MD of ShoutOut, Bella, has taken some time away and is currently in New York working with OutRight Action International and spent the past two weeks in the UN at the Convention on the Status of Women. Bella writes about her experiences here:
What is the Convention on the Status of Women?
I was delighted when I started working with OutRight Action International (OutRight) as they are an amazing organisation, working on LGBTQI equality across the globe, with staff in 6 countries. The convention on the status of women (CSW) is a coming together of countries and people from civil society to discuss women’s rights and within this format, we discuss the rights for LBTI women around the world. Nearly 9000 people participate in CSW every year.
How are LGBTQI rights represented at CSW?
Activists fighting for LGBTQI rights come together at the beginning of CSW and share resources and information. While we’re working on very specific issues in our home countries, here we are united in the advancement of LGBTQI rights on the global level. The first thing I did at CSW was listen to Norway speak on behalf of an LGBT core group; a group of countries committed to advancing LGBTI rights (Ireland is not, unfortunately, a part of this group). You can read or listen to this statement here.
Your country’s office is like any representative, you can contact them and urge them to take action. The side who are against LGBT people do this all the time, and try to hold back our rights so getting involved is another way to participate in the liberation of LGBT people.
OutRight held two amazing events about LGBT rights: one of Transgender and Gender non conforming people and one about LBTI people and access to public services. These events were greatly attended and it gave me optimism for the appetite for progressive policies.
Complacency and the Anti LGBT agenda at CSW
Unfortunately, often countries can gloss over serious issues and act like everything is fine for the LGBT people in their country. For example representative from the UK spoke at length at the many advances for LGBT people living in the UK with no mention of the lack of marriage equality in Northern Ireland. That’s not to mention the countries which have high levels of violence against LGBT people acting like everything is fine.
There were anti-LGBT (specifically there was more than one event which was transphobic) and anti-feminist events held as well by far right and religious organisations which espouse an outdated and hetero-patriarchal view point. If we stop fighting at the UN then we risk the reversal of all of our hard won victories. These groups fight against marriage equality, gender recognition, recognition of rainbow families and comprehensive sex education.
The UN Secretary General & UN Women are asked about LGBTQI rights
There was a town hall with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and the LGBT contingent was able to ask what the UN planned to do for LGBT rights. While the reply was vague, he did speak about having to push back against the push back, and not let our rights go backwards which is very important at the moment.
We also had a meeting with UN Women about LGBT rights and were able to ask questions about trans inclusion, regional funding initiatives, intersex genital mutilation.
OK, but how does this impact the work of ShoutOut?
While the UN feels very far away from the work in local schools done by ShoutOut it’s actually far more linked than it seems. The way in which the UN adopts policies on LGBT people, their families, and their needs will impact the way all the UN agencies will fund issues pertaining to LGBT people. While we are relatively fortunate in Ireland compared to other countries we still have a long way to go to see full legal and social equality for the members of our community and this must be fought at local, national and international level. CSW has a large focus on access to education, and ShoutOut would argue that when schools are prejudiced against you, you are being denied your right to an education.