Salzburg Global LGBT Forum » Overview

Humankind’s strength is its diversity. Free expression of sexuality and gender increasingly defines the societies in which we want to live in the 21st century. But progress is uneven. In 2011, the first UN Resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity was supported by over 40 countries. Yet in many others, governments still legitimize and sponsor violence against LGBT citizens through legal discrimination, condoned police violence and hate speech.  

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed in 2013 to establish a truly global space to reflect upon and advance the LGBT and Human Rights discussions around the world. Its signature is the international representation of leaders from diverse fields – including human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds. Founded and chaired by Dr. Klaus Mueller, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum currently connects representatives from more than 65 countries (as of February 2017).

Most recent sessions:

Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging
May 14 to 19, 2017 (Salzburg, Austria)

Building structures to support equal rights for LGBT people
Seminar and networking reception at the Embassy of Canada, Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2016

The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
October 2 to 7, 2016 (Chaing Rai, Thailand)

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: LGBT Human Rights & Social Cohesion
June 14 to 19, 2015


Related News

LGBT Forum Day 1 - Solidarity & Diversity
LGBT Forum Founder & Chair Klaus Mueller welcome participant Anuj Rai from Nepal
LGBT Forum Day 1 - Solidarity & Diversity
Louise Hallman 
Solidarity and diversity were two key takeaways from the first day of discussions at the fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion. Opening the session, the first of the Forum to be held in Thailand and in partnership with the UNDP and Being LGBTI in Asia, a panel of speakers from China, Thailand, Nepal and South Korea shared insights on challenges and progresses in Asia-Pacific with an audience from the region and beyond. Legal progresses have been made in some countries, such as in Nepal where a third gender can now be officially declared in all government documents including passports. But legal recognition and protections are still lacking in many other countries in the region. For example, in Korea civil partnerships or marriage are not recognized, and in Thailand, a country with a highly visible LGBT community, gay adoptions are not recognized, leading one participant to share her fears of what might happen to her daughter if she were to die as her wife would not be legally entitled to continue to care for their child.  However, as one panelist rightly pointed out: “Laws do not guarantee equality... we need to look at the attitudes and acceptance of public and society.” In many countries, while laws were starting to offer protection to LGBT people and communities (albeit not all these laws are “inclusive, representative and consultative” of communities they're supposed to protect), societal attitudes have yet to catch up, with stigmatization and bullying prevalent, especially in schools where uniforms often constrain preferred gender expressions. To counter these legal and societal backlashes, there were calls from the panel and the audience for LGBT groups to join in solidarity with each other and build coalitions with other rights groups, such as workers’ and women’s groups, in order to advance all human rights.  “When it is cold, we need to all band together for warmth,” remarked one participant. The intersectionality of issues was also highlighted, as LGBT issues touch on many other areas such as bullying in school, access to relevant health services, discrimination in the work place, etc.  However, a counterpoint was also raised: in many countries vocal and visible groups within the LGBT communities (such as gay men in China and trans people in Nepal) have led to a conflation of identities, with the public and politicians mistakenly assuming that all members of the LGBT community are represented by and share the same problems as the more prominent “face” of LGBT people.  “As LGBTI people, we don't all have the same issues!” stated one participant, with another adding: “How can we show and include the many faces of LGBT people?”  As the session moves into its next four days of panels, roundtable discussions, working groups and intimate storytelling and sharing sessions, this question and how these many faces can be better included in societies – in Asia and beyond – will continue to resonate. 
 Congratulations! As Fellows arrived in Chiang Rai for the first-ever session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum to be held in Asia, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed its first independent expert to investigate the violence and discrimination faced by the LGBT community: Thai professor, Vitit Muntarbhorn. Participants of the 4th session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum congratulate Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn on his appointment as the first United Nations independent expert on LGBT rights
The fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is being held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme. Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session on lgbt.SalzburgGlobal.org and medium.com/being-lgbti-in-asia. You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  *LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.
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The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
Louise Hallman 
