Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung Veranstaltungen

To weaken civil society is to attack democracy

Conference held by the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office on 1 June 2017

Artikel in deutscher Fassung

These problems have long been familiar to LGBTI people: hurdles placed in the way of registering their organisations, prohibitions on gay pride demonstrations, restricted rights of assembly, funding difficulties, bureaucratic requirements that stifle activism, smear campaigns by the media, and threats to life and limb. In many countries, human rights defenders are still restricted in their possibilities for action.

What is new is the phenomenon of the “shrinking space”, a term that describes increasingly sophisticated means used in ever more countries to target and limit the work of a growing number of civil society groups. On 1 June 2017, the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office held a half-day conference dedicated to this phenomenon. 

Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung Veranstaltungen Verband

Closing Space and the freedom of association

Video Message by Monica Tabengwa, Pan Africa ILGA on the LEGABIBO Botswana court case, other cases of freedom of association in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria and on the importance of the right to register

Monica Tabengwa, Director of Pan Africa ILGA at the “Time to react” conference organized by Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office, in Berlin, 1  June 2017, read the full transcription:

Hi my name is Monica Tabengwa. I’m the director of Pan Africa ILGA. I come from Botswana. I’m a lawyer and my work, for all of my life I’ve been a human rights activist.

In particular I’ve worked with women’s rights and now I work with LGBTI rights. I worked in Botswana with an organisation called LEGABIBO, which is Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals in Botswana. What I should tell you about Botswana is firstly, I mean you all know, they criminalise same-sex conduct. It’s important that you understand that same-sex conduct is not homosexuality that is criminalised. But of course people understand that differently. And so what you do get is that people think that being gay, lesbian, transgender is what is criminalised. And so because of that there are some issues where the LGBTI community is finding themselves being discriminated or their rights being violated because of the perception that their sexuality is criminalised. And one these is being able to register, being able to associate as a group, registrar society that works within Botswana for their rights. 

Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung Veranstaltungen

Time to react – Creating an enabling environment for civil society

Invitation to the International conference at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, 1 June 2017

Despite positive developments and stronger movements toward democracy in many countries, the opposite tendency is also evident on a global scale. Civil societies are under threat from actions taken not only by authoritarian but also by democratic governments.

Before I knew what that ? ‘shrinking space’ was supposed to mean, our organization was affected“, says Henri Tiphagne, Director of People’s Watch in India. Many different types of action are restricting civil society. These include legally enacted legislation or administrative regulations that affect women’s rights groups, foundations, human rights organizations, and land rights and environmental protection work. They also include relatively new laws designed to protect national values or identities, which are used to criminalize vaguely defined unpopular political action. NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the registration requirements in many countries. New laws also make it harder to receive funding from abroad.

Organizations for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) have long faced registration challenges, especially in countries that criminalize homosexual acts. 


Marriage Equality in Germany — A Time Line

7th July 2017: The Same-Sex Marriage Act passes the Bundesrat on 7th July. The act passes both chambers without a change to the constitution.

30th June 2017: Vote in the Bundestag: 393 deputies vote for equality, 226 are against, and four abstain.

28th June 2017: The Bundestag Committee on Legal Affairs recommends by majority vote that marriage should be opened to same-sex couples on the basis of the bill drafted by the Bundesrat.

27th June 2017: CDU and CSU permit their deputies to vote as they wish – there is no party whip on the vote.

26th June 2017: In a TV panel discussion, Chancellor Merkel softens her opposition to same-sex marriage and suggests the issue should be the subject of a free (conscience) vote in parliament.

25th June 2017: In his speech at the SPD party conference, SPD candidate for chancellor Martin Schulz vows he will not sign a coalition agreement that does not pledge to introduce same-sex marriage.

24th June 2017: FDP Chairman Christian Lindner also declares: no coalition without same-sex marriage.

17th June 2017: At their party conference, the Green Party make same-sex marriage a condition of a post-election coalition.

April 2017: The LSVD adopts a resolution on its petitions for the Bundestag election 2017. Among other issues, we ask all the parties: do you undertake only to sign a coalition agreement if it contains a pledge to legalize same-sex marriage? 


Right-to-marry: five nail-biting days in June

Axel Hochrein (LSVD-Bundesvorstand) - Foto: privatDid the Chancellor publish her change of stance one day too early? Or was she bowing to the inevitable, and clearing the same-sex marriage issue out of the way before election campaigning kicked off in earnest? We’ll probably never know for certain. After over a quarter of a century of struggle and debate, Merkel’s statement changed the legalization of same-sex marriage from a matter of time to one of five days.

