LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Speakers

Find here bios of speakers at the Annual Conference 2018.

Frans Timmermans

First Vice-President of the European Commission

Frans Timmermans began his career with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987. After taking part in the diplomat training programme, he worked at the European Integration Department of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow. He later worked for Hans van den Broek, European Commissioner for External Relations, and Max van der Stoel, High Commissioner on National Minorities for the OSCE. 

In 1998, Frans Timmermans was elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA), where he dealt principally with foreign affairs. In the fourth Balkenende government, from February 2007 to February 2010, Mr Timmermans was Minister for European Affairs. In 2010, Mr Timmermans returned to Parliament as the Labour Party's spokesperson on foreign policy. On 5 November 2012, Mr Timmermans became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the second Rutte government. 

Two years later, on 1 November 2014, he became First Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for better regulation, interinstitutional relations, sustainable development, the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.


Alexander De Croo

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Post and Telecom of Belgium

Alexander De Croo is currently Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Post and Telecom in the Belgian Federal Cabinet.

From 2012 to 2014 he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Pensions. Before taking the office of Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo was Party Chairman of Open Vld, the Flemish liberal-democrats. In 2010, he was elected as a senator, scoring third in the popular vote in Flanders. 

In 2015, he was selected as Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum (WEF). He is also member of the Global Agenda Council on Europa at the WEF. 

Prior to politics, Alexander De Croo was an active entrepreneur in the field of intellectual property rights. He started his professional career as a business consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. 

Alexander holds a degree in Business Engineering from the Free University of Brussels and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University, Chicago). 


Victor Madrigal-Borloz

UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity

Victor Madrigal-Borloz is the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz has previously served as a member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture from 2013 to 2016, and as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. At the Inter-America Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz was the founding staff member for the unit on LGBTI rights. 

Mr. Madrigal-Borloz's work has included serving as the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) rapporteur on LGBTI matters in 2014 and 2015, during which time he spearheaded the SPT's policy on this issue, and leading the Inter-American Commission's preparation of a plan of action regarding the rights of LGBTI people. 

Mr Madrigal-Borloz is a founding member of the Costa Rican Association of International Law (ACODI), a founding Board member of the International Justice Resource Centre (IJRC), and a founding Board member of Synergia-IDH.


Ailbhe Smyth

Co-Director of Together for Yes, Ireland

QueerED 2018 speaker

Ailbhe Smyth has been active in LGBTIQ, feminist and radical politics for many years. 

She was formerly the head of Women's Studies at University College Dublin. Ailbhe chaired the National Lesbian and Gay Federation (NLGF), publisher of GCN (Gay Community News) for 12 years. Also, Ailbhe was on the strategic executive of the Marriage Equality referendum campaign. 

A co-founder and Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, in 2018 Ailbhe was Co-Director of Together for Yes - the national civil society campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Irish Constitution. (The Eighth Amendment made abortion access unavailable in almost all circumstances.)


Petra De Sutter

Head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University, a politician for the Green Party and an advocate for the LGBTI community

Petra De Sutter is the head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University, a politician for the Green Party and an advocate for the LGBTI community.
Ms De Sutter has been serving as member of the Belgian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe since 2014. 

She is currently a member of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons; the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs; the Sub-Committee on Integration; the Sub-Committee on Public Health and Sustainable Development; and the Sub-Committee on Ethics. 

Ms De Sutter has spoken out on SOGI-related issues and has been working on issues including the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women, gender equality, LGBTI equality and assisted reproduction.


Bianca Debaets

State Secretary for Equal Opportunities in Brussels Region

Ms. Debaets is state secretary for Equal Opportunities, Traffic Security and ICT in the Brussels Regional Government. 

She's fond of Brussels and wants to build a warm, inclusive and connected city, where more people can reap the fruits of progress.


Anna Maria Corazza Bildt 

MEP, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is a Member of the European Parliament from Sweden. 

She is a member of the Moderate Party, part of the European People's Party.

Corazza Bildt's main areas of work are migration, digital single market and food. She is highly involved in issues of peace, freedom and democracy in Europe. In particular, she works to combat trafficking of human beings and to eradicate violence against women and children. MEP Corazza Bildt is vice chair of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, and a member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. 

In addition to her committee assignments, she co-chairs the European Parliament Intergroup on Children's Rights and is a member of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights. In 2017 she supported parliamentary action on the persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya.


Sophie in ‘t Veld

MEP, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

Sophie in 't Veld is a liberal politician and Member of the European Parliament.

In the European Parliament, in 't Veld's D66 party is a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

In 't Veld has been active in the European Parliament on behalf of the social-liberal political party of the Netherlands Democrats 66 (D66) since 2004. 

