16/02/2012 | Writer: Kaos GL
The Pride Parade, which purposefully ended at the front gates of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), is but one part of the protest against the inequality and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community in Israel.
By Yaron Gal
The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, Israel
On July 29th 2010, Jerusalem Pride was marched in memory of the one-year anniversary of the attack at the Tel Aviv Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) youth center. The Pride Parade, which purposefully ended at the front gates of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), is but one part of the protest against the inequality and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community in Israel.
While producing the parade, we developed a list of the legal rights the LGBTQ community demands, which identifies the presence of discrimination in practice as well as enshrined in 700 clauses of Israeli law.
The following topics were originally designed by a legal team of the LGBTQ community and later refined through a series of community meetings throughout the country.
The below list of rights denied to LGBTQ individuals are in no particular order.
The Right to Family
"Third-party" adoption- from theory to practice