One organisation in Sweden working hard to achieve equal rights is RFLS – Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande (The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer rights).
The SI News Service spoke to Katarina Markovich, who attended a two-day workshop held by RFSL. She spoke about the event and what it meant to her.
“We discussed general issues regarding LGBT rights in Sweden but also other countries. People attending the event were from different countries, all over the world, so it was interesting to me to compare the different problems and issues others have faced.”
“I’m from Russia, where homosexuality is against the law. The laws also make it hard to advocate for LGBT communities.”
“I had faced some discrimination but I was never threatened and still, I always had support from my family. During the event I compared my situation to others – I didn’t realise how good I had it and how lucky I was! This was a refreshing experience.”
Sweden has been considered by many to be incredibly progressive in terms of family laws, particularly for things like paternity leave. Family rights and laws are still considered to be an issue for LGBT couples.
“Family rights and laws are incredibly important for LGBT communities – we are still fighting to have the same marriage rights, and rights to have children. People are working really hard on these issues, and through RFSL, I have the opportunity to get involved too.”
Family laws and rights were not the only issues covered during the workshop.
“We also spoke about HIV and aids protection; people shared their own experiences, and spoke about what they could do regarding the issue themselves.”
Other things discussed were projects – projects the attendees were involved in as well as projects run by RFSL. A major project run by RFSL that was talked about at the workshop, is Egalia.
“Egalia is a really important project,” explains Katarina.
“The RFSL work with newcomers children and refugee children – some of whom have come without their parents. The project essentially helps kids from these sorts of countries find a place where they can feel safe to be themselves/be with other people like them.”
The project, however, is not only for those from such countries; anyone wanting a safe place to be themselves is welcome. And they are always looking for volunteers too.
The workshop itself could similarly be seen as a safe place:
“It was the first time I’d seen RFSL in action, and I really liked it. Particularly just how much effort they made to make everyone feel comfortable and confident. A strong message was that no one should judge you and how you live your life, and create special laws for you.”
“It was surprising and refreshing to see how many people care about equal rights. The atmosphere was very relaxing and trusting. I’m still thinking about the stuff we spoke about a week ago – it was so inspiring!”