This contribution by the Berlin Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination is part of our #LoveWhereILive campaign and of our series “#ProgressiveLocalStories”, aimed at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe. Cities and regions have become laboratories for innovative solutions and, with this series, we want to discover how progressive mayors, councillors and presidents of regions put in place policies to promote and protect LGBTIQ rights.
Berlin is known as one of the most progressive LGBTI-friendly cities in Europe. Can you tell us more about it?
A very important objective of the Senate of Berlin is to enforce the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination. Berlin was the first federal State in Germany that established in 1989 an LGBTI Division within its public administration. This LGBTI Division has been tasked with promoting the emancipation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people, to reduce discrimination in all spheres of life and to support the acceptance of sexual and gender diversity. This also includes cooperation in the drafting of bills and regulations, bundling and providing information on relevant fields of issues, developing concepts and campaigns as well as informing, sensitizing and advising public and social institutions. Special attention has been given to combatting violence against LGBTI.
Building upon a first initiative dating back to 2009/10, the LGBTI Division has been responsible for the drafting of the latest policy in the realm of LGBTI: the initiative “Berlin supports self-determination and acceptance of gender and sexual diversity” (IGSV), passed by the Berlin Senate on 23.07.2019. The IGSV is an inter-departmental action plan on LGBTI for the years to come involving all departments of the Berlin Senate. Its 92 actions were developed in an intensive participatory process. New topic areas include LGBTI refugees as well as disability and inclusion while trans* and intersex issues are explicitly integrated and gender diversity is now part of the title. Intersectionality and lesbian* visibility are crosscutting themes in all topic areas.
Berlin has proclaimed itself as a Rainbow City. Can you tell us more about this initiative
In fact, Berlin is a founding member of the Rainbow Cities Network (RCN), founded in 2013 by different European cities. Since then Berlin cooperates and shares its experiences with many other European and non-European cities. Worldwide but also within the EU member states LGBTI people are facing great challenges. Therefore it is important that cities take actions to become Rainbow Cities and show in a pro active way their solidarity, too. It is good to know that since 2013 many other cities have joined the RCN.
In addition to its engagement within the RCN, Berlin has also campaigned to showcase the situation of LGBTI people in its twin cities and in the corresponding countries. Therefore Berlin’s Senator for Anti-Discrimination matters, Dr. Dirk Behrendt, met with activists from Istanbul during Berlin´s Pride Weeks in 2019. In 2020 a Polish and a Bulgarian activist living in Berlin participated actively hoisting the rainbow flag in front of the Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination.
Die Regenbogenstadt Berlin setzt klare Zeichen gegen Diskriminierung, gegen Gewalt und gegen Unsichtbarkeiten. Mit dem Hissen von Regenbogenflaggen setzen wir Zeichen und mit dem Landesantidiskriminierungsgesetz schaffen wir rechtliche Fakten für die Betroffenen. #IDAHOBIT2020 pic.twitter.com/drbfn3Gkfs— Dirk Behrendt (@Dirk_Behrendt) May 16, 2020
Can you tell us more about the current projects and policies in Berlin regarding LGBTI topics?
There are many projects and initiatives taking place in Berlin. The further implementation of the actions within the Berlin Action Plan IGSV mentioned earlier, is one main objective.
The first report on the implementation was published in July 20th, 2021. Exactly two years earlier, the Berlin Senate decided on the action plan. Today, the vast majority of the 92 actions have been implemented. An English version of the report will be published by the end of 2021.
New actions include for example two low-threshold micro-project funds, one on LGBTI history and one on Pride Weeks. Both grants aim to promote projects for grass roots initiatives at the local level, funding projects up to 12.000 Euros. This year's main topic of the micro-project fund for the Berlin Pride Weeks was "Queer in the neighborhood”, the main topic of the micro-project fund for LGBTI-History was “LGBTI historical and memorial sites in Berlin”. After a call for interest ten projects in each category (LGBTI History and Pride Weeks) were invited to apply for funding. Both grants aim as well to promote the cooperation with the Berlin Districts and the LGBTI Communities.
We are also very proud that Berlin has submitted the first nationwide monitoring report on homophobic and transphobic violence. The main focus of the report was "anti-lesbian violence". State agencies and victim counselling facilities assume a high number of unreported cases. This particularly applies to violence against lesbian and bisexual women. In addition to the scientific evaluation of police registration statistics, a survey of lesbian and bisexual Berliners was carried out. Not only does the report aim at improving the database, but furthermore helping to encourage those affected, as well as witnesses to file a complaint and thus further shed light on the dark field in this area of crime. This monitoring instrument has been introduced in Berlin as part of the Berlin Action Plan. The report will be published every two years. For the next edition in 2022 the main topic will be "violence against transgender and intersex people".
Increasing lesbian visibility is an important aim of the Berlin government. Based on a catalog of recommendations developed by a group of experts to draw attention to other specific needs of lesbians, three projects were included in the LGBTI funding of the State of Berlin. The main focus of those projects are: “work and professional life”, “inter-generational networking” and “increasing visibility”.
Last but not least, Berlin has also expanded the psychosocial and especially therapeutic care for LGBTI refugees. Therefore, a specialized “psychosocial care center for adult LGBTI refugees” was set up. The main tasks of this center include the implementation of medium to long-term psychological counseling and psychotherapy for and with LGBTI refugees as well as the cooperation in particular with professionals, associations of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists, universities and other medical stake holders.
Other ongoing projects are among others:
- development and implementation of transition guidelines for public administration
- development and implementation of a shelter for LGBTI affected by homelessness
- development of guidelines for gender-inclusive language within public administration.
Berlin is represented in the European Committee of the Regions by PES Group member Gerry Woop, Berlin State Secretary for Europe.
Photo credits: Berlin Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination