Pushing back the push-back: Nordic Roadmap on advancing gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons, 2022-2024
At their annual meeting in September 2021, the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality and LGBTI (MR-JÄM) noted with concern the growing resistance, regression and push-back taking place globally as well as in the Nordic region against gender equality in general, and women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons in particular. Subsequently the Nordic ministers for Gender Equality and LGBTI decided that a Nordic Roadmap outlining their commitment and response to the push-back and anti-gender movement needed to be established. This was an unequivocal decision building upon nearly 50 years of working together as a region to advance gender equality. Recently, in 2020, the Nordic cooperation through the Nordic Council of Ministers was also formally extended to include equal rights, treatment and opportunities for LGBTI-persons.
This Nordic Roadmap strives to elevate a unified Nordic voice on advancing gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and the equal rights of LGBTI-persons internationally. It also highlights prioritised thematic areas where the push-back is highly present and where counter action is needed. Furthermore, the Nordic Roadmap includes measures and activities to be used by the Nordic cooperation in their work to amplify their common voice in countering the resistance and advancing gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons in the long term.
The Nordic Roadmap was adopted by Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality and LGBTI on 27 September 2022 and applies for the period 27 September 2022 until 31 December 2024.
Almost three decades ago, the world’s governments came together to make sure that half of the world’s population gained the rights, power and status of the other half. The 1995 landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was crucial, because it adopted a platform for action to women’s empowerment and gender equality. It was the largest-ever formal gathering of women, though hundreds of men were among the 17,000 participants at the official meeting. The result was the progressive 50-page Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by the 189 nations that met in China’s capital. The platform has since then served as the “gold standard” for women’s and girls’ equal rights, and the Nordic countries continue to strongly support its full implementation.
As articulated in the Nordic “Declaration of Support towards the role of the UN Women in the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), as well as the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) constitute key international instruments for the Nordic countries as they pertain to enabling progress on gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights.
The Nordic region has moved far towards gender equality through legislation and policy measures. However, the region has much to do before all women and men, girls and boys, have the same power, influence and opportunities to shape their lives and contribute to the development of society, as articulated in SDG5 in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, without distinction of any kind. Gradually, and particularly since the first ever UN report in 2011 on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people[i], states have recognized their duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people without discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. While the Nordic countries have come far in ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI-persons, unacceptable hate, discrimination and violence against LGBTI-persons still persist.[ii]
Recently, the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality and LGBTI (MR-JÄM) have witnessed growing opposition in many places in the world, including in the Nordic region, to gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons. The opposition to women’s and girls’ rights mainly manifests in restricting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including the right to safe abortion, and in ceasing to work on and prevent violence against women, especially within the framework of the Istanbul Convention. For LGBTI-persons and trans persons in particular, their full and equal human rights are being challenged. In some countries, including in the European Union, there has been a backlash in terms of freedoms and rights for LGBTI-persons, an increase in anti-LGBTI rhetoric and a significant rise in violence and hate speech.[iii]
The opposition to gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and the equal rights of LGBTI-persons, is well-organized, well-funded and well-coordinated. To counter this development, strengthened coordination and action is necessary and urgent, while remaining mindful about synergies and intersections pertaining to the issues at hand as well as the menu of strategies to counteract the push-back. In order to push back this resistance to gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons, the Nordic countries must act.
The overall objective of the Nordic Roadmap is to promote and advance gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons internationally in the context of the growing resistance and opposition to these issues and rights. The Nordic Roadmap serves as a framework to strengthen and elevate the common Nordic voice for gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights for LGBTI- persons internationally. The roadmap articulates MR-JÄM’s agreed set of goals and measures to counter the resistance in prioritised areas and serves to advance progress on gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons in the long term. This includes responding to and counteracting the forces that aim to restrict or marginalize rights and freedoms or that prevent progressive language related to gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons in international policy making.
The Roadmap is an important step to amplify the common Nordic voice for universal human rights and gender equality, one that leaves no-one behind, values diversity, inclusion and belonging and stands up against discrimination.
The Nordic Council of Ministers has collaborated on gender equality for almost 50 years and thus long served as a convening platform for dialogue, knowledge exchange and communication for the Nordic countries in matters of gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons, the latter formally included in the Nordic intergovernmental cooperation in 2020. The Nordic Roadmap will utilise this Nordic platform to strengthen the common Nordic voice in international negotiations and to cooperate and promote gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons in identified key arenas.
The Nordic Roadmap serves to facilitate strengthened coordination, cooperation and progress on gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights and LGBTI-persons equal rights and safety. Close Nordic coordination is key to ensure agreement on when and where to strategically act in unison, depending on the specific context.
1. To promote a common Nordic voice and communication
In order to strengthen the messages brought forth by the Nordic countries in key international arenas and negotiations, it is important to promote coordination towards a common Nordic voice.
2. To foster advocacy, alliances and cooperation
It is vital to expand and strengthen the support for gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons’ among like-minded governments and organizations to ensure that this support is more visible and effective in international advocacy and policy making. This includes to respectfully engage in constructive dialogue with organisations or countries that are part of the resistance.
3. To exchange experiences
It is central to share and exchange knowledge and good practice as a way to increase the support for advancing gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons. Furthermore, knowledge-sharing and good practice on responding to the resistance/opposition to gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights, and equal rights of LGBTI-persons are also key to facilitate progress and relevant action.
Prioritised thematic areas
The following thematic areas are prioritised in the Nordic Roadmap, but do not exclude or limit action in other areas.
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion rights
- Comprehensive sexuality education
- Comprehensive health care service for women, girls and LGBTI persons.
- Men’s violence against women, including honour-related violence and oppression
- Hate crime, hate speech and harassment in physical and virtual spaces
- Prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking for sexual exploitation
- Conversion therapy
- Policy design that promotes gender equality and non-discrimination covering all grounds of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI-persons
- Same sex marriage acts and social acceptance
- Economic gender equality throughout the life cycle and equal remuneration for work of equal value
The set of actions within the scope of the objectives and prioritised thematic areas pertaining to the Nordic Roadmap are under continuous development during the time period 2022-2023. These will be published as relevant on norden.org
[i] United Nations (2011) Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/19session/A.HRC.19.41_English.pdf
[ii] Nordic Council of Ministers (2021) Hate crimes targeting LGBTI people in the Nordic countries: A survey of strategies, methods and initiatives. https://pub.norden.org/temanord2021-551/
[iii] European Union (2021) Disinformation campaigns about LGBTI+ people in the EU and foreign influence. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2021/653644/EXPO_BRI(2021)653644_EN.pdf