This story is part of a series highlighting the work done through the Equal Rights in Action (ERA) Fund. Through the ERA Fund, NDI supports local activist organizations all over the world, strengthening democracy and defending the human rights of marginalized communities. LGBTQI+ communities, people with disabilities (PWD) and other marginalized communities face discrimination and unfair treatment at the individual and systemic levels, operating with limited resources and overcoming tumultuous circumstances. By supporting these communities and amplifying their voices, NDI reinforces a diverse democratic presence in various regions throughout the globe.
Democracy and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities are inextricably linked. Countries with laws inclusive of LGBTQI+ people are more democratic and in greater adherence with the rule of law. When LGBTQI+ communities can participate and influence decision making, they experience greater levels of acceptance within their broader communities and are able to address exclusionary laws, practices and norms that are often weaponized by those seeking to dismantle democracy. In order for democracy to thrive, the values and needs of every population must be heard and supported. NDI’s ERA fund has partnered with numerous organizations around the world to ensure inclusive, fair and representative government.
Divers’Unité is a collective- comprised of members and allies of the LGBTQI+ community in Madagascar. The organization was formed in 2020 following the very public trial of a lesbian woman, persecuted for her relationship with a partner in the name of a discriminatory law of the Malagasy penal code. This law applies an age of sexual consent to same-sex partners that is seven years higher than heterosexual partners. Since then, Divers’Unité has collaborated with other civil society organizations (CSOs) in order to prioritize psychological and legal support for LGBTQI+ people in Madagascar as part of an intersectional umbrella organization.
With both financial and technical support from the ERA Fund, Divers’Unité has been working to create an inventory of safe spaces, focusing on the establishment of a national directory of LGBTQI+ friendly organizations in Madagascar. This helps many of the LGBTQI+ individuals facing discrimination in the region gain access to resources and allies. Divers’Unité has set up a community center as well to serve as a model of this, where members of the community have access to various resources, including a “listening and listening cell”. Additionally, the organization is leading a media campaign with the intent to raise awareness among the Malagasy population on LGBTQI+ issues and fighting against discrimination both online and offline. The ERA Fund was also able to support a strategic planning workshop that outlined a roadmap to future actions for the benefit of the LGBTQI+ community in Madagascar.
Sri Lanka: Venasa T Network
In 2015, the Venasa T Network was founded by local activists in order to create a space and voice for transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming (GNC) communities within the broader LGBTQI+ movement in Sri Lanka. Venasa T Network, which is the first Sri Lankan organization to serve transgender communities exclusively, connects community members with psychosocial and legal resources and support. They also engage stakeholders in government, healthcare professions, and other human rights activists in sensitization workshops and inclusion training, strengthening both the transgender communities and expanding their network of support.
With support from the ERA Fund, Venasa T Network aims to eliminate obstacles and discriminatory practices experienced by transgender people stemming from various slights such as amended birth certificates, which disclose sensitive information about one’s gender transition, identity and expression without consent. The organization works with transgender, nonbinary and GNC communities and allies across key provinces to draft recommendations to amend the Birth and Deaths Registration Act, focusing on the removal of discriminatory language and stigmatizing practices. This work, supported by the ERA fund and executed by the Venasa T Network organization, lays the foundation for expanding equal protection under the law of transgender Sri Lankans.
With support from NDI’s ERA Fund, organizations across the world have amplified the voices of the LGBTQI+ community of different regions and backgrounds. These organizations have advocated and fought for equity, respect and accessibility for citizens of all gender and sex identities, encompassing a broad community of allies, advocates and activists to rally for change.
Author: Hannah Richards, Project Assistant on the Government Relations and Communication team
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.