The ministers for equality from the Nordic countries*
When WorldPride 2021 kicks off in a few days’ time, we – the ministers for equality from the Nordic countries – will be there to show our support for equal rights. We will continue working to improve our legislation and counteract hate, igno- rance and prejudice so that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons can live free, open and good lives in the Nordic Region.
We want it to be completely clear: For as long as there is resistance to LGBTI equality in our region and around the world, we will unapologetically stand up for the full and equal enjoyment of LGBTI persons’ human rights.
We represent seven small nations – among the most progressive in the world when it comes to equality. Our countries stand out in international comparisons thanks to measures for LGBTI people to start a family and for our non-discrimination efforts.
But whoever flies the flag high must also be open to scrutiny. We are committed to collaborating with Nordic LGBTI organisations to work on and speak openly about our shortcomings. To this end:
- Finland will be training social and health care professionals to give full consid- eration to LGBTI children and teenagers and improve knowledge on their specific needs.
- In Greenland, the government is working on interactive tools for young peo- ple in school to improve equality and raise awareness of LGBTI rights.
- The government of Åland has, together with the organisation Regnbågs- fyren, developed an LGBTI certification system for workplaces and institutions, with the aim of making them more inclusive and free from bias and discrimination.
- Denmark is improving its legislation to explicitly outlaw discrimination, hate speech and hate crime based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.
- In Iceland, individuals older than 15 and children with parental consent now have the right to change their gender registration and register as gender neutral. Unnecessary medical interventions on minors born with atypical sex characteristics are prohibited until the child themselves can give informed consent.
- Sweden is working to further modernise its family law to better reflect differ- ent family constellations and to make the law more inclusive and gender neutral. At the same time, efforts are continuing to present a new law on legal gender recognition.
- In Norway, the government is taking legislative steps to protect against con- version therapy, a practice often referred to as actions to make a person change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity. Because con- version therapy deprives a person of their liberty to live a full, good and equal life, the government has started the process to ban conversion therapy on minors and on persons who undergo conversion therapies without consent or under improper circumstances.
Despite this progress, the Nordic countries still have work to do.
We know that young LGBTI people face harassment and discrimination at school, online and within their own families. A Nordic study shows that LGBTI pupils, to a greater degree than their peers, lack a supportive school environment, which can then lead to bullying and higher absence, school fatigue and insecurity.
We share a common obligation to make sure that health, education and care professionals are trained on LGBTI issues. Authorities need to help ensure that young LGBTI people feel free being out at school and that elderly LGBTI people are not forced back into the closet in old age.
We still do not know enough about the extent of multiple discrimination in the Nordic Region. Consequently, we want to uncover how inequality and discrimination of LGBTI people vary and are compounded by age, disability, ethnicity, indigenous status, religion or belief, urban/rural location or socioeconomic status.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the obstacles that LGBTI people face. The UN has documented a rise in discrimination, hate speech and social and economic exclusion. Stay-at-home restrictions have locked some young people in with unsup- portive family members, increasing their exposure to violence and harassment. Dur- ing these unprecedented times, we must commit ourselves to doing better, nationally and globally.
The Nordic countries have recently made LGBTI policy part of the official regional governmental co-operation. For us, leaving no-one behind is one of the keys to a prosperous and cohesive society. In the new strategy of the Nordic Council of Ministers, we have endorsed three goals:
-We will work to promote greater freedom and openness for LGBTI people. LGBTI people should be able to live in the Nordic Region without fear of vio- lence, hate or discrimination and without having their gender identity or fam- ily structure questioned.
- We will promote a better quality of life and living conditions for LGBTI people. Healthcare must be accessible to LGBTI people on equal terms.
- We will strengthen networks and civil society in the LGBTI area. Networks between LGBTI organisations must be supported and measures that concern LGBTI people must be developed in collaboration.
Against the backdrop of WorldPride 2021, we, the Nordic ministers for gender equality and LGBTI reaffirm our commitment to further action on these goals.
We call upon other governments to speak up for equality, for the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and to denounce all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.
Our support for civil society and our shared political commitment to give everyone the means to fully enjoy all their human rights come at a critical time and will change the world for the better.
Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Co-operation and Equality, Finland and Chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021
Annika Hambrudd, Minister of Education and Culture, Åland
Abid Raja, Minister of Culture and Equality, Norway
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister, Iceland
Märta Stenevi, Minister for Gender Equality and Housing, Sweden
Naaja H. Nathanielsen, Minister for Housing, Infrastructure, Minerals and Gender Equality, Greenland
Peter Hummelgaard, Minister for Equal Opportunities, Denmark