LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

The Frontline Podcast

The Frontline is a podcast from ILGA-Europe about LGBTI activism and lives in Europe and Central Asia.

Deep-diving and analysing from a unique and informed perspective, The Frontline aims to bring you to the core of queer activism and give you an understanding on the complexities of what's happening, why it's happening, the wins and the losses, the challenges and commonalities, and the extraordinary ways in which the work of those on the frontlines continues in a rapidly changing world.

The Frontline 14:

The Private Sector and LGBTI Equality: Mini-series

With the war in Ukraine and the Russian threat to democracy it has intensified, now more than ever we need to be working together across many alliances to ensure that equality and freedom are at the cornerstones of European society. Our new mini-series was recorded before the war began, but with it’s deep dive into how actors in the private sector, from big corporates to small and medium businesses, can work with LGBTI organisations to shape a better future for us all, we think it is more important than ever to have this discussion. From making the business case for engagement, to exploring the different ways businesses can work with LGBTI organisations, to a case study in how the coffee giant Starbucks successfully worked with a trans youth organisation to help shift attitudes, this is a series with learnings for both businesses who want to help shape a better world, and LGBTI organisations seeking to work with them. 

The Frontline 13:

#UkraineLGBTI: Information, Action, Direction

At ILGA-Europe we recognise that the war is not going to be a short-term situation for vulnerable people in Ukraine, Russia, neighbouring countries, and all countries in Europe and Central Asia that are and will be hosting displaced people. With our deep and nuanced knowledge of the human rights situation for LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia, we know that there will be great complexity and particular vulnerabilities in the experience of LGBTI refugees, and of those LGBTI people who are either forced, or choose to remain in Ukraine and Russia. 

In this episode we’re talking about how we at ILGA-Europe are responding to the war in Ukraine, and in particular the effects on LGBTI people, both in Ukraine and Russia, in neighbouring countries, and all host countries across Europe and Central Asia. With us to talk about the current situation, from ILGA-Europe’s perspective, combined with what we know from our member organisations in Ukraine, Russia and across the region, is our Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis.

The Frontline 12:

Hope and the LGBTI Movement in 2021

In this episode of The Frontline, we are looking back at the year that was 2021, and what it meant for the LGBTI movement in Europe. It was a year of further lockdowns, of new strains of the COVID virus, and the uncertainty they have brought, and most of all, enormous reverberations of the unprecedented events of 2020 on people’s lives. At ILGA-Europe, when the pandemic first kicked in, our motto was ‘the work goes on’, and that work most certainly continued apace throughout 2021, with the growth of a perceived east-west divide in Europe over LGBTI rights, infringement procedures taken by the European Commission against Hungary and Poland because of their anti-LGBTI laws and programs, a sharp rise in the demonisation and isolation of trans people from the women’s movement, and an overall rise in authoritarian regimes seeking to instrumentalise LGBTI lives to limit the rights of others. So, it’s perhaps strange that our guest in this episode, Evelyne Paradis finds great hope for the LGBTI movement amid the storm. 

The Frontline 11:

Navigating Change as an LGBTI Activist

This episode of The Frontline features an enlightening conversation about navigating change as an activist, between ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director Evelyne Paradis and Natia Gvianishvili, who has been actively engaged with local, regional and international LGBTI and feminist movements for over a decade now. Natia began her activist life in Georgia, and she currently resides in Sweden, where she works with the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights (RSFL). Evelyne and Natia chat about how change affects activists and activism, and deliberately exploring our relationship with change so that we can find our own compass when navigating a constantly transforming world.

The Frontline 10:

Empowering LGBTI Activism in a Changing World

Our mini-season focuses on the incredible work done by LGBTI activists across Europe at a time of great change in the world, the challenges they face in doing the work, and some of the key ways they are addressing those challenges. We also look at how ILGA-Europe is supporting and underpinning that work, and the ways in which activists and organisations are responding.

