Dear friends and colleauges
I am greatly satisfied that this joint side event has put the situation of the lesbian and bisexual women and transgendered persons (LBT) on the agenda! We represent governments from all around the globe. It is vital that opinion leaders and leading politicians take a firm stand against homophobic and transphobic expressions, discrimination and violence.
Despite progress in many areas over the last decades, people are still stigmatised because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Many LBT persons cannot fully enjoy their universal human rights. Not only do they run the risk of becoming the victims of hate crime, but they also risk not receiving protection when threatened or attacked.
We know that in Norway the percentage of lesbians who reported that they had experienced some sort of discrimination is considerably higher than among heterosexuals, that psychological afflictions seem to be more widespread among bisexual women and that young women in religious communities or ethnic minorities can be particularly vulnerable. We also believe that transgendered persons are even more vulnerable.
This is true even though Norway has a broad approach to equality that includes the situation of LBT women. And even though our government strongly supports the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights efforts to put the fight against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity firmly on his agenda. Norway also endorses the Yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Norwegian Government pursue a society characterised by openness, tolerance and inclusion. This must also apply to sexual orientation and to the various forms of sexual expression. But in order to reach this, there is a need for increased focus on equal rights, including the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We need strong measures. Legal protection makes up one of the most important steps towards ensuring the safety of citizens.
I am pleased to announce that next year the Norwegian Government will submit to the Parliament a new bill on discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The law will enhance legal certainty and contribute to changing attitudes.
Further, to enable a systematic approach Norway has adopted an ambitious Action Plan aimed at improving quality of life among LGBT persons, involving the commitment of 8 ministries and policy areas. We wish to integrate knowledge concerning the needs and challenges of the LGBT persons in all public services.
In 2011, Norway established a LGBT Knowledge Centre. The centre shall be a driving force in the effort to improve living conditions and quality of life for LGBT -persons. The Knowledge Centre will work on improving our knowledge base.
We also need to be aware that LBT women often meet gender-specific challenges and we need to address these challenges in the development of our policies. Because of this we have commissioned research regarding the living conditions for LBT persons, and will also run a specific research project regarding domestic violence in LBT relationships.
The government cannot combat prejudice-based violence towards LBT alone. We must join our forces and the cooperation with the civil society is of outmost importance. Close cooperation with the LGBT NGOs characterizes the Norwegian policies.
I fully support the cooperation between the national LGBT organisations and the police in developing a competence-training and awareness-raising programme for police officers. The aim of the programme is to increase the officer’s knowledge and attention to the origins and effects of homophobic and transphobic acts.
Such programme is important because in order to reduce the number of LBT victims of hate crime we need to know:
• Who are the abusers?
• Which types of violence are LBT women the victims of?
• Where does it happen?
We will only achieve this information if the police have a knowledge based approach towards LBT victims. The police need to show sensitivity in their meetings with LBT victims.
Another good example of joint forces is the set up by a national LGBT organisation of a website where people can report cases where they have been victims of prejudice-based violence.
Let me finalise by once more call upon the need for international realm of policies. The safety and well being of LBT is not only a domestic issue. The protection of human rights is one of the main pillars of Norwegian foreign policy, and the area of LGBT is one of three main areas in our human rights work for 2012. Promoting equal rights and non-discrimination of LGBT persons is a priority for Norway. To ensure this, we have developed guidelines for systematising and strengthening Norwegian embassy efforts, through promoting the human rights of LGBT.
Norway welcomes meetings such as this one today, sharing experiences and learning from each other.