Freedom does not happen by itself. Respond to the backlash against gender equality and LGBTI rights
Saturday night on 25 June got off to a good start in Oslo. It was the Pride Festival. It was the day before the Pride Parade.
Oslo was draped in the colours of the rainbow. There was a festive air about town. Many were out celebrating free love, the right to love whom you want. They were celebrating pride, the right to be what you are. They were celebrating the spirit of community.
Suddenly, the rainbows were painted black.
Shots were fired among the festivities. Two people died and 26 were injured. It was an attack against us all, but the LGBTI community was the hardest hit.
As Nordic ministers responsible for gender equality and LGBTI, we are troubled over all the discrimination, hatred and violence committed on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. When someone is beaten up for being transgender. When ‘homo’ is used as a word of abuse. When LGBTI people have suicidal feelings or attempt suicide more often than others in the Nordic countries, or when they are ill at ease or alone more often others. Or when a greater share of LGBTI people undergo physical, psychological or sexual violence. Then we have a serious problem in our hands.
Throughout history, LGBTI people have been discriminated, even by means of legislation, for having an identity or a sexual orientation different from that of the majority. Despite progress for LGBTI people in the Nordic countries, the attack in Oslo reminds us that there are people who do not want an inclusive society where there is room for differences. No one should feel they are wrong or be discriminated for being who they are or for loving whom they love, not anywhere and not in the Nordic countries.
The debate about the equal opportunities of LGBTI people is marred by a harsh tone. This is a problem especially online where it is easy to forget that you are talking with real people who have real problems. It is distressing. Because they are the kind of people we should be listening to. The kind of people we should be supporting. They are courageous in being who they are. They are an inspiration to us all.
As Nordic ministers, we acknowledge that the topic is difficult and filled with dilemmas. There must be room for difficult discussions, too. But we must insist that the discussions are open, clear and correct. Because as society, we must agree on one thing. We must stand united against hatred and discrimination.
So far, we have not won the fight for a society that is free, inclusive and safe for everyone. That is why we must remind ourselves that equality is a fundamental human right. Freedom does not happen by itself. It has never done so. It will never do so.
We cannot rest on our laurels and be content with flying our rainbow flags during Pride.
We will work for progress. We will keep our conviction that human rights, freedom and diversity must benefit everyone. And we in the Nordic countries want to frontrunners.
Signed by Prime Minister and Minister for Gender Equality of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister for Transport and Gender Equality of Denmark Trine Bramsen, Minister for Culture and Equality of Norway Anette Trettebergstuen, Minister for Finance, Minerals, Justice and Gender Equality of Greenland Naaja H. Nathanielsen, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland Thomas Blomqvist.