LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Voices of ILGA-Europe

Our brand new Voices of ILGA-Europe video project, in which members of ILGA-Europe from across Europe and Central Asia tell us about their journeys to the frontlines of LGBTI activism, the highs and the lows of their activist lives, the challenges facing them now, and how they have been supported by the work we do for and on behalf of our 600-plus member organisations.

Italian Legal Eagle, Emiliano Ganzarolli

Emiliano Ganzarolli is a member of Rete Lenford Avvocatura Per I Diritti LGBT (Lawyers For LGBT Rights) an association of about 150 lawyers founded in 2007 to take representative action on the behalf of LGBT people before national and international jurisdictions, and to ensure enforcement of LGBT rights in Italy. The association has notably been active in the fight for marriage equality, and the implementation of a civil partnership framework for same-sex couples.

Recently, the Association was involved with the first case in Italy involving discrimination in an employment context, after an attorney declared during a radio interview that he would never hire a homosexual person in his law firm.

“When we received the communication that the Supreme Court had referred the case to the ECJ, it was the immediate reasoning to involve an umbrella association, somebody able to actually properly talk at the same level with the European institutions. So it came naturally to involve ILGA-Europe in this. ILGA-Europe’s litigation department has been extremely supportive, especially putting us in contact with the other Member States". The European Court of Justice’s ruling is expected to be delivered within the coming months.

Daniel Martinovic and the Battle for Rainbow Family Rights in Croatia

One of the activists working to secure rights for same-sex couples who already have children, or who wish to form families with children, is Daniel Martinovic of Rainbow Families Croatia (Dugine Obitelji). Daniel spoke to us for the Voices of ILGA-Europe video project. 

Daniel began working as an LGBTI activist nine years ago, volunteering for the Pride organisation in Zagreb. “Most of my LGBTI friends were also in some kind of NGOs and I was tired of sitting at home and looking at the situation getting worse,” he says.

The work that ILGA-Europe does with member organisations such as Rainbow Families Croatia is important to Daniel. 

“The workshops that ILGA-Europe organises throughout the year gives you an opportunity you wouldn’t have, you would be like a small island in your own country. It’s really helped us to become even more visible in a bigger European context, it gives us an easier way to talk to MEP’s in the European Parliament, because it teaches you some skills. It really helps you grow as an organisation, it helps you grow as an individual, so I think it’s really important.”

Cherine Mathot on Being a Bisexual Activist in the Netherlands

Adopted from Sri Lanka to a family in the Netherlands when she was just ten days old, Cherine Mathot survived childhood cancer which left her with a disability, and she came out as bisexual at the age of 15. In advance of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Cherine told us how her experiences have informed her work for the LGBTI organisation COC Nederlands.

We interviewed Cherine at the last ILGA-Europe conference in October 2019. It was her second year to be in attendance. “Last year, I encountered all the bi-plus activists and I was really inspired and also supported by the feeling that there are people like me with the same experiences,” she says.

“I think all the discussions you [ILGA-Europe] have about LGBTI issues really help me in shaping my work for COC Nederlands, so I’m very happy with you!”

Czeslaw Walek on the Frontlines for Equal Marriage in the Czech Republic

Our second Voices of ILGA-Europe contributor is Czeslaw Walek, the Chair of Prague Pride, who we met during our most recent conference in Prague. Czeslaw talked to us about the frustrations that powered his journey from the high offices of government to becoming one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent activists, and how ILGA-Europe has helped along the way.

"The ILGA-Europe conference, as such, is a great place to meet other fellow activists, and to exchange the information, best practices, to learn from each other and to help each other, also to create alliances for future work. But ILGA-Europe isn’t only the conference, you have the Rainbow Map, you have the advocacy on an EU level and also give us information on what’s going on in other countries.

We were part of the trainings around the anti-gender movement, and that helped a lot because this movement is growing in the Czech Republic as well, so seeing how this movement is tackled in other countries was a great help."

Intersex Activist Audrey Agerter from Switzerland

Watch our first video interview with passionate intersex activist, Audrey Agerter of InterAction Suisse, the first of our ILGA-Europe members from across Europe and Central Asia who talked to us about the great work they’re doing.

“I participated in a workshop on public campaigns for intersex human rights at the ILGA-Europe office in Brussels, in June 2018. I think this was very important for us because through the toolkits we received we managed to have a clear idea on how to frame our message, on how to discuss the topic. And then I participated in two ILGA-Europe conferences, in Brussels and Prague, and to see all the excitement and all the people working together and to see all the atmosphere, and the ideas and the capacity, I find it very empowering and very helpful. It’s a way of motivation for me as an activist, and also for InterAction.”

Our next Voices of ILGA-Europe video interview will be out soon, and we look forward to sharing lots more inspirational LGBTI activist stories with you!