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Symposium: Somewhere beyond the Rainbow? – Human Rights and LGBTIQ

Victor Madrigal Borloz, BIM Conference on LGBTIQ Rights (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)

On 24.9.2019 the conference "Somewhere beyond the rainbow - Human Rights & LGBTIQ" took place in Vienna. The keynote by UN Independent Expert Victor Madrigal Borloz was complemented by presentations of international speakers. In the afternoon, practitioners were invited to speak during a discussion. The focus was on the question of the human rights situation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersexuals and queer persons at international, European and national level.

In many countries there have been legal improvements in recent years, but at the same time state persecution, social repression, hatred, exclusion and violence are increasing, also in Western societies. In addition, there are still a number of states in which LGBTIQ persons are denied fundamental rights. In the international context, LGBTIQ rights polarize, especially within the framework of the United Nations. Victor Madrigal Borloz, UN-Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, gave insights into how the future of human rights must be negotiated in this context. In his keynote speech, he stressed the importance of visibility in public space and expressed his concern about the globally perceptible reactionary climate.

Prof. Dr. Andreas R. Ziegler (University of Lausanne) stated: "Even in academic discourse, SOGI[1] rights are largely taboo. For example, family law excludes questions on same-sex couples." He presented which organisations, initiatives and legal developments are located in the area of these rights.

Patrycja Pogodzinska (Project Manager, EU Fundamental Rights Agency) presented the relevant work of the Fundamental Rights Agency, provided interesting figures on the social reception of LGBTIQ by the majority society and aroused curiosity about the results of the agency's second LGBTI study. In the country reports on Austria (Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Benke, University of Vienna), Germany (Prof. Dr. Michael Lysander Fremuth, University of Vienna/Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights) as well as Hungary and Eastern Europe (Prof. Dr. Eszter Polgari, Central European University, Budapest), various member states of the European Union were examined in more detail. The historical lines of development were also pointed out in order to shed light on progress. For Austria and Germany, the particular achievements of the respective constitutional courts were highlighted, while for parts of Eastern Europe, developments of concern were also pointed out. Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Holzleithner (University of Vienna) dealt with theoretical questions of inequality and discrimination and addressed that even heterosexually inclined people have a gender identity and declinated gender identities by means of practical examples.

In order to link the scientific discourse with practice, practitioners from Queer Business Women, TransX, Queer Base Asylum, WASt and AGPRO were invited for discussion in the afternoon. They presented their institutions as well as their work, reported on successes and challenges. Together they gave impressive testimony to the outstanding performance of civil society actors in protecting LGBTIQ.

With this international symposium, Prof. Dr. Michael Lysander Fremuth, scientific director of the BIM, set an example: "Human rights are the rights of all people. They apply to members of the majority as well as to minorities who, however, are particularly dependent on the protection of human rights. We experience that members of 'sexual minorities' are exposed to special persecution - on the part of many states, but also by parts of society. It is important to remember that human rights apply to all and to create sensitivity for people who are often marginalised," said Fremuth.

Much has already changed for the better, according to the tenor of the event, but there is still much to be done to ensure that human rights apply to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The importance of the topic was also expressed in a welcome address of Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. 

Franz-Stefan Meissl, University of Vienna (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Manfred Nowak, BIM Founder (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Victor Madrigal Borloz, UN Independent Expert (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Victor Madrigal Borloz, UN Independent Expert (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Victor Madrigal Borloz, UN Independent Expert (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Andreas R. Ziegler, University of Lausanne (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Patrycja Pogodzinska, EU Fundamental Rights Agency (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Pogodzinska, Madrigal Borloz, Ziegler (v. li.) (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Fremuth, Pogodzinska, Madrigal Borloz, Ziegler (v. li.) (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Madrigal Borloz, Pogodzinska, Ziegler (v. li.) (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Nikolaus Benke, University of Vienna (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Eszter Polgari, Central European University, Budapest (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Elisabeth Holzleithner, University of Vienna  (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Lysander Fremuth, Scientific Director BIM (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Polgari, Holzleithner, Benke (v. li.) (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Practioners, Conference Human Rights and LGBTIQ (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Practioners, Conference Human Rights and LGBTIQ (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Practioners, Conference Human Rights and LGBTIQ (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Conference Human Rights and LGBTIQ (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)
Conference Human Rights and LGBTIQ (Foto: M. Nachtschatt)