Koenders: equal rights for LHBTI worldwide are still a long way off

On Wednesday 17 May the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress, a symbol of protest against homophobia, made an appearance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The skirt of the dress, measuring 16 metres in diameter, is made out of flags of countries where homosexual acts are still against the law.

The dress was exhibited at the ministry as part of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). On Wednesday afternoon, this important occasion will be commemorated with an event at the ministry featuring the participation of foreign minister Bert Koenders, various NGOs, human rights defenders and ambassadors from countries that are part of the Equal Rights Coalition. At the event Mr Koenders will deliver a speech on equal rights for LGBTI people around the world. Top model Valentijn de Hingh, who is herself transgender, will be presenting the dress.

‘This dress is a tangible illustration of how much work still needs to be done to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) people,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘Recent reports from Chechnya about the persecution of LGBTI people show that homophobia is still the order of the day in some countries. In response to these reports, the Equal Rights Coalition called on Russia to investigate the violence in Chechnya and to hold the authorities concerned responsible.’

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress was designed by the Dutch artists Arnout van Krimpen, Jochem Kaan, Mattijs van Bergen and Oeri van Woezik. The dress was fashioned out of the flags of 75 countries. When the relevant laws in one of the countries change, that country’s national flag will be replaced by a rainbow flag.

The Equal Rights Coalition is a partnership of 33 countries, which was launched last year in Montevideo by the Netherlands and Uruguay. Mr Koenders was in Uruguay for the occasion. Two new countries will be joining the Coalition soon: Lithuania and Malta. The body’s aim is to defend the rights of the LGBTI community because all forms of discrimination should be prohibited.

Promoting equal rights for LGBTI people is one of the priorities of the Netherlands’ foreign human rights policy. This is underscored by the 2016 edition of the Human Rights Report, which will be available online as of Wednesday. The report presents an overview of what the Netherlands is doing to promote human rights around the world. 

During the afternoon programme the ambassadors of the Equal Rights Coalition will have a discussion with representatives of NGOs and businesses about the role of diplomacy in promoting equal rights around the world and about possible partnerships in this area.

After 17 May the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress will embark on an international tour, to draw broader attention to this issue. On 18 May the dress will make its first stop: San Francisco.