LGBTQ-certify all Swedish aid organizations

The Swedish LGBTQ movement and the government are on their toes about LGBTQ issues in development aid policy. Sweden provides aid to homophobic countries and through the recognition of Palestine, homophobic forces were recognized. In order to send the right signals, Sweden must include LGBTQ rights in each recipient country's performance strategy. In addition, all Swedish aid organizations should be LGBTQ-certified, writes Tobias Petersson who is an LGBTQ activist and writer with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa.

During the past Pride Week in Kulturhuset, I have had conversations with people affected by homophobia in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), about what we in Sweden can do to improve the situation for persecuted and discriminated LGBTQ people there. I have talked to LGBTQ activists from Egypt as well as from Iran. All these LGBTQ activists want Sweden to act against the governments of their former home countries, and are frustrated that so little is being done from the Swedish side.

They say that democratic reforms are needed. Democratization is also one of the goals of Swedish development policy. For decades, Sweden has pumped billion in aid after billion in aid in MENA with the goal of democratization, but achieves very pitiful results. That is not acceptable.

Send the right signals

In Sweden, we have an LGBTQ movement and government that is on its toes about LGBTQ issues when it comes to countries that receive Swedish development assistance. One should listen to the LGBTQ movement in the countries where homophobic legislation prevails, it is heard from RFSL. I can agree with that to some extent, but there are also countries where no active LGBTQ movements can exist. Examples of such are Somalia and Yemen, where the love of LGBTQ people is not only a crime but also punishable by death.

Where the voice of no national LGBTQ movement can be heard, Sweden's voice must be heard. Sweden must take the lead and demand change. We can do this because we are an important aid player in many of the most homophobic countries, such as Somalia and Yemen. It is first and foremost a matter of signaling values ​​to the aid countries, especially when we recognize new states. This was not done when the Swedish government hastily last year chose to recognize Palestine as a state. Palestinian law discriminates and criminalizes same-sex sexual relations. Sweden did not recognize democratic or human rights for LGBTQ people by recognizing Palestine as a state. Instead, undemocratic and homophobic forces were recognized.

How can Sweden send the right signals then? Well, by updating the performance strategies for countries that receive Swedish development assistance. Each country's performance strategy should include the most basic performance goal: to achieve the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. Let it be the official development aid policy.

The oppressor should not set the agenda

RFSL and other LGBTQ organizations in countries where a certain activism may occur are afraid of the setbacks that may occur if demands are made for LGBTQ rights in aid countries. They believe that the oppressive, undemocratic and homophobic regimes will punish LGBTQ people if they advocate for LGBTQ rights and condition aid.

The question is whether feminist activists would let the same fear prevent them from demanding women's rights in the same countries. I have not noticed that they are worried that the Swedish government's demands for women's rights in aid countries could lead to men going home and beating their wives more. The oppressor does not set the agenda for the feminist struggle, but when it comes to fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people, it seems perfectly legitimate to let those who beat, oppress and murder us set the agenda. That's terribly wrong.

No to LGBTQ rights = no to democracy

Those of us who believe that aid should benefit and lead to democratic development cannot allow LGBTQ rights to continue to be excluded from human rights. A real democracy can not exist without LGBTQ rights. When countries say no to LGBTQ rights, they say no to democracy. Then the aid work to achieve democracy in those countries is in vain and only benefits the undemocratic forces that rule there.

There are more Swedish politicians can do to raise the rights of LGBTQ people. At the beginning of Pride Week, Minister for Development Aid Isabella Lövin and Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke went out in a debate article in Expressen and promised that there would be a radical increase in skills at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and embassies regarding LGBTQ issues. That's fine, but it's not enough. The development assistance authority Sida's Swedish co-operation organizations that run development projects should also be LGBTQ-certified. That, and updated performance strategies that include LGBT rights, would send the right signal to the world's homophobic and oppressive regimes. In addition, it would send the right signal to their oppressed victims, us LGBTQ people, that LGBTQ rights are human rights and a priority in Swedish development aid policy.

Tobias Peterson

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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