Activists, legislators, and filmmakers will be among those gathering in Chiang Rai, Thailand this weekend for the fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum (October 2 to 7, 2016). Held in partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Salzburg Global Seminar, this year’s program will examine The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion and seeks to be a platform for enhancing Asia’s previously underrepresented role in existing global LGBT dialogues, highlighting Asia’s unique legal, religious, and cultural positions regarding LGBT individuals and their communities.  The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed in 2013 to establish a global space to reflect upon and advance LGBT and Human Rights discussions around the world. Its signature is the international representation of leaders from diverse fields – including human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds.  The Forum currently connects representatives from more than 54 countries – with representatives from six more countries joining in 2016. After two successful sessions in Salzburg, Austria and another in Berlin, Germany, in 2016 Salzburg Global sought to expand the global footprint of the multi-year series by travelling to Thailand and partnering with UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia programme – a regional initiative to reduce marginalization and exclusion of LGBTI people. Of the 52 participants taking part in Chiang Rai, 32 are from Asia. As founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Klaus Mueller explains: “In the global discourse on LGBT equality, Asian perspectives are underrepresented. We hope that our meeting can contribute to amplifying Asian voices and we are excited to learn from and meet new friends.” Edmund Settle, regional Policy Advisor on HIV, Human Rights, Law and Sexual Diversity for UNDP in Bangkok and co-chair of The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, added: “UNDP believes that for development to be effective, it must be inclusive. Therefore, we must proactively ensure that all marginalized populations, including LGBTI people, are encouraged and supported in achieving the full realization of their rights.” Through the five-day program, the organizers aim to foster open, strategic and focused discussions while examining progress – such as the changing legislation in Bhutan – and challenges – including the worsening security situation in Bangladesh – for LGBT rights in the region. Participants will identify concrete potential for further positive change in Asia, and share best practices from around the globe that can be adapted and adopted in the region. Recognizing that the challenges confronting the LGBT and human rights movement are not only national or regional, the 2016 Forum in Thailand will expand understanding of how the region’s successes and challenges relate to and influence issues at a global level. The lessons that different cultures and regions provide will be harnessed to advance LGBT human rights on the global stage, as well as bolstering individual participants’ future contributions at larger global conferences such as the 10 Year Anniversary Conference for Yogyakarta and the ILGA World Conference in Bangkok. Since its beginnings in Salzburg in 2013, the Forum has placed great emphasis on the power of storytelling, encouraging participants to share their own personal stories as well as sharing their professional experiences. Through telling and sharing original and authentic stories, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum seeks to challenge misrepresentations of sexual and gender diversity, and help understand the similarities and differences. Storytelling aspect is the cornerstone of the Forum’s ongoing project “Family is…”, which was launched in 2015 with support of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The project thus far has collected dozens of video testimonies and published a report on how members of the Forum view and experience families – both of birth and by choice. The project will continue gathering video testimonies in Chiang Rai, culminating in an exhibition in Berlin in 2017.  In addition to strengthening international connections, and promoting discussion on families and storytelling, the Chiang Rai event will also focus on the high visibility of the transgender community in Asia, and especially Thailand, including the progress made and the continuing legal and social challenges. Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session on lgbt.SalzburgGlobal.org and medium.com/being-lgbti-in-asia. You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  *LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.
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Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Fellow Updates
Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Fellow Updates
Jessica Franzetti 
Have you got some news - a new book, a promotion, a call for grant proposals - that you'd like to share with the Salzburg Global Fellowship? Email Salzburg Global Seminar Fellowship Manager Jan Heinecke.
From being featured in the New York Times to leading an LGBT rights campaign in Japan, and showcasing Jamaica to mapping China's sex life, from alerting us to challenges for LGBT rights in Indonesia to our cheers for nominations as global leaders - find out what the Fellows of our Salzburg Global LGBT Forum have been up to in 2016.  Tamara Adrian, a professor and human rights activist in Venezuela, was featured in a United Nations video, titled, UN Free & Equal: Why we Fight, which highlighted the individuals, groups and organizations fighting for change in their countries and communities.  Watch the video here.  