Human Rights Conference adopts ‘From Safe Harbours to Equality’

Kathy Wolfe (L) and Barb Verhage (R) of make their first friend at the Antwerp Human Rights Conference – Anita Kartosemito of Surinam (middle).

Kathy Wolfe (L) and Barb Verhage (R) of make their first friend at the Antwerp Human Rights Conference – Anita Kartosemito of Surinam (middle).


The Human Rights Conference preceded the worldOutgames in Antwerp, Belgium, last week. The conference included three days of sharing and discussion among representatives from 118 countries, resulting in the the adoption of the “From Safe Harbors to Equality” document, the full text of which follows.

Considering that GLISA (the Gay & Lesbian International Sports Association) and WOGA2013 (the organizing committee of the worldOutgames III, Antwerp 2013) share the dream of a world where equality is a reality for everyone;

Considering that all human rights deserve equal attention, as members of the global LGBTI community we appreciate the freedom to be able to strive for our rights, we believe there is no ranking in fundamental rights and we affirm our solidarity with other groups striving for fundamental human rights from other perspectives;

Considering that it is the corporate responsibility of the LGBTI community around the globe to support dedicated agents of small step driven change everywhere in the world;

Considering that the right to equality achieved at a small scale level make sense only where it happens in interaction with the larger world and the global discourse on equality make sense only when it enables daily life improvement for LGBTI people;

Considering that protection against persecution, the fight against discrimination, full recognition of family relationships, responsible and inclusive education, inclusion in public bodies as well as the right to self identification to a gender and legal affirmation of that gender, correspond to the will of LGBTI people;

Considering that all over the globe LGBTI people of all ages are still subject to flagrant violations of their fundamental rights and that consensual same-sex sexual activity is still criminalized in 76 countries;

Considering that stigma, self-stigma and discrimination obstructs LGBTI access to healthcare, education and other public services;

Considering that every individual should be free to make choices concerning religion, spirituality and faith independently of sexual orientation and gender identity;

Considering that LGBTI people are full members of society and have multiple facets of their identities, such as their gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, health, gender, STD and HIV-status, age, religion, disability and other, they may be subject to multiple discriminations, and that such facets of identity can be a source for partnerships and involvement of other members of society;

Considering the gender policy as elaborated by GLISA to enable all participants to participate in a safe and welcoming environment;

GLISA and the third worldOutgames edition commit, in the name of the participants in this conference, to create and stimulate meaningful progress in the achievement of equality by the inspiring assembly of change workers around the world, in particular every time that anywhere around the world, an Outgames takes place, be the event a regional Outgames or a world Outgames.

Consequently, and taking into account the aforementioned, the participants to the third edition of the worldOutgames Conference on Human Rights adopt, this Friday 2 August 2013, the guiding principles which shall lead our future actions and which we entitle: “THE ANTWERP GUIDELINES: FROM SAFE HARBOURS TO EQUALITY”.

The conferences held during the worldOutgames will be occasions for co-creating a sense of solidarity among the participants as well as a shared vision for the future. We will stimulate participants to develop new ways of efficient strategizing around short and middle-term objectives whilst being aware that strategically important events for LGBTI people may occur at any time, at any place. We want the conferences to contribute to our collective preparedness grounded in our common values.

We will, together with all participants, identify the dominant trends in society affecting LGBTI people at the global level and thus identify the common challenges related to the striving for equality.

Human rights, culture and sports are the three equally valued sources of an inspiring, ambitious and clear vision on the future of LGBTI movement and for the people striving for equal rights at all levels.


We will collaborate in a way that all the events leading up to and taking place during this conference may serve as learning opportunities which contribute to the personal ability of each and every person to be an agent of change for the equality which some people continue to seek and which for others is an achievement to be sustained. We consider it as fundamental that individuals who are victims of criminalization because of sexual orientation or gender identity, victims of discrimination, of stigmatization, of trauma and other serious violence are the primary experts to share knowledge, insights and experience. We will continuously emphasize that their right to respectable living conditions is our collective struggle.

We demand respect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Yogyakarta Principles and other relevant international declarations. Our values are based on mutual respect, of cultures and of differences. We fully make ours the GLISA’s policy on gender.

We commit to work together with all people – at whatever level of expertise, education and experience – to share our research and our sources across the different networks we represent.

We will interact with governments, NGO’s, health and human rights organizations, as well as with local communities and grassroots initiatives to extend our knowledge of the challenges we share in coping with equality, both at the level of sports, culture and human rights.

Multiple organizations are our allies. Among these, democratic trade unions are a progressive force supporting LGBTI groups. The partnership between them and us has proven to be efficient and a bearer of hope and action. Their fight for equality is our fight.

Numerous woman’s and feminist groups and associations opposed to racial discrimination or involved in adult as well as child education, pursue struggles which we support.

We will create frameworks, processes and environments which enable effective collaborative learning opportunities, for demonstrating and promoting equality in a global LGBTI context in perpetual evolution. We need to forge alliances around world following emerging trends, thus strengthening ourselves to defend common objectives and translating our actions in a more effective collaboration around strategic opportunities. Action may be diverging from one place to another, though always focused on the same common purpose.

We will facilitate and support dialogue with sectors of equal importance such as authorities, the corporate world, trade unions, educational institutes, cultural actors, media, civil society and faith organizations . Dialogue will be our perpetual lever for promoting understanding and commitment, whatever the circumstances are.

We are conscious that throughout the world, many LGBTI people still run enormous risks as a result of their commitment, as do their friends and families. The LGBTI community in every countries has the duty to provide security and protect those whose fundamental human rights may be in danger. International pressure by governments on other governments away from the glare of cameras as well as the assignment of budgets and human resources often brings more results than public debate.

We should create environments that enable effective integration and participation of people with physical or mental illness within the LGBTI community and we should actively support and organize prevention and solidarity activities and reach out to health organizations supporting people living with sexual transmitted diseases. Transgender and gender-non conforming individuals and categories (ICD, DSM) related to sexual orientation should be removed from the international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, preferably during the eleventh revision.

All the aforementioned principles should serve to enhance freedom and equality for all. No single effort to achieve equality should be detrimental to other core values.

Keynote Speakers at the Human Rights Conference. L to R: Nigerian Gay Rights Activist Bisi Alimi; Keynote Speaker Alice N’Kom of Cameroon; and Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of UK Black Pride.

Keynote Speakers at the Human Rights Conference. L to R: Nigerian Gay Rights Activist Bisi Alimi; Keynote Speaker Alice N’Kom of Cameroon; and Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of UK Black Pride.

The Antwerp Conference entrusts to GLISA, but also to each and every participant and to every person who receives this charter, the responsibility to pursue the work initiated years ago. Since Montreal in 2006 – the largest assembly of LGBTI activists so far — and Copenhagen in 2009, where the concept of interrelatedness of all LGBTI people was highlighted, Antwerp is the city in which we say to the whole world: every human being is equal to all others.

We have chosen, through GLISA, to build solidarity based on three pillars: sports, culture and human rights. They are not exclusive to each other and open up the path to a life fully lived in freedom.

Conscious that we are and will remain a minority across the world and not withstanding this reality, we want no LGBTI person anywhere on our planet to feel isolated or singled out. Each of us shall know that we are a global community which no perverse law or ongoing injustice can stop. No struggle is meaningless. No tear is lost. No action is small. We will continue to offer our talents, our diversity and our wealth to the human community of our planet.

This Antwerp worldOutgames Conference solemnly declares:

1. We want to emphasize the uniqueness of each individual and consequently the right to their own choices and their right to develop their creativity as they wish within the framework of respecting that of others. This is a lever, we believe, to enable systems to evolve and change.

2. We express the highest level of solidarity towards and our concern over LGBTI individuals and groups which, most particularly in Russia, Eastern Europe and in so many African and Muslim countries, face homophobic and transphobic governments and attitudes.

3. We commit to jointly support LGBTI individuals and groups in full respect of their own strategies. This solidarity shall never cause collateral damage putting to suffer those we wish to support.

4. We will establish links with any allied group struggling for the principles of health, freedom and equality and we will offer them the opportunity to move forward together.

5. We will actively involve the people from the Diaspora to start up dialogue and to promote equality as a critical potential of expertise, experience and networking and we will always believe that in each and every country, whatever it’s regime and reputation is, it is possible to find allies for the struggle.

6. We demand that the governments and parliaments of this world and their representatives systematically put the issue of equal rights in relation to gender and sexual diversity on the agenda in local, regional and international meetings.

7. We demand governments to facilitate the development of a more diversified provision of (community based) services and to lower the threshold to access healthcare;

8. We integrate in our position the unions propositions find in the addendum;

9. We request GLISA, in collaboration with other LGBTI organizations, to establish partnerships with universities, health and research centers in order to better document through medium-term research the statistics, reasons and means of action which affect the level of homophobia, transphobia, sexual orientation and gender;

10. We request GLISA to include on the agenda of the next worldOutgames Conference in Miami Beach in 2017 an assessment of LGBTI rights, country by country.

11. We propose GLISA to take the necessary steps with relevant public and private partners to establish a global foundation, in a sustainable and transparent manner, to benefit the Outreach programs of future worldOutgames.

12. We proclaim that we will never cease our quest for equality, nobody will stop equality.

13. We invite all participants and allied organizations to distribute this declaration in all possible global networks.

We call for all participants to turn the massive amount of energy behind an event such as the worldOutgames human rights conference into worldwide solidarity for the achievement of our dream, the realization of our striving, health, freedom and equality for every LGBTI. Solidarity based upon respect for each other’s differences and strategies. It is thus and only thus that we will be able to navigate from safe harbors to equality.

We, the participants of the Antwerp conference, pass on this legacy to the organizers of worldOutgames IV in 2017 in Miami Beach.

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