The Frontline 9:

Queer and the Media: with BBC LGBT Correspondent, Ben Hunte

In 2019, the BBC appointed its first ever LGBT correspondent, Ben Hunte. Whenever an LGBT story breaks, he appears on the 6 or 10 o’clock news and across the BBC’s global websites. His first year on the job has been an unprecedented one, with the rise of anti-LGBT hatred in Europe, marked by stark developments in Poland and Hungary. In this episode of The Frontline, Ben sits down with us to talk about the relationship between the media and LGBTI issues, why some stories get all the attention to the detriment of others, the rise of anti-trans voices in newspapers and broadcasting, and ways we might get the real diversity of LGBTI stories picked up.

The Frontline 8:

Elif Shafak and the Power of Our Stories

In this episode we welcome the internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist, essayist, and advocate for women’s and LGBTI rights and freedom of expression, Elif Shafak. The author of 18 books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Bastard of Istanbul, Honour, and Three Daughters of Eve, Elif has come under fire from the Turkish authorities for writing about human rights abuses that its government denies. Her most recent novel, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, which tells the story of a sex worker in Istanbul, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019. It sparked another investigation by Turkish prosecutors for addressing child abuse and sexual violence in her writing. Elif joins ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis to talk about a widespread decline of democracy, the fight for LGBTI rights and equality, the power of our stories and her own journey towards being a vocal member of the LGBTI community.

The Frontline 7:

Mapping LGBTI Rights in Europe

In this episode we’re discussing the results of ILGA-Europe’s 12th Rainbow Europe Map, which was published on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia 2021, otherwise known as IDAHOBIT. Every year, Rainbow Europe ranks all 49 European countries based on the laws and policies in each to ensure equal rights and protection for LGBTI people. Countries are ranked from zero percent to one hundred, with zero representing gross violations of human rights and discrimination and one-hundred representing full respect for human rights and equality. The past 12 months have marked an unprecedented year in the map’s 12-year history, with almost no positive legislative change for LGBTI people in Europe. With us to discuss this disturbing stand-still, on both European and national levels, and the ways forward both at European and national levels, are ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis, our colleague, Bjorn Van Roozendaal, Alexa Moore from Transgender NI in Northern Ireland, and Kaspars Zalitis from Mozaika in Latvia.

The Frontline 6:

Confronting LGBTIQ Youth Homelessness

In this episode of The Frontline, we looking at the rising issue of LGBTIQ youth homelessness in Europe. A new report from ILGA-Europe, in association with Cyndi Lauper’s LGBTIQ Youth Homelessness organisation True Colors United, and the Silberman Centre for Sexuality and Gender (SCSG) at Hunter College in New York, explores the experiences of LGBTIQ focused organisations in Europe working in with young people who have experienced homelessness. Over 60% of LGBTIQ organisations surveyed for the report said they had worked on the issue. A comparative report from the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), also finds that over 60% of homeless services organisations have dealt with young LGBTIQ people, but often without any training or support. Our guests for this conversation about the rising issue of young LGBTI people being made homeless in Europe are author of the ILGA-Europe report, Dr Jama Shelton from True Colors United, Policy officer with FEANTSA, Robbie Stakelum, ILGA-Europe’s programmes director, Bjorn Van Roozendaal, and Silvia Magino from Association Quore in Turin, Italy, which has set up a housing project for LGBTIQ people in difficulty.

The Frontline 5:

Rainbow Family Rights in Europe

In this mini-series on rainbow family rights in 2021, we’re looking at the issues affecting LGBTI parents and their children across Europe. We're exploring two landmark cases being taken to the European courts right now, looking at the growth of partnership rights in the Western Balkans, and the lack thereof in Ukraine. We're also exploring the situation for trans parents, and the issues that are coming up beyond 2021, including multi-parenting.

