I have just returned from an intense and exciting week in Brasilia (Brazil), where I represented Micro Rainbow at the World Forum on Human Rights. The forum was an initiative of the Federal Government of Brazil in partnership with civil society, government agencies and international organisations. From December 10th until the 13th 2013, it promoted a series of debates on human rights in the world, with over 9,000 participants from 74 countries.
The Micro Rainbow team was part of the Organizing Committee since the beginning and became involved in the planning and structuring of the Forum’s activities. We were the only international LGBTI organization present in this Committee and we ensured that the issues of poverty of LGBTI people received proper attention throughout the event.
We had our own stand for the first two days. I introduced Micro Rainbow to the participants and talked about our work, our mission, upcoming activities and future plans. It was the first time Micro Rainbow has participated in such a forum so there was considerable interest and curiosity from many activists, academics, students, politicians, and government officials from all over the world. I had the opportunity to share several of our materials, including copies of our blog posts and of our report entitled “Poverty, Sexual Orientation and Refugees in the UK”, which was launched in October.
On December 12th, I presented for the first time the results of our research on LGBT people living in poverty in Rio de Janeiro, which will be launched early next year. Our workshop was attended by nearly 80 people who not only welcomed our research but also engaged in a very interesting debate on how to improve the socioeconomic conditions of LGBT people worldwide. I was delighted by the number of people who attended, considering that there were 50 other workshops and plenty of activities being held at the same time. I was also pleased with the reception we received which confirmed to us that there is a substantial need to address the issues of poverty of LGBTI people – it seems like we are working in the right direction!
Besides holding our own workshop, I also participated in two other panels. The first one was held on December 11th by ADLIB, a Brazilian network of LGBTI Rights advocates. Entitled “Sexual Diversity and Freedom”, the panel was composed by representatives of Mothers For Equality, the Brazilian Lesbian League, the Association of Transvestites and Transexuals of Rio Grande do Sul and the Brazilian Bar Association. The panel focused on the impacts of religion on the freedom of expression and the recognition of the rights of LGBTI people.
During the panel, I was able to share some of the results of our research on lesbian and gay refugees in the UK, specifically on how religious persecution, hate speech and hate crimes in Africa and Asia resulted in asylum claims in the UK based on sexual orientation and contributed to poverty of many lesbian and gay refugees. I also spoke about how poverty reduction strategies from religious institutions, governmental and international organisations have failed to include LGBTI people due to their focus on the heterosexual unit of the family and the need to address this issue more systematically.
On December 12th I participated on another panel entitled “The International Progress of LGBT rights”, organized by the Human Rights Ministry of Brazil together with UNPD and UNAIDS. I was joined by representatives of Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Belgium Embassy.
The debate reviewed international efforts to include issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in the UN agenda over the last decade and I had the opportunity to talk about how international civil society has engaged in such efforts, including through the work of fellow organizations ILGA and ARC International. I also spoke about how UN Special Rapporteurs have began to include issues of poverty of LGBTI people in their reports and how Micro Rainbow expects to interact with them to make sure this subject receives systematic attention in the post-2015 agenda.
We were overwhelmed by the positive responses we received during the Forum and we would like to thank everyone who attended our workshop and the panels we participated on, the organizations and institutions which supported our work and the Brazilian government for organizing such an important event. The Micro Rainbow team hopes to participate in other international conferences in 2014, including the next World Pride Human Rights Conference in Toronto (Canada), and continue this important discussion on how to alleviate poverty of LGBTI people worldwide.