid. Campaigns should not be a cover for other aims because this can do grave harm to the communities in the countries.
    • Improve the human rights record in your own country.
    • Be coherent. Coherence is crucial for credibility. Credibility is crucial for success.
    • Defend the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

LSVD/Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation June 2019

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