‘Prejudice based violence towards lesbian and bisexual women and trangender persons'

On the 29th of February 2012 Minister of Education Van Bijsterveldt gave a speech on tackling violence against lesbians and transgenders at the United Nations in New York.

[NB. The spoken words applies]

  • Ladies and gentlemen and others. I wish you all a warm welcome. To my fellow Ministers and deputy Ministers from Norway, Great Britain and South Africa: it is wonderful to be together with you here. A special word of welcome also to Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights of the United Nations and to Virginia Giménez from Argentina. 
  • I also would like to thank the Ford Foundation, which has graciously opened its doors to us. You are fighting injustice around the world, you are committed to international cooperation and mutual understanding. And you want to give people the opportunity to develop to their full potential. These goals are in harmony with the goals that we as countries embrace in fighting discrimination and violence  towards  LBT women . So we all really feel at home here.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we have come together today as countries to take leadership and share our experiences in protecting lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. I am looking forward to hear about the experiences from others. But first let me tell you something more about our experiences and our specific Dutch approach.
  • That takes us back to the year 1964. The year that the Dutch-Jewish designer Mr. Benno Premsela appeared as the first openly gay man on Dutch national television. He did so to promote understanding and show people that the similarities between heterosexuals and homosexuals are greater than the differences. That was brave in a time when the prevailing attitude in the Netherlands was not yet so enlightened. 
  • Our country may have a long tradition of tolerating different kinds of thinking and different kinds of religions. But we have a much shorter tradition of tolerating LGBT-people.  In 1964 the Dutch language had only just adopted a neutral word for being gay: homosexuality. In those days, a woman or man under 21 could still be arrested for openly having a same sex relationship. This was part of a law abolished only in 1971, a law that caused considerable suffering among men and women in our country.  
  • We’ve come a long way in the Netherlands – just like other countries. But since we as a government have taken a stand alongside our LGBT citizens, inspired by people like Benno Premsela, we made tremendous steps forward and I am proud of that. As a Christian Democrat, I am sincerely convinced that we can only build a loving society when there is respect and tolerance for each other, whatever the differences are. And that’s why we not only want full legal equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation. We also want to raise awareness and understanding for sexual diversity by promoting openness and fostering dialogue. In my country the policy for lesbians and bisexuals is integrated in the LGBT policies as a whole. 
  • Let me give you some concrete examples of our policy:
  • Almost half of the Dutch LGBT-youth feel it is too unsafe at school to come out of the closet. That’s why I support gay-straight alliances of pupils at school. And that’s why we’re going to mandate that all Dutch schools teach about sexuality education which implies also sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • We actively support gay-straight alliances in our country and abroad: representatives of the gay movement and community-organizations who engage in debate not only at schools but also at the workplace, in sports, in health care and in public spaces.
  • And in connection to today’s topic: the Dutch government will impose heavy sanctions on discriminatory violence, including transphobic and homophobic violence. 
  • As we speak, we are working on new law to abolish the demand that requires transgenders to be sterilized as part of an official gender change. This is partly based on recommendations made by Human Rights Watch, the Council of Europe and the CEDAW  shadow report of NGOs. 
  • The government welcomed a joint statement by Christian churches against violence directed at LGBT people. And we are encouraging Dutch Muslims to talk about accepting different orientations and identities within and outside their own community. Over the past years the negative attitude against LGTB in religious communities and migrant organizations is gradually improving.
  • We support our ambassadors abroad, who join in demonstrations for the protection of LGTB-rights in countries all over the world. And we assist NGO’s that are committed to helping LGBT people who have become victims of violence. Finally, we actively support the LGBT-Federation Ilga-Europe in its working relations with the police in counteracting homophobic and transphobic violence.
  • We came from far, and since then we’re forging ahead. We’re proud of that. But there’s still room for improvement. Tolerance of sexual diversity is unfortunately not a given in our countries. We need to keep working on it. Day by day. Week by week. Year by year. 
  • And the same goes for us. Together as we are here in diversity, united for the same goal. We are working towards a world where acceptance and equality of LGBT people is the norm. That world might still be ‘somewhere over the rainbow’, but we are getting closer to it by the day. In the words of my fellow countryman Boris Dittrich, director of Human Rights Watch: “The future lies not before us, it is within us.”