Danish Sheikh, an advocate and researcher, has been featured in an article by The New York Times entitled “Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi.” The article talks about Danish’s assistance with two briefs in the Indian Supreme Court that is attempting to decriminalize homosexuality in India as well as his struggles he faced with his family accepting his sexuality. A full article about Sheikh’s experiences can be found here. Angeline Jackson, an LGBT rights activist and co-founder of the first registered organization for lesbian, bisexual and trans-women in Jamaica, was recently in the television documentary series, Gaycation, during its Jamaica episode. The show features Ellen Page, who travels to different countries and regions, exploring their LGBT rights and movements. Watch the full episode here.  Fumino Sugiyama is leading an LGBT rights campaign in Japan. An article about his work, titled, Transgender Man Helps Shibuya Make a Difference, was published in The Japan Times.  The full article can be found here. Kaoru Aoyama, a professor of sociology, was references in a Japan Times article, where she discussed the impact of new legislation on human right protections. Read the full article here. Martin Vidaurre Vaca, who provides legal representation to the LGBT community and works on political and legal advocacy in Bolivia, assisted in the passage of a Bolivian bill that will allow trans-people to change their name and gender on official documents.  A full article about the law can be found here. He is featured on the left in the photo accompanying the article.  Yinhe Li has been featured in an article by the BBC on the high speed sexual revolution happening in China. Li is the country’s leading sexologist and the article goes into detail about China’s history with laws on writing about sex, pornography and sex before marriage laws as well as Li’s history and influential work she has published in the country. The article can be found on the BBC website here.  Popo Fan, a filmmaker and writer, has been nominated as an LGBT activist making positive change in communities around the world in a Guardian Witness assignment.  Fan was nominated by Matthew Barren as a #LGBTChange hero and was described as “a monk of cinema, a one-man crew who carts everything around in a backpack.” The Guardian’s list of nominees can be found here. A book review has also been published for the book, Queer/Tongzhi China: New Perspectives on Research, Activism and Media Cultures by Elisabeth L. Engebretsen and William F. Schroeder." The book is a volume of essays that explores queer activist communities in China, traversing such themes as media representation, queer filmmaking and film festivals and autoethnographic methodologies. Fan contributed chapters about strategies used by community activists to put on queer film festivals in contrast to festivals that are a given in other global cities. In addition, Wei Wei - Professor of Sociology, East China Normal University, China - published an article in the same book where he charts HIV/AIDS activism in Chengdu through showing an organisation’s tactfulness in building up a positive media presence. The book review can be read here. Shereen El Feki, author and healthcare journalist, was recently featured in article and joint TED talk, where she discussed attitudes towards sex as well as mens' roles in the Arab world. View the video and read the full article hereTunggal Pawestri, a program officer of Hivos in Southeast Asia and an active campaigner for women's rights in Indonesia, wrote an article for the Jakarta post, titled, More hard times for Indonesian LGBT people, where she discusses the challenges facing LGBT rights in Indonesia. Read the full article here.  Sridhar Rangayan, a filmmaker and LGBT rights activist, was selected by a worldwide nomination to be part of the British Council’s inaugural “fiveFilms4freedom” Global List. The list consists of 33 inspiring people from 23 different countries who are changing social perceptions about LGBTQ communities throughout the world. As well as this, his documentary Breaking Free has won the Best Editing category of India’s 63rd National Film Awards. To read more details about the film and the fiveFilms4freedom Global List, please read our article here.  M.V.Lee Badgett, a professor of economics and the director of the Center for Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, published a book, titled, The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World. An article about her book can be found here.  Badgett was also recently featured in The New York times article, The Most Detailed Map of Gay Marriage in America, which was published this September.  Read the full article here.  Georges Azzi, a Lebanese LGBT and human rights activist, was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article, titled, How gay rights advance democracy in the Middle East. Read the full article here.  Laurindo Garcia, a Filipino HIV advocate, was inducted as an Ashoka Global Fellow. Lear more about the Ashoka fellowship program and Garcia's work in a full article here. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist, wrote an article about the extreme challenges facing LGBT people in Uganda. She also reflect on the successes of the LGBT rights movement in the country.  Read the full article here.  Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Global LGBT Forum, redeveloped his Memorial Space 'Within the Pink Triangle' that showed six survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals for an exhibit on 'Homosexualities' at the Münster Modern Art Museum (May-Sep 2016). Watch his interview about the long-term goals of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum here. Some LGBT Forum Fellows at an impromptu reunion in Berlin earlier this year. 
To learn more about the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum as well as past and upcoming sessions, visit: http://lgbt.salzburgglobal.org/overview.html.
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Transgender Man Helps Shibuya Make a Difference
Transgender Man Helps Shibuya Make a Difference
Salzburg Global Seminar 