The Frontline 4:

LGBTI communities in Europe: Pushed to the brink

ILGA-Europe’s 10th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe and Central Asia, comes after a year of unprecedented change for the world, and a pandemic that had a noted effect on LGBTI people and communities. Reporting from country after country provides a glaring clarification that progress which has been taken for granted is not only increasingly fragile, but particularly vulnerable to exploitation by anti-human rights forces. In this episode of The Frontline, we get an overview of the stark situation from ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel. Executive Director of Transgender Europe (TGEU) talks to us about the significant growth of opposition towards trans rights across Europe; and Executive Director of ILGA-Portugal, and Marta Ramos tells us about the rise of the anti-gender movement in her country, and the ways in which LGBTI organisations have had to skew their work during the COVID-19 pandemic towards provision of basic necessities like food and shelter as many governments left LGBTI people out of their relief packages.

The Frontline 3:

2020: The EU and LGBTI Equality in an Extraordinary Year

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic went global, we worried that equality would slip off
EU agendas as lockdowns and an unprecedented economic crisis took hold. In this episode of The
Frontline, we look back at the extraordinary year that was 2020, and the engagement of the EU in
LGBTI equality issues, exacerbated during the coronavirus crisis. Our Executive and Advocacy
Directors, Evelyne Paradis and Katrin Hugendubel look back on what surprisingly turned out to be a
successful year for EU engagement. Activists from ILGA-Europe member organisations in Slovenia
and Hungary talk about the rise of ultra-right populism in both EU countries, Hungary’s slew of anti-
LGBTI laws as the virus raged on, and their respective responses to EU institutional engagement and
how it can go forward. Members of the EU Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, MEP’s Terry Reintke
(Greens/EFA, Germany) and Maria Walsh (EPP, Ireland) give an inside view on the year gone by, and
reflect on a challenging first year for the new Intergroup. It all adds up to a comprehensive look at
the EU and its engagement in equality, in a Europe where LGBTI rights have become a sharp dividing

The Frontline 2:

Bulgaria and the Spread of European Anti-LGBTI Populism

“Attitudes towards LGBTI people are changing and changing fast,” says activist, Lilly Dragoeva from the Sofia-based Billitis Foundation, in this episode of The Frontline, which delves into the current situation in Bulgaria, a country we don’t often hear about as Poland and Hungary’s governmental persecution of LGBTI people grabs the headlines. There may not be LGBT-free zones in Bulgaria, but it’s a country with almost no protections for LGBTI people, a growing, so-called ‘anti-gender’ movement, a successful spreading of demonising fake news stories, and an alarming advance in societal rejection of LGBTI people. Along with Lilly, we speak with activist Simeon Vasilev from GLAS Foundation about a growth in official anti-LGBTI hate speech and the role the EU can play, and with Dimithar Dimitrov from the Bulgarian city of Plovidiv, where in September there were organised attacks on young people who are perceived as LGBTI. Some hope for Bulgarian LGBTI people comes in the form of strategic litigation for the recognition of a rainbow family, and we speak to attorney Denitsa Lyubenova, from the LGBTI youth organisation, Deystvie, about the current state of play with the case. Rounding the episode up, ILGA-Europe’s Programmes Director, Bjorn Van Roozendaal talks to us about the wider picture in Europe, the reasons behind the growth we’re seeing in anti-LGBTI politics and movements, and the way the LGBTI movement can strategise to counteract this.

The Frontline 1:

Countering the Rise of State LGBTphobia in Poland

In this episode of The Frontline we delve deep into the situation for LGBTI people in Poland and the work of activists amid the rise of official anti-LGBTI campaigning and the recent crackdown. We talk to Polish activist Slava Melnyk from KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) about how the situation has come to a head in the aftermath of the re-election of far-right President, Andrzej Duda. David Socha, a young gay man living in the city of Pulawy, which has been designated one of Poland’s LGBT-free Zones, tells us about how this has affected his day-to-day life, and the ILGA-Europe advocacy team discuss the role of the EU institutions and external actors, and ways forward for the LGBTI movement in Poland. To access our timeline charting the rise of LGBT hate in Poland, visit this link.