Between 2004 and 2009, In 't Veld served on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Subsequently, from 2009 to 2014, she was a member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. 

In 't Veld is committed to women's and LGBTI rights. Every year she participates in Prides in Europe to underline her support for equal rights. In 't Veld founded and currently chairs the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics. 

She is also Chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and Development since 2009 and Vice-President of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.


Malin Björk

MEP, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Malin Björk is a Member of the European Parliament of the Swedish Left Party and the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE). 

She was elected as Member of the European Parliament for the Left Party in 2014. 

In her parliamentary work, Malin is Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) as well the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. 

Malin is also a member of the Parliament Delegation for relations with India, and substitute member of the delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, as well as the delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries.


Maria Arena

MEP, Group of the European Socialists

Maria Arena is a Member of the European Parliament from Belgium. She is a member of the Socialist Party, part of the Party of European Socialists, and a member of the LGBTI Intergroup of the European Parliament.


Xheni Karaj

Executive Director of Aleanca LGBT

Xheni Karaj is the Executive Director of Aleanca LGBT. 

Xheni, together with fellow activist for the LGBT community, Kristi Pinderi, were among the first activists who started the movement for LGBT rights in Albania. 

Since 2012 Xheni has been one of the main organisers of the Tirana P(ride) held in May at the Dëshmorët e Kombit Bulvard. She also co-directed the Mendo Politically project. 

Along with Kristi Pinderi, Xheni is the author of SkaNdal, documentary on the history of the LGBT movement in Albania. Both also started STREHA - the first residential shelter for homeless LGBT youth.


Mehdi Kassou

Citizens Platform for Refugee Support, Belgium

Mehdi Kassou is an advocate and spokesperson for the Citizens Platform for Refugee Support. 

Mehdi was born in Nivelles to a Belgian mother and Moroccan father. Mehdi studied Human Sciences at FUCAM and Communication at HEPCUT, Belgium. From 2007 until 2009, Mehdi was production manager at KNTV Belgium and later worked for Samsung Electronics. 

In 2015, Mehdi became involved with humanitarian relief projects at the refugee site at Maximilian Park in Brussels. Today, Mehdi Kassou is the spokesperson for the Citizens Platform for Refugee Support in Belgium and advocates for refugee rights.

Mirosława Makuchowska

Political Team Manager, Campaign Against Homophobia, Poland

Mirosława Makuchowska is an LGBT activist from Poland and has been working with the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) since 2006. 

Currently the KPH Political Team Manager, Mirka focuses on research on the LGBT situation in Europe and advocacy work. KPH's advocacy priorities include the introduction of hate crime legislation (including homophobia and transphobia), the legalisation of same-sex unions, and the promotion of acceptance for LGBT persons through education and social campaigns. She graduated from the University of Wrocław, where she studied sociology, and the Academy of Antidiscrimination Education, with a degree in gender studies.

Henrie Dennis

Founder and Chair of Afro Rainbow Austria

Henrie Dennis, is a Nigeria-born lesbian woman. She is the founder and chair of Afro Rainbow Austria (ARA). 

ARA is an organisation that is not only creating awareness of the lives and struggles of LGBTI+ Africans in Austria, but also focuses on community building to improve the wellbeing of African LGBTI+ persons living both in Europe and Africa. 

She started her political work when she was quite young with "House of Rainbow", an LGBTI+ organisation in Nigeria. She is also a prolific activist in Austria, where she worked among others, with the Austrian Red Cross, the NGO LEFÖ-IBF; the only Intervention Centre for
Trafficked Women in Austria. 

Currently, she is also a trainer at the NGO Selbstlaut; an organisation fighting sexual violence against children and youth. She is a No-Border-Activist and a board member of Planet10; a redistribution network that encourages sharing privileges among minority groups. She is an active board member of the EL*C (European Lesbian* Conference).

Monika Pisankaneva

Founder and senior expert at Bilitis Resource Center

Monika Pisankaneva is the founder and senior expert on programs and projects of the self-led
lesbian, bisexual women, transgender and intersex organisation, Bilitis Resource
Center, who has played a key role in incubating new leaders of the movement. 

Monika is a visionary leader in the Bulgarian LGBTI Rights Movement. She has been a speaker of the movement since the late 1990s, raising awareness of the need for consistent state policies and civil society action to counterbalance the negative social stereotypes attached to LGBTI issues, and to promote equality and non-discrimination. 

Monika is also one of the first researchers of the status of LGBTI people in Bulgaria, who has published several articles in international journals and encyclopedias in the early 2000s, thus creating the first published sources of information on the topic. 

Monika is a member of Sofia Pride Organising Committee since 2009.