Fumino Sugiyama, a Fellow of the session Global LGBT Forum - Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights and Social Cohesion, is leading an LGBT rights campaign in Japan. Below is an excerpt from The Japan Times article, Transgender Man Helps Shibuya Make a Difference, written by Naohiko Hatta.  
Fumino Sugiyama, a transgender man, had always felt trapped in a girl’s body while growing up. Now, following breast-removal surgery at age 27, and after taking hormone therapy and growing a beard, the 34-year-old is a leading campaigner in Japan for better understanding of sexual minorities. In early May, Sugiyama was at the head of a parade organized by nonprofit organization Tokyo Rainbow Pride, where he works as a co-leader to provide help to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The parade in Tokyo’s Shibuya district drew 4,500 participants, the most since its inception in 2013. Sugiyama is also known for having played a central role when Shibuya Ward passed an ordinance last year allowing certificates to be issued recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage. The ward was the first municipality in Japan to adopt such an ordinance and several others have since followed suit. “Without realizing, we had given up on living” like non-LGBT people, Sugiyama said. “But the enactment has offered us hope that we can bring about change if we pursue it.” Read the full article here.
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Building Structures to Support Equal Rights for LGBT People
Building Structures to Support Equal Rights for LGBT People
Salzburg Global Seminar 
On July 21, 2016, in cooperation with the Dutch Embassy, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin hosted a network seminar, titled, Building Structures to Support Equal Rights for LGBT People. The Canadian Embassy invited Dr. Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, to lead the discussion that brought together several civil rights organizations, including, Transgender Europe, the Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung, Human Rights Watch and Prout at Work. The event attracted approximately 100 participants from a number of countries, including, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, Surinam, Venezuela, Hungary, Brazil, Russia and the United States. The participants came from a variety of disciplines, from diplomacy and politics to business and civil society. For the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, it was an important opportunity to further strengthen its work on better relationships between embassies and LGBT human rights organizations. It also allowed for the presentation of recommendations from the 2014 Forum session, Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations, which took place in Berlin in cooperation with the German, Dutch and EU Foreign offices. The topic has become a key theme of the Forum, extending in 2015 to the session Global LGBT Forum – Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights and Social Cohesion, with partners from the US State Department and the Austrian Foreign Office. The conversation will continue in October 2016 at the Forum's session, The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, to be held in Thailand. In her welcome remarks, Jennifer May, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Canada, reminded the audience that Canada takes principled positions on important issues to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. She also underlined that the new government administration is committed to adding gender identity to the list of “identifiable groups” protected by the hate speech provisions in the Canadian criminal code. Dr. Henk Voskamp, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Netherlands emphasized that LGBT rights are rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his remarks, he underscored the relevance of coherent internal and external policies when it comes to strengthening full equality. He noted that the foreign ministry supports grassroots organisations and often talks to foreign governments behind closed doors to advance LGBT issues. Dr. Klaus Mueller opened the discussion with news of positive change, as just hours before the event, Slovenia had expanded the rights of same-sex couples. He congratulating the attending Slovenian Ambassador, Mrs. Kos Marko and leading LGBT activist Miha Lobnik. Framing the panel discussion with a focus on the relations between embassies and LGBT human rights groups, Mueller emphasized that cooperation, while developing, is relatively new for both sides. LGBT human rights groups would benefit from better understanding embassy procedures and protocols. Foreign Offices struggle to build continuous engagement with LGBT human rights groups that within many countries operate under extreme pressure, are fragile, or even illegal.  The panelists touched on various aspects of building structures to support LGBT rights. Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, reminded participants that same sex relations are criminalized in 76 countries around the globe. Therefore, organizations and embassies that are present in these countries have to be careful as to how to phrase their advocacy messages to fit a local context as well as careful with whom they identify - a theme that other panelists agreed upon.  Axel Hochrein, Co-Founder and Executive Member of the Board of the Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung, explained that LGBT people are often treated with decreased respect, and how embassies can help as both a mediator and door opener. Connections are important in adverse contexts, and embassies can be safe places for round table discussions in difficult circumstances. Like other panelists, he emphasized the need for training of embassy and local staff on LGBT human rights situations. Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe differentiated between criminalization of homosexuality and of gender identity. Since 2007, over 2,000 cases involving the killing of transgendered people have been documented by her organization. She also emphasized that the line for international LGBT rights is not as clear-cut as western versus developing countries. In many western countries, transgender rights are not fully recognized. In some contexts, embassies and national governments may focus on sexual orientation or same sex marriage, but allocate little attention or research on gender identity. Ehrt also mentioned that in a legal context, laws in Argentina are the most progressive on transgendered issues.  Mueller addressed that while the struggle for LGBT rights has become more global, hate, transgender discrimination and homophobia are also increasingly produced globally. It emphasizes the need for further relationships between embassies and LGBT human rights groups, and Mueller thanked the Canadian and Dutch embassies for their support in that continued development. Their joint initiative recognizes the need to build strong, inclusive global networks that help to secure equality for LGBT people and their communities.   In a reception held after the discussion, the Embassy provided time for networking between Forum participants. 
View full set on Flickr
Report and photos with the help of Jessica Franzetti, Thilo Lenz, Ivan Capriles. Klaus Mueller and Benjamin Cantu. 
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Family Is...?
Family Is...?
Louise Hallman 
For many people, family is a crucial part of their lives, their identities, and their support systems. But as Klaus Mueller, chair and founder of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, remarked at the opening of the 2015 session: “None of us come from families that were prepared for us.” Through its new project “Family Is...”, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is examining the importance of family and identifying the specific challenges LGBT communities face regarding family rights, social inclusion, and legal challenges. Launched at the third annual session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, the project uses storytelling as a means of advancing LGBT human rights and equality.  Over their five days together in Salzburg in June 2015, a diverse gathering of Salzburg Global Fellows opened up about their own personal and professional struggles, forged new friendships, began new collaborations, tested new ideas, and developed a strong sense of global connection. Fellows heard new and unexpected perspectives, and this experience not only furthered the sense of urgency in their respective battles for equality and inclusion, but also made the world feel smaller and adversities more bearable. One story that was shared with the Fellows came from Joe Wong, a program manager with the Asia-Pacific Transgender Network in Thailand.  Growing up in a conservative family in Singapore and attending a Catholic all-girls’ school, Wong felt uncomfortable in his body when touched and eventually used duct tape as an attempt to conceal the female parts of his body that he felt shouldn’t have been there. One day, while in an elevator with a close relative and a stranger, the family member noticed the duct tape, humiliating Wong on the spot and demanding an explanation. “In school I was taught not to show emotions. So I let my relative yell at me and tear away the duct tape in the elevator,” he recalls.  Like many people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, Wong found it hard to tell his family about his issues. However, despite the lack of support, or even the open hostility, he received from some family members, Wong’s father quietly supported him. Wong remembers: “He would put a relevant article or book on my desk. There was no discussion about it, but he helped.” When Wong decided to transition, he asked his parents to choose his post-transition name “since they gave me my first name.” His father gave him his own English name – which he took to be a sign of his father’s love and acceptance. “He died when I was 21, and I wondered where his tolerance came from. I later discovered that he was gay.” As the Fellows established with each other and in a series of video interviews made for the project, families can consist of those we are born into as well as those we construct for ourselves. How we define “family” or advocate so-called “traditional family values” can be a form of exclusion and discrimination.  “The definition of family should be changed,” said Chinese activist Ying Xin. “When we think of family, we often think of love, respect, solidarity. Family may not just be based on the goal of reproducing.” Saskia Wieringa, a Dutch academic, shared her feelings on family: “My natal family: oppressive; my family of choice: warm, responsible, supportive; my family by marriage: wife and four stepchildren – terrific, exciting.” Like Wieringa and a number of other Fellows at the session, LGBT people can find themselves estranged from their birth families or face the difficult decision of having to leave them for their own and their family’s safety. Some choose to build their own family of supporters, close friends, and lovers.  Danish Sheikh, a lawyer and LGBT rights advocate in India added: “Family to me is a community of love that we create by choice, as opposed to just one we are born in to. It is an institution that can be incredibly disempowering – but also unleash power.” For Wong, family is “realness and togetherness, sticking together despite all the challenges, and just being able to come out of who we are inside. It doesn’t matter if the parents are queer, or the child is queer, we should be able to talk about it.” By sharing these personal stories, Salzburg Global seeks to challenge misrepresentations of sexual and gender diversity, help understand the similarities and differences, advance the rights of LGBT individuals and their families, and ultimately build stronger, more inclusive societies.

