Riksdagsledamot Olof Lavessons tal på Tel Aviv Pride Week

Så här skriver riksdagsledamot Olof Lavesson, Moderaternas talesperson i HBTQ-frågor på sin Facebooksida:

Deltog idag som Keynote speaker vid ‪#‎40yearsofpride i Tel Aviv. En global konferens arrangerad av Israels HBTQ-rörelse Aguda (som fyller 40 år) och amerikanska ”A wider bridge” som arbetar för att bygga broar mellan HBTQ-personer i USA och Israel.

I mitt tal berättade jag om de framsteg vi har gjort i Sverige, men också om de stora problem många HBTQ-personer fortfarande möter.

Israel har förändrat och förbättrat sin lagstiftning på många sätt, men även här kvarstår oerhört många problem.

Läs hela talet här:

First of all I would like to thank you for inviting me to this conference! It has truly been a great experience with interesting meetings and conversations. Yesterday’s trip to Jerusalem was amazing. The visit to the Yad Vashem was impressive, where we truly learned the importance of never forgetting, and also the meeting at the Knesset with the LGBTQ-lobby group. I believe that the stories and experiences of the young transgender people moved us all, and is definitely something I will bear with me upon my return to Sweden.

I would also like to congratulate Aguda on your birthday. I’m about the same age as you, and I can only agree with what was said Tuesday night at the reception about how much things have changed since Aguda and I were born. It is, thank God, a different society, a different climate, and a different world. It is more open, more tolerant, and more including. To think that they, in the 70’s, would have the type of discussions that we have today in the Swedish parliament or that we had yesterday in the Knesset is impossible.

We can once and for all say to those who claim that things were better the way they used to be, that you are wrong! Things have never been better! But they are not good enough! Far from it!

However I would like to correct you on one thing. You said the other night that the LGBT-community in Israel was founded 40 years ago. Sorry, but you are also wrong. The LGBT-community is not an organization. It’s not a political party. It’s not a matter of legislation. The LGBT-community consists of human beings. LGBT-people have always been here. LGBT-people were here long before the events described in the Bible, and they will never leave!

During these last few days I’ve also learned a lot about Israel and the situation for LGBT-people here. Even though I’m impressed by what you have done politically, and Israel is in many ways a progressive country, it’s also clear that much more has to be done. Coming from another very progressive country, I can say that the same thing goes for Sweden.

I was asked to talk a little about the political situation and the situation for LGBT-people in Sweden. I know that I am very privileged to live in a progressive country, which is a privilege that many of you here do not share with me. Homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries, and punishable by death in four.

Sweden is by many considered one of the most progressive countries in the world. Not only when it comes to the situation for LGBT-persons but also when it comes to gender equality, openness, transparency and democratic rights. We and Israel share the position of the most innovative country in the world. Sweden has also been named the most creative country in the world by Richard Florida at the Martin Prosperity Institute, due to the three T’s of economic development – Technology, Talent and Tolerance – where Tolerance, and what Florida calls “The Gay Index”, plays an important part.

During the last decades we have also passed new legislation in several different areas. Our marriage-legislation is gender neutral. We have the same legislation when it comes to the adoption of children, regardless of whether you are straight, a same-sex couple or single. We are right now moving forward with new legislation when it comes to insemination where you will have the same support and public funding regardless if you are a man and a woman, two women or a single woman.

When it comes to transgender persons, you no longer have to be a Swedish citizen or dissolve your marriage to have change of gender recognized by law, or to get gender reassignment. We recently abolished coercive sterilization and have agreed to review how we can strengthen the transgender perspective when it comes to our legislation on hate crimes. For the first time we also have a national LGBT-strategy adopted by our government.

I represent the Moderate, or Conservative, Party in the Swedish Parliament– even though we are today more of a center-right party, and I have to confess, as in many other countries it’s not the right wing party that has been the most progressive part. Even though much of our improved legislation has been passed under center-right governments – and to be quite frank we have a bad track record.

I never really understood why this seems to be the case. I mean, as a right-wing politician it has always been important for me to stand up and fight for every single individual. Not only when it comes to the economy, but in every sense of the word, regardless of your background or your heritage. No matter where you come from or what you believe in. No matter whom you love or what you feel is your true gender or personality. But I often still meet colleagues from other right-wing parties who do all they can to keep the government out of their wallets – but who gladly invites the government into the bedroom.

I often say that I’ve experienced two coming out processes in my life. My own when I was a teenager – and that was the easy part – and my party’s – and that was the difficult one. It helped that our former party leader, Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt, who has also been Prime Minister for eight years until last fall, is truly committed when it comes to LGBT-rights. Today we are a driving force for change. Not only talking, but delivering. We are out and proud!

Last fall when we had our most recent elections, almost all eight parties in parliament (with some exception) fought for who had the best program for LGBT-persons, during the campaign. No party wants to reverse the process today, although there might be some difference in the need for speed when it comes to new legislation.

The new government, consisting of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, is continuing the important work and I am convinced that there will be an absolute majority when it comes to future legislation.

However, it’s not all about legislation. We can pass all the laws we want, but LGBT-persons are still suffering in many ways. The national LGBT-strategy focuses on this and a lot of surveys have been carried out, with the result that there are a number of problems that need to be addressed.

If we look at the younger population, it is clear that young LGBT-persons are much worse off than other young people, in all areas. Their health situation is worse, both physical and psychological. They are the target of discrimination, threats and violence of a totally different caliber.

25% of young LGBT-women have considered suicide. The figure for other young women is 8%. Every fifth young LGBT-person in Sweden has experienced physical violence. Not from their schoolmates or unknown persons, but from a parent, a parent’s partner or another adult, or next of kin.

