LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

International Women’s Day 2020: Meet 4 Fierce Activists Working for LBTI Rights!

Yiulia, Aum, Bella and Audrey may live in very different countries in Europe, but they have a lot in common: They are strong, powerful workers for and defenders of LBTI rights. Today, March 8, be inspired by these feminist, trans, bisexual and intersex activists and join their fight for equality on International Women’s Day!


Who is Bella FitzPatrick? Meet a powerhouse bisexual activist, leading the drive for LGBTQIA+ awareness with Ireland’s schools

Bisexual and activism wonder woman, Bella FitzPatrick is the Executive Director of ShoutOut, an Irish charity which creates LGBTQIA+ awareness and acceptance training for young people, schools, workplaces and adults. ShoutOut has delivered over 1,500 workshops over the past seven years to tens of thousands of people. Bella creates educational programmes which promote a deeper understanding of concepts like gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual characteristics and minority stress.

In 2019, Bella went on placement with OutRight Action International in the USA where she worked on advocacy in the UN and research on conversion therapy.

“International Women’s Day (IWD) for me is about honesty,” she says. “It’s a day, to be honest about what it is to be a woman — the joys, the frustrations, the love, the connection, and work left to be done in our quest for true equality.

“Women of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, and gender expressions have experienced discrimination based on their womanhood. Sometimes it’s a small snub at the workplace, a disregarding of their opinion; sometimes it’s a huge violation of their human rights, a lack of bodily autonomy — a lack of recognition even of their very womanhood for my trans sisters. There’s much work to do. Not only to move forward but also just to keep the ground which have hard-won, but to fight against the vicious backlash we are seeing from the alt-right and transphobic, racist movements. We cannot buckle. We must stay strong.

“But women are not bound only by our struggle. We are bound by the joy that it is to be women. The softness and strength of our bodies, the laughter shared between a woman and her girlfriend.

“Let’s be honest on IWD — we are not connected simply due to a coincidence of our bodies and/or gender identities but because of our experiences both good and bad, and the mission to create a less rocky path for the daughters of tomorrow.”

 

Who is Yiulia Tsvetkova? Meet the Russian LGBTI feminist activist facing possible imprisonment for her body-positive artwork

Yiulia Tsvetkova had come back to Russia from a business trip abroad when she was approached police at her local train station. She was put under house arrest for two months in November 2019, fined 50,000 rubles (650 euros) in December, and is still facing “pornography” charges, which in Russia are punishable by up to six years in prison. All because of the feminist, body-positive artwork she posted online.

“The attention of law enforcement agencies was attracted by six drawings depicting women. Each of them illustrates several slogans that begin with the phrase ‘Living women have …’ and end with the words ‘And this is normal!’ Thus, the author of the drawings shows that living women have body hair, fat, menstruation, wrinkles and gray hair, muscles, imperfect skin,” reads the petition to free Yiulia on Change.org, signed by over 67,000 people to date.

Months before her arrest, in March 2019, Yulia was forced to leave her job directing the amateur theatre Merak, after police started questioning children participating in her play ‘Pink and Blue’, which explored gender stereotypes.

“I have only one question, why is someone so intent on sabotaging our small and peaceful youth festival. Can it be that youth activism so frightens our authorities?” she wrote on social media after her resignation, as reported by Hyperallergic.

 

Who is ‘Mimi’ Aum Neko? Meet the radical LGBTI activist fighting the Thai government from exile

‘Mimi’ Aum Neko shares a photo of her diploma in Sociology from the prestigious University of Paris in one of her latest Facebook posts, but she is much more than a fresh graduate. Aum Neko is a bold feminist and LGBTI activist, a political refugee, and a vocal supporter of democracy in Thailand.

Radical activism came early in Aum’s life. At the age of 19, she lead a campaign against the obligatory use of uniforms at schools and universities in Thailand, after being forced to wear a male uniform by a faculty that did not accept her gender identity. She has received death threats for her activism, which includes speaking up for trans and sex workers rights, and opposing the Thai monarchy.

Currently living in Europe, Aum fled her home in 2014 after the Thai coup d’état. A journalist had filed a complaint against her for her social media posts criticising the monarchy, and in Thailand, the law prohibits ‘lèse-majesté’, which means that offences against the royal family can be punished with a prison sentence. If Aum went to jail, she would have been put in a male facility.

Asked by a journalist for the Thai online publication prachatai.com if she is missing home, Aum replied: “Not really. It was the right decision to run because to live in a society where you have to keep your own eyes and ears closed is something I couldn’t stand; it’s repulsive.”

“International Woman’s Day for me is a day, when we, women of minorities: BPOC, migrants, refugees, working class women, sex workers, and trans, can reclaim our political spaces in order to combat the social injustices that oppress us, politically, socially, and financially,” she says.

“Today, 8 march, is the day that we will shout again and again that feminism means nothing if we don’t fight for all women, especially for our friends who lost their lives because of repressive anti-sex worker and anti-migrant policy in France, like Jessyca Sermiento and Vanesa Campos.”

Photographed at the ILGA-Europe conference in Prague last October, Aum is currently a board member of TGEU and an active member of Acceptess-T and Strass.

 

Who is Audrey Agerter? Meet an intersex activist who funnelled her rage at a doctor into creating a national organisation

Audrey Agerter is the founder of ILGA-Europe member organisation, InterAction Suisse, which advocates for and supports intersex people in Switzerland. She created this vital organisation single-handed, after an encounter with a doctor made it clear to her how intersex people are forced into the shadows.

“The doctor told me that my sister should do a genetic test to see if she has the genetics of my variation, so that if she got pregnant she could take the good decision to abort,” Audrey says. “It was the first time I realised that the medical settings and the society tries to make us invisible, and actually make us not exist anymore, through mutilation, but also through selective abortion.”

InterAction Suisse has been successful at advocating for intersex people in the context of medicine. “The most important issue for my organisation is to stop intersex genital mutilations and treatments in hospitals and to have this in a law where it stipulates that it is forbidden and that doctors cannot act the way they act now. We have participated in a motion in Switzerland for the Canton de Genéve to forbid intersex interventions in Geneva and we’ve been heard by the Council for Human Rights in Geneva. And they have voted on and accepted unanimously to have a law to forbid intersex genital mutilations in Geneva, and now we’re waiting to see the outcome of this and hoping to have something good.”

Watch Audrey’s video for our Voices of ILGA-Europe project here.