New Partnership

The “Family Is...” project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The Ministry’s support of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum began with its participation in the 2014 session in Berlin, Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations. Speaking at the 2015 session, State Secretary Ralf Kleindiek explained why his ministry is supporting the project: “Collaboration with the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is important because family is for most people a crucial part of their lives, of their identities,” he said. “It is important that we have a very wide interpretation of what family is. Family is whenever people of different generations look after each other. Married or unmarried, with children or not, old and young, same-sex or heterosexual couples. It is a very serious matter of discrimination if we define family as a closed unit.” While the Christian Democrats, the major coalition partner in the current German government, take a more conservative line (German Chancellor and CDU party leader Angela Merkel has defined marriage as “exclusively between a man and a woman”), the Ministry of Family Affairs – led by the minor coalition partner, the Social Democrats – forges clear changes, both policy-wise and symbolically. The ministry raised the “rainbow” LGBT Pride Flag from its buildings in 2014 during Gay Pride – the first time it had been raised by a German federal ministry. On his hopes for the project, Kleindiek said: “We learn from the LGBT Forum how discussions in Germany influence them, and how their discussions in other countries influence us in Germany.... I hope we will see in which situations people in different countries are living in Europe, but also in other parts of our world. I am looking forward to the results of this project, and I am very happy that we can support it.” The project will continue with the ministry’s support for the next session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum that will take place in Chiang Rai, Thailand, in October 2016 and will focus on The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion.

Stories Shared 

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum’s “Family Is...” project collects and disseminates authentic stories about experiences and definitions of families. These stories have been captured on film and in print.  The first “Family Is...” publication features several personal stories from our Fellows, to whom we are indebted for their generosity in sharing their own histories and opinions, and traces the theme of inclusion and family in art and activist projects around the world. The publication and the full collection of video testimonies and interviews, as well as further information on the “Family Is...” project and more life stories, can be found on the dedicated webpage: lgbt.SalzburgGlobal.org/family-is 
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Danish Sheikh - Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi
Danish Sheikh at Session 551 - Global LGBT Forum - Strengthening Communities:
Danish Sheikh - Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi
Patrick Wilson 
Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Fellow Danish Sheikh has been featured in an article for the New York Times entitled “Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi.” Sheikh worked at the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, India, primarily focusing on conducting research and on litigation and activism concerning LGBT rights. He has been assisting with two briefs in the Indian Supreme Court that is attempting to decriminalize homosexuality in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code states that people can face life imprisonment for committing “carnal intercourse against the order of the nature.” Due to the subjective interpretation of the order of nature, the law has been used to prosecute members of the LGBT community as well as material to blackmail them. In the article Sheikh talks about his own personal experiences working to fight the case at the Alternative Law Forum while struggling with his family confronting his sexuality. At one time, his family even sent him to a psychiatrist as an attempt to cure his homosexuality. Confronted with the psychiatrist wild theories, Skeikh threatened to sue him for malpractice - which was followed by a huge fight within his family. But that fight proved to be cathartic. “After that, things got a lot easier,” Danish Sheikh said, "The origins of Section 377 can be found during the British rule of India in the 1800s. Despite a court decision that finally ended this colonial law and decriminalized sex between consenting adults in 2009, the judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India in 2013." Now the Indian Supreme Court has accepted to review of Section 377 once again. Sheikh - who recently started to work for the International Commission of Jurists and closely follows the case - explained in an interview with Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, where the process stands: "The latest order from the Court notes that the petition will be referred to a 5 judge Constitution Bench. This indicates that the Court is committed to engaging with the matter at the depth it deserves and will re-examine all the arguments that were raised and discarded in its prior ruling which recriminalized same-sex relations in the country. Hopes are high that the Court will set right the great wrong of that ruling."  He also pointed out that "the transgender community has often been at the very forefront of LGBT advocacy in the country. The Supreme Court's judgment of 2014 - that affirmed the constitutional rights and freedoms of transgender persons - provided transgender individuals in the country with a path breaking charter of rights. It also paved the way for a more inclusive jurisprudence with respect to sexuality and gender." Sheihk shared his recent Op-ed for the Indian Express in which he explained the potential extensive effects of a Supreme Court vote for the 'right to love' beyond LGBT equality, for example in the protection of now disputed inter-caste unions or inter-faith relationships.  Sheikh is a member of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum since its third meeting on Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion in 2015. You can see his interview on the legal situation in India for the Global LGBT Forum website here.  During the session, he hosted a table at the “Knowledge Café” on “Reading between the lines: Battling discriminatory laws.” The group discussed legal mechanisms to push LGBT rights forward, such as narrowing the scope of discriminatory laws or broadening legal principles to make them more inclusive. Sheikh shared with human rights defenders from around the world the legal strategies the LGBT community has used in India, such as making oppressive laws irrelevant by preventing enforcements; fracturing the law by highlighting conflictive laws; and expanding the coverage of transgender laws to include as many LGBT groups as possible. You can read the full report from the 2015 session here.
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NEWSLETTER

 

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VIDEOS

 

In the lead up to our fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, we're sharing videos from our session in Chiang Rai, Thailand last year.

This week's theme is ASIA

Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Klaus Mueller explains why the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum met in Asia

Laurindo Garcia on the diversity and complexity of LGBT lives in Asia

Bao Chau Nguyen and Seakley Pipi Say on being happy & transgender

Thilaga Sulathireh on LGBT communities in Asia

Passang Dorji on coming out on TV in Bhutan and the progress made in his country since then

Cha Roque about being a lesbian filmmaker

Pema Dorji on being bullied in school