They are also in a terrible situation when it comes to violence and abuse due to an honorary culture. When it comes to physical activity or participation in civil societies, 43% of young Swedes are active in some way, but only 28% of young LGBT-persons. They do not feel safe when they’re out in the city, at their schools or, or in some cases even in their own homes.

We talk a lot of young LGBT-persons, and we must continue to do so, but a group that we seldom mention at conferences like this is senior LGBT-persons. Their situation is completely different, but not necessarily easier. Some of them, at least in Sweden, have grown up during a period when homosexuality was a crime. They grew up as criminals just for being themselves. Most of their lives, their sexual preferences have been considered a disease.

It’s not easy being in a situation in which you depend on others to take care of you, when you are at your most vulnerable, and on top of that having to come out again, every day, to new doctors, nurses or aid-staff in your own home. A situation where people think it’s “cute” or “quaint” that this old lady has found a friend to live with, when it’s really her life partner and has been her lover for many, many years. And in case they can no longer live on their own, they’re often separated from their partner and have to live their last years alone, often with other senior citizens who grew up in a time that was not so open, tolerant and progressive filled with prejudice.

We know that many senior LGBT-persons choose to step back into the closet when they get older. It’s just easier that way. But it is not worthy a progressive community in 2015. Not even one out of ten Swedish municipalities has included an LGBT-perspective when they educate staff to take care of senior citizens. It’s simply not ok.

The third area in which we need to improve is the rule of law. Regardless of whether we discuss hate crimes, harassment, sexual abuse or domestic violence, the competence and knowledge in our police force, in our courts, and with our lawyers and attorneys is just not adequate. As a citizen, you must be able to have faith in the legal system. You must know that you will be taken seriously, and that people will listen, understand, and fight for your right.

None of this can be solved only with legislation. It’s a matter of culture, acceptance and of education. It’s the responsibility of municipalities, of private corporations, and of civil society. As one young person at the Knesset said yesterday, “Don’t send us all to Tel Aviv! Make it possible for us to live where we are today!”

We shouldn’t be forced to live in certain cities, go to certain schools or see certain doctors. We should have the right to be met and seen everywhere. Not for WHAT we are, but for WHO we are. This, I believe, is one of our biggest challenges in the future.

Before I end this speech, I want to say something about the situation for transgender persons. As I said before, yesterday’s discussions were truly inspirational for me. The only conclusion you can make, however, is that we still have a very long way to go.

In Sweden half of the transgender persons have at some time considered taking their own lives. 20% have tried, and keep in mind that we are talking about a fairly progressive country like Sweden.

I’m also a member in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. I was happy to be able to take part in the debate this April, and vote for the very first resolution that especially focuses on the rights of transgender people in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states.

Let me just clarify one thing: Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is NOT compatible with the Council of Europe’s standards, and has not been such for a very long time. However, transgender people are still living under terrible conditions in many, many countries.

The debate in April was important, as was the resolution, but some of the arguments during the debate also frightened me. Several opinions were raised that the resolution would interfere with national legislation, and that this is a matter for national courts and authorities.

Nothing could be more wrong. We may have different opinions regarding culture, traditions and beliefs; but human rights, the equal rights and dignity of all human beings, the right not to be discriminated, to not be bullied, and to achieve the same level of service and support, these rights are something that we ALL must believe in, and that each and every citizen should be entitled to.

However, I want to tell you something. We are not alone. Sometimes we feel that we are very special as a community, and that we are totally unique. But we are not. I often think that if you want to know who shares your challenges – ask the haters.

They do not hate because we are gay, lesbian, transgender or intergender. They hate because we’re not like them. And as a matter of fact, we’re not the only ones who are not like them. That is a “problem” that we share with many. It’s about the equality between men and women. The gender gap. It’s about the respect for different beliefs, different backgrounds, heritage, culture, and religion.

The big secret – and please don’t tell the haters – is that they are the minority. We who don’t fit into the standards of the so-called traditional way of living are the majority. If we want to succeed in moving borders and in creating a more inclusive and tolerant world, we need to join hands with all of those who don’t seem to fit in with the expected!

Last but not least I want to welcome you all to Sweden. There was a small quarrel yesterday in Jerusalem, about where the biggest Pride parade is. Is it in Tel Aviv or San Francisco?? I’ve checked this and let me give you the facts:

Tel Aviv Pride Parade is the biggest pride parade…. in Asia! With about a 100 000 participants. San Francisco wins. It probably has about one million participants. Sao Paolo has had the greatest Pride Parade in the world with about 2.5 million participants.

Stockholm Pride is a bit smaller. We have about 60,000 people in the parade and around 600,000 people watching it. It may not be the biggest parade in the world, but I can tell you that it is in fact the largest public event in Sweden – every year! And last year, for the first time, I had the pleasure of walking side by side with the Prime Minister, and I am certain that the new Prime Minister will join us again this August.

We celebrate Pride in the last week of July and you are all most welcome! And please stay a bit longer, because Pride is followed by the Eurogames in Stockholm between the 5th and the 9th of August. I have to confess that I don’t know that much about sports myself, but I enjoy watching it! That is, the athletes…

On Tuesday night my colleague from the Knesset said that it is so nice that the Eurovision Song Contest is over, so now we can talk Hebrew again. Well sorry… but we won. Again! So please, let me welcome you all, once again, to Sweden next May for the Eurovision Song Contest! Even though we are a little disappointed that you gave the 12 points to Italy…

Thank you all. I’m so proud to be here, and I hope to meet you all in the Parade tomorrow!

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