June 2017
All of Merkel’s potential coalition partners following the September elections to the Bundestag – the Greens, FDP, and SPD – pledged they would not join a coalition government that did not commit to legalizing same-sex marriage. Germany’s Gay and Lesbian Federation LSVD had already called for such a commitment in its pre-election questions canvassing the views of the political parties. At its AGM in April, the LSVD set out its demands regarding the 2017 elections, including the question: will you sign a coalition agreement only if includes a pledge to introduce same-sex marriage (point 2.3.)? The pledges from other parties have left Merkel and her party with no room to maneuver.


Strategic litigation and safe spaces

Mawjoudin - we exist (c) privatMawjoudin — we exist in Tunisia

Houyem studied law. Currently she is preparing her master thesis on the legal protection of whistleblowers. Her professor considered this topic as to challenging but she insisted on it. Houyem has a very clear vision. She wants to change things. And she prefers the strategic approach. Houyem is a member of Mawjoudin — we exist, a Tunisian organization that promotes SOGIESC rights (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) and gender equality.  Starting with a Facebook page in 2013, it became a registered organization in early 2015. Mawjoudin is not the only LGBTIQ organization in Tunisia. But its the most recent one and its growing fast.


Artivists” for LGBTIQ

"Artivists" of Zwewla (c) privatZwewla” — An art project in Tunisia

Walking with Oussama through the narrow streets of Tunis’ old Medina, it quickly becomes apparent how he continuously connects with people in his hometown; he is a very communicative and open-minded guy.

Oussama describes himself as an “Artivist”, implying a form of activism that expresses itself by means of arts.Together with his friends, he founded the group of „Zwewla“ (tun dialect: “the miserables”). The Zwewla wants to change the situation of the Tunisian society by using art as its medium: graffiti, music and dancing are only some examples. Members of the group believe that the principle of “support instead of Punishment” provides the most effective strategy to achieve their goals: Support through better education, improved public health and the protection of minorities, including, but not limited to LGBTIQ


Lesbian Spring in Tunisia?!

Amina (c) privatAmina, 21, Sidi BouSaid, Tunesia

When I talk to Amina and listen to what she says I am deeply impressed by the strength she shows, her power, her energy. I wonder, if a young woman of 21 years can seriously be so self confident and positive about what she does. Amina gives home to young people who have been thrown out of their homes by their parents because they are gay or lesbian. Amina just finished her High School and her plan is to study political science in the near future. She lives in a place called Sidi BouSaid. It’s a small town north east of Tunis, with nice small houses painted in white and blue. Up the hill you have a beautiful view of the open Mediterranean Sea. Amina lives in the neighborhood on the top of the hill. She says that the people who live here like her. They know her well, although she is different. The waiter in the local restaurant where I am having dinner with her obliviously knows her and when communicating they kind of play with each other. It seems to me that this older man has a lot of respect and appreciation for Amina. Her arms are covered with tattoos and she likes to smoke and to enjoy a glass of wine. 


Support and Advocacy for Intersex in Uganda

Julius Kaganzi KaggwaStatement of Julius Kaganzi Kaggwa, Director of SIPD Uganda 

Support Initiative for People with Congenital Disorders Uganda (SIPD) is based in Kampala and we work with clients in Kampala but have our outreach in 50 districts outside of Kampala, covering Western, Eastern, Central, and Northern Uganda, with a client base of 1.400 clients. These comprise intersex and gender non-conforming children and youth and some adults. We provide information, support parents of intersex children, advocate for intersex persons rights, create awareness, provide public education, and do capacity building for stakeholders. This is done through public meetings, radio and television broadcasts, newspaper articles, documentaries and these are distributed through community meetings, local and regional partners, district health centers, parents. They are distributed to policy makers in government, healthcare workers in the community, government ministries (health and education), parents, clients, and general public during mainstream meetings to which we are invited. 


We share the same values”

LSVD-Bundesvorstand Axel HochreinDragon‘s Ball 2016 — LSVD-Bundesvorstand Axel Hochrein’s Speech 

Your Excellency, Dear Marta,
Dear Matej and Matej,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is not only a pleasure for me and my husband Andreas, being part of this special event, it is an honor for me, to convey the solidary greetings of friendship from my organization, the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, to you all.

We share the same values, we stand together in our conviction: we have to improve the European Union as a place, where minorities are not only tolerated but respected and treated with equal rights.

An Europe where discrimination of people has no place, not because of sexual identity and gender orientation, and not for any other reason, like belonging to an ethnic group, religion, disability, descent or political views.

We are all fighting and tonight — of course — celebrating for nothing less — or nothing more — then the fulfilling of a promise, which we can read as the first sentence in very important document which is 68 years old: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And Article One says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.