Born With Pride
International Conference Addresses LGBTQIA+ Rights in South Asia and Europe

in Brussels
Panel Discussion on Being Queer and LGBTQIA+ in South Asia and Europe

Panel Discussion on Being Queer and LGBTQIA+ in South Asia and Europe

© FNF Europe

Brussels, April 9, 2024 - The intersection of LGBTQIA+ rights and legislative reform took centre stage at a landmark event held in Brussels on April 9th, 2024. Organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) South Asia and European Dialogue, the conference brought together leaders, policymakers, and activists from across South Asia and Europe to discuss the progress and challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community. The event commenced with the release of comprehensive papers examining the status of LGBTQIA+ rights in both regions.

Across South Asian nations, the landscape of legal recognition for LGBTQIA+ communities varies significantly, with some countries making commendable strides in decriminalization and formal acknowledgment of same-sex relationships. The legal recognition of transgender rights in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and steps towards the decriminalization of homosexuality in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are such examples of progressive trends. However, persistent challenges loom large, particularly in jurisdictions like Afghanistan and the Maldives, where interpretations of Sharia law impose severe punishment up to the death penalty, hindering progress in LGBTQIA+ rights.

While transgender rights have been legally recognized in most South Asian countries due to the cultural and religious significance of the so-called Hijra community, the protection of gay rights are lagging behind. Thus Nepal is the only country with protection against legal discrimination and is together with Bhutan the only country which has taken steps to decriminalize homosexual activities. Premnath Dolawatte, a MP from Sri Lanka, who participated in the Brussels conference is aiming to change this as he introduced a bill in the Sri Lankan parliament to decriminalize homosexual activities and to abandon the colonial-time sodomy law. Mr. Dolawatte shared insights into his legislative efforts in Sri Lanka, expressing optimism for future reforms, stating: stating, "Collaboration with international partners is paramount. Together, we can create a more inclusive society for all.". Mr. Michael Kauch, a Member of the European Parliament from the Renew Europe Group, emphasized the evolving landscape of LGBTQIA+ rights, highlighting both progress and persistent challenges. Mr. Kauch also lauded recent legislative reforms in Germany while acknowledging the ongoing struggle for equality across Europe, concluding about the conference "events like these serve as vital platforms for fostering dialogue and collaboration on a global scale."

Panel Discussion

The European Union (EU) has emerged as a prominent advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights globally, with significant strides made in recent years through initiatives like the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025, championed by key institutions such as the Commission and Parliament. Despite progress, a notable gap exists between the more progressive North and West and the conservative South and East EU member states. Furthermore, challenges persist beyond the EU borders, with LGBTQIA+ individuals facing severe threats in various European countries. Europe has become a battleground for LGBTQIA+ rights, with right-wing populists promoting discrimination and hate speech, leading to the erosion of previous achievements. Socio-political discussions have highlighted critical themes such as hate crime, trans-rights, migration, and asylum. In South Asia, LGBTQIA+ rights progress amidst a complex landscape of change and challenges. While there has been increased visibility and legal recognition over the past two decades, right-wing governments, populism, economic crises, and socio-political unpredictability hinder comprehensive integration. To address these issues, the European Dialogue of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is organizing this event, focusing on understanding the LGBTQIA+ situation in both South Asia and Europe. The event aims to encourage political debate and develop liberal policies amidst ongoing elections in South Asia and the upcoming EU election in 2024. By facilitating discussions on the current political landscape in both regions, the foundation seeks to promote liberal values through cross-regional exchanges.

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