Guidelines for systematising and strengthening embassy efforts
Sexual orientation and human rights
Norway plays an active role as an advocate for the human rights of LGBT
people, both in the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly
and bilaterally. In the UN general Assembly in December 2008, Norway
was part of a core group that promoted the statement on Human Rights,
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The statement was supported by 66
countries. Our main message has been that homosexuality must be
decriminalised and that states must take steps to combat violence and
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The starting point for Norway’s efforts is that human rights apply to
everyone, regardless of their sex, social and ethnic background, religion or
sexual orientation. In practice, LGBT people are subject to criminalisation
and discrimination, in the form of both harassment and actual violence. In
some cases, LGBT people are the victims of abuse and discrimination on the
part of the authorities themselves. In others, the authorities fail to protect
them against abuse and discrimination by family members or society in
general. Many LGBT people also experience more indirect forms of
discrimination in the labour and housing markets.
Moreover, equal rights for sexual minorities is an important development
policy issue, together with other equality issues.
LGBT activists who are working for their rights and fighting discrimination
are considered to be human rights defenders, in the same way as other
human rights activists.
Norwegian policy as regards LGBT people
Norway is willing to speak up when others are silent, and to raise the issue of
equality and rights for LGTB people. Norway is a staunch defender of human
rights. There is a need for an increased focus on equal rights, including the issue
of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a priority area in the
Government’s Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in
Development Cooperation 2007–2009. Norway also endorses the Yogyakarta
principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to
sexual orientation and gender identity. International efforts are also being made to
find funding mechanisms for channelling allocations to provide legal assistance
for LGBT people who are arrested.
In ordinary speech we often talk of lesbian and gay rights. The UN uses the
term sexual orientation and gender identity, Common generic terms are:
LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, and
LGBTI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people.
The term “transgender” or “Third gender” applies to all that do not fall into
the definition man/woman.
In many countries, securing the rights of LGBT people is a sensitive issue,
and the work of Norway’s embassies in this field must be adapted to the
local context and what will give the best results for the target group. A longterm
perspective is needed. It may be worthwhile to look back on the history
of campaigns for greater equality in Norway. Both women and gay and
lesbian groups have used campaigning methods that were against the law in
order to make themselves heard. Due to the efforts of Norwegian
homosexuals, their situation has changed from a prohibition against
homosexual practices 35 years ago to the recent adoption of amendments to
the Marriage Act to make it applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex
couples. It seems likely that there will be situations where LGBT activists in
other countries make use of campaigning methods that states consider to be
illegal. Norway should take a particular responsibility for speaking out
precisely in cases where the rights of sexual minorities are a controversial
issue. Norway is playing a leading role in promoting women’s and
children’s rights, and should have the same level of ambition when it comes
to the rights of LGBT people
The Ministry’s efforts
Please refer to the guidelines for systematising and strengthening the efforts
of foreign service missions to support human rights defenders, which are
available on the Intranet and at
Many of the types of initiative that can be taken to support human rights
defenders can also be used to support LGBT activists and organisations.
Statement by France and Germany at the UN General Assembly in
France and the Netherlands have drawn together a core group of
supportive states to prepare a statement for the 63rd Session of the UN
General Assembly. Norway is a member of the core group. It will
support this work, but because it is a candidate for election to the
Human Rights Council, it will not be playing a leading role.
Brief guidelines for efforts by Norwegian embassies to promote the
rights of LGBT people
1. Promoting equal rights and non-discrimination of LGBT people is part of
Norway’s policy. Embassies should be aware of this policy and be
prepared to answer questions on our position using the background
information provided here.
2. Human rights efforts must extend to issues relating to LGBT people.
These issues must also be included in reports to the Ministry, with a
particular focus on a general description of the situation for LGTB people,
individual cases and their legal position.
3. Embassies should gain an overview of other like-minded embassies and
their networks. Sweden, the Netherlands, UK and France has been giving
priority to this issue, and both the UK and the Netherlands have drawn up
guidelines for their embassies on how to promote the rights of LGBT
people. The countries supporting the statement to the UN General
Assembly are also of interest.
4. Embassies should investigate the legislative framework and political and
social situation for LGBT people locally, and maintain an overview of and
contact with organisations that represent them. They should work together
with other countries on this to avoid duplication of effort. The Section for
Human Rights and Democracy at the Ministry is involved in project
cooperation with the Norwegian LGBT Association, which has an
extensive international network. Embassies can contact the Association
directly, or via the Section for Human Rights and Democracy, if they need
more information on LGBT organisations or the political situation in a
5. Embassies should raise the general issue of LGBT rights in their talks with
authorities and Human Rights Organisations.
6. In the event of arrests or abuse of LGBT people, embassies should contact
other like-minded countries to coordinate their response. Responses may
include following court cases, protesting to the authorities, or expressing
support to the persons arrested. The security of LGBT activists who are
being persecuted or are in some other vulnerable situation may be
improved if embassies make it clear that they are monitoring the situation.
Embassies should adapt their response according to the degree of
influence/contact Norway or other relevant countries have in the country
in question. The response should also be adjusted in the light of what will
most benefit the target group, and LGBT organisations’ own assessment of
the situation should be given considerable weight here