LGBT Forum - Day Two - Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German State Secretary for Family Affairs

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May 20, 2014
by Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller
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LGBT Forum - Day Two - Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German State Secretary for Family Affairs

Salzburg Global Fellows continue their high-level meetings as part of the second Global LGBT Forum in Berlin State Secretary at the German Ministry of Family Affairs Ralf Kleindiek with Wanja Kilber and Olga Lenkova

Ralf Kleindiek, the State Secretary at the German Ministry of Family Affairs, welcomed the Global LGBT* Forum for a lunch meeting at the ministry on Monday, May 19 in Berlin.  Newly in his position since January 2014, he emphasized that the ministry is currently reviewing its policies on all LGBT-related questions to ensure and advance equality. He especially wanted to know how German policies and discussions on marriage equality, adoption, transgender rights and the safety of LGBT teenagers are perceived around the globe.

Olga Lenkova, spokesperson for Coming Out, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based LGBT support group, explained how Russian media and politicians use homo- and transphobia that is expressed in Germany, or other Western countries, to highlight that even in Western Europe there is no full support for marriage equality and full adoption rights. The lack of marriage equality for example in Germany is highlighted as a commonality between Russia and Germany. She stressed that the influence of the lack of full equality, in both marriage and adoption rights, can't be underestimated in its usage for anti-LGBT propaganda both in media and legislation in her home country.

Wanja Kilber, Chairman of the Board of Quarteera, an organization of Russian speaking LGBT people in Germany, added that the virulent homo- and transphobia of the current Russian government is also exported to other countries, not only neighboring states, but countries such as Germany. He cited the example of where Russian foundations recently financed a conference in Leipzig that brought together leading right-wing homophobic representatives from Russia, France, and Germany.  He outlined that for example the recent massive protest against school education for more tolerance and non-discrimination in the German state of Baden-Württemberg was highly influenced by Russian propaganda on the so-called protection of family, showcasing how interconnected global influences have become. Increasingly, Kilber’s NGO has had to support Russian LGBT refugees whose numbers have multiplied ten-fold over the past year.

Dennis Wamala, a human rights activist from Uganda, talked about the growing numbers of LGBT teenagers becoming homeless because they are expelled by their families in reaction to the state-sponsored homophobic legislation and public hate campaigns. Landlords now evict LGBT tenants and cite the newly passed law as the reason. 

On a more positive note, Dan Zhou, a lawyer from China, reported that the second annual conference for LGBT activists in Beijing, funded by the United Nations Development Program and organized by the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, had the approval of Chinese government departments and the China Family Planning Association.

Other members of the Global LGBT Forum shared both positive and negative developments in several African countries including South Africa, India, and the MENA region, which deeply affect family structures and cohesion. Kleindiek thanked the group for the many insights and concrete examples which showed that national discussions and legislation in Germany can influence LGBT human rights in other countries, and vice versa. Kleindiek invited the group to stay in touch with him and expressed his hope for a follow-up meeting.


The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For meeting summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt

* Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.