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Speech of Kirsten Meijer at the Rainbow Rose Conference

door Kirsten Meijer op 8 augustus 2016

Rainbow Rose and the PvdA Roze Netwerk organized the EuroPride 2016 conference on “LGBTI rights in Europe, political answers to an activist analysis” on the 5th of August 2016. Underneath you can find the opening speech of PvdA International Secretary Kirsten Meijer.

Dear friends,

I don’t know if you already had the chance to take a walk in the centre of Amsterdam. If you haven’t, I hope you will find some time to do so. If you have, perhaps you would have noticed that the rainbow flag can be seen everywhere. It makes me feel happy and proud. We can and we will celebrate the freedom to be able to are who you are, together. A right that should be normal, but unfortunately still isn’t in the world today.

I am so delighted we can celebrate this year’s Pride together with you, our international guests, and I would like to welcome you all to our party headquarters. A special welcome to the Honourable Minister, Helena Dalli from Malta, Julie Ward, MEP for the Labour Party, Sedef Çakmak and Selina Doğan from the CHP Turkey, Marije Laffeber – former International Secretary of the PvdA and now Deputy Secretary General of the PES, and last but not least, the initiator of this conference, Aurélien Mazuy, President of Rainbow Rose.

Tomorrow we will have a party on our boat, we will wave flags and dance to the music. But we wouldn’t be real socialdemocrats if we would not have a serious part, a part of reflection and political discussion on how to improve the world. That part is today and I would like to express my appreciation to the PES and Rainbow Rose, José and Aurélien, as well as my colleague Elmar and Bea Tilanus and Antoine van Lune of the Pink Network of the PvdA, who have delivered a tremendous effort to organize this conference. Thank you.

We are honoured to host this conference of Rainbow Rose in our party headquarters. It is quite special, because this will be the last conference in this building, before we move to a new location, and I could not think of a better way to end our stay here.

The Dutch Labour Party has embraced the struggle for LGBTI rights in the Netherlands at an early stage. In 1998 it was PvdA state secretary Elizabeth Schmitz who implemented the same-sex registered partnership and within three years it was PvdA state secretary Job Cohen who introduced the same-sex marriage, as the first country in the world. The images of the first same-sex marriages in the Netherlands are now part of our collective memory.

Today, not only our politicians continue the fight for emancipation and acceptance. Also our Pink Network, founded by members of the PvdA, is working hard to promote LGBTI rights in the party as well as broader society. It is great to see that the Pink Network is one of the most active and professional networks within our party, doing such an important job. A job that still needs to be done.

Despite established legal rights, we still experience problems with the acceptance of homosexuality in The Netherlands, which was shown by a recent research of the Dutch Central Agency for Statistics (CBS). The research showed strong support for legal rights, like same-sex marriage, but unveiled a still present discomfort with or even disapproval of two men or two women kissing or walking hand in hand. Also it was shown that acceptance is much lower in certain groups in society: religious people, very old people, lower educated people and people with a migrant background are more often negative about homo- bi or transgender sexuality.

I am well aware that things can be much worse. We only have to remind the horrific shootings in Orlando and the repression of the Gay Pride in Istanbul to realize this. But it proves one point I would like to make today: the struggle for tolerance and equal rights is not only about legal arrangements on paper. It is a continuing struggle for acceptance and cultural change.

We only have to take a look at the map of Europe to see this struggle doesn’t stop at our borders. We, social democrats, we want human dignity for everyone, no matter where you were born and no matter what you background is. I cannot underline enough the importance of organization such as Rainbow Rose for making progress in this field.

Rainbow Rose is a key-organization in promoting LGBTI-rights in our European political family. Thanks to Rainbow Rose LGBTI-rights are now central to PES policies and discussions and action is undertaken when rights are at stake. We all know this is not an easy task and we have experienced quite some disappointments the past years.

But we won’t give up and today I would like to repeat what I have been saying the past years several times to Aurélien: you can be sure the PvdA is at your side. I am eager and I am committed to continue our cooperation, to support a PES LGBTI roadmap and to keep on denouncing violations of LGBTI rights, outside and as well as inside our political family.

Together, with all the parties united in the PES we can and we should take the lead in the fight for equal rights in Europe.

I am proud that in June, under the Dutch Presidency, and with the strong support of our PvdA-Minister Jet Bussemaker, for the first time ever, the 28 EU member states agreed at the Council to work against “any discrimination” against LGBTI people. Also it was agreed to step up European efforts on equality.

Under the terms of the agreement, the European Commission will prepare an annual progress report on the position of LGBTI rights across every European country, evaluating progress across a number of areas and identifying recommendations for reform.

Perhaps this all sounds rather bureaucratic and far away from daily life, but I don’t think so. I am convinced it is crucial to have a common European vision and goals that not only ensure collective action against countries and organisations that infringe the rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender and intersex persons. But also to stand together to support positive developments and promote our European values of human dignity and equality.

With international solidarity at the heart of our ideology it is our task to keep on searching for new solutions and ways to support each other. Today is part of that endeavour and I am looking forward to your contributions and our discussions. It is my pleasure now to give the floor to my predecessor and current Deputy Secretary General of the PES, Marije Laffeber. Thank you.

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