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Tale til LGBTI-konference i Folketinget

Tale til LGBTI-konference i Folketinget den 2. marts 2018

First of all, let me thank you all very much for coming.

I am very happy to be able to use the Danish chairmanship to facilitate this very important debate:

How do we provide equal rights and opportunities in private and family life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

I believe that the Council of Europe is the perfect place to have this debate.

For more than half a century the Council of Europe has been one of the greatest forces in the world when it comes to promoting human rights, democracy and good governance.

If we are to continue on this path, we need to continue to confront the issues at hand. And from a Danish point of view the question of equal rights and opportunities for LGBTI persons is an obvious issue.

Far too often cultural, traditional and religious values are used to justify discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Let me be clear: In my book there is no excuse to discriminate or beat up an LGBTI-person in the name of religion, tradition or culture. 

Many member states have made tremendous progress. But we still have some way to go. Our countries are different, but we face similar challenges: How do we fight gender stereotypes and homophobia? How do we make our labour markets inclusive to all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity? And how do we make it easier for same-sex partners to share their lives and create a family?

This conference is a great opportunity for us to learn from each other. To bring out the good examples of what works.

In Denmark we are proud that we were among the first countries to introduce legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and same-sex marriage – and more recently to remove transgender from the official list of mental illnesses.

And we are equally proud that we have second-parent adoption, co-mothership and adoption for same-sex couples.

Nevertheless, we still have challenges. This is evident when we look at the numbers.

Homosexuals and transgender persons have higher rates of mental health issues.

4 in 10 are not open about their sexual orientation and gender identity in their workplace. I think it is fair to ask: How are you supposed to be happy with your job, if you cannot be honest with your colleagues about whom you share your life with?

Sadly, it is still common to shout homophobic slurs at football matches in Denmark. If we want equal opportunities for taking part in sports and associations, this homophobic culture is not acceptable. Words matter.

And knowledge matters.

A part of the population in Denmark still find homosexuality unacceptable. 1 in 5 from non-western ethnic minorities even believe that homosexuality is an illness. 
The consequence is enormous – a third of the LGBT-persons with non-western background have considered suicide. A third!!

And to continue: One in ten LGBT-persons from non-western ethnic minorities have experienced physical violence from their own family members.

We need to change this. And I am certain that Denmark doesn’t stand alone with these challenges.

One of the most effective tools to make an impact on existing prejudices is to raise awareness. That is the first step in order to create more acceptance in our societies.

This year the Danish government will launch Denmark's first national action plan for the promotion of security, well-being and equal opportunities of LGBTI persons.

In doing that we draw inspiration from other member states who have made similar action plans.

Our national action plan will fight prejudice. It will provide support services in general and more specifically to non-western ethnic minorities.

It will raise awareness on transgender and intersex issues and it will promote openness around sexual orientation and gender identity in the labour market and in sports.

Advancing the rights and equal opportunities for LGBTI persons is equally important at the international level. Denmark will not only raise the issue here today.

Denmark is currently campaigning for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council from 2019-2021, and will use this opportunity to increase our engagement in pushing the international norms on LGBTI persons’ rights.

We will raise the flag high and engage in constructive dialogue across the Council membership – with likeminded countries, but just as importantly with those countries who represent opposing views.

Only through dialogue can we hope to increase our common understanding. 

The history of LGBTI-rights is a history of bravery.

Of homosexuals and transgender persons who have been brave enough to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity – even though they risked being victims of prejudice, harassment and even violence. These people have helped paved the way for many others.

It is also a history of activists, politicians and community leaders who were brave enough to stand up for justice – even though it came at a personal cost.

We might have come a long way. But if you only take one thing with you from this conference, let it be, that we need to be brave too.

We need to be brave enough to challenge our own prejudice. Challenge what we think of as “normal” or even “natural”.

Brave enough to listen to the experiences of the people who have been victims of prejudice and hate crimes and people who have been discriminated against for being who they are.

We need to be brave enough to challenge the opinions of our peers – in our communities, in our parliaments - even in our own parties.

It might be easier to sit back. But that is not how history is made.

Thank you.