The Nordic countries have been working together on equality between women and men for over 40 years, but the work has not formally included equal rights for LGBTI people.
Today's meeting of the gender equality ministers in Iceland made the following decision: “The Nordic Council of Ministers will strive to achieve equal rights, treatment and opportunities for LGBTI people in the Nordic region.”
Rise in hate crimes
“Human rights abuses and hate speech directed at LGBTQI people are on the rise in far too many corners of the world. By joining their efforts, the Nordic countries can take a global lead on the protection and promotion of LGBTQI rights,”commented Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who doubles as Prime Minister and Minister of Gender Equality in Iceland.
Most Nordic countries have come a long way in terms of rights and have, for example, legal protections for LGBTI people against discrimination, threats, hatred and harassment.
Both progress and setbacks
The latest report on LGBTI rights in Europe ranks Norway, Denmark and Finland in the top five, Sweden tenth place and Iceland fifteenth.
The report was publshed by ILGA-Europa, an independent international umbrella organisation that promotes human rights for LGBTI people.
ILGA says that acceptance of LGBTI people is increasing around the world – but too slowly – and setbacks have been encountered in many places.
New legislation in Iceland
“We will also work towards better protection at home – as Iceland has done with a new ground-breaking gender identity law – ensuring the human rights and dignity of all,” Jakobsdóttir adds.
The first thing that will happen now, in the wake of the ministers’ decisions, will be a mapping exercise and analysis of the LGBTI area in the Nordic region.
Invite to civil society
The mapping exercise will be conducted by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) and will involve civil society.
It will seek to shed light on the situation in the Nordic countries, including the Faroe Islands, Åland and Greenland, and identify what should be done at Nordic level. Based on the results of this exercise, the Ministers for Gender Equality will decide what tangible measures to take.
Strong international voice
The work will commence in 2020, under the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
“The Nordic countries are similar, and that’s why we need to work together to improve conditions for LGBTI people. Working together on these issues in the Nordic Council of Ministers will make it easier to learn from each other, develop initiatives that work and act as a strong voice in international forums,” says Mogens Jensen, the Minister for Gender Equality in Denmark.
Research into #MeToo
The ministers also decided to fund a three-year research project on sexual harassment at work in the Nordic region. The results of this research will form the basis for policy development in the wake of #MeToo.
This work starts right away with the international conference #MeToo – Moving Forward in Reykjavik, 17–19 September, which has attracted 800 participants from the Nordic region and beyond.
Footnote: LGBTI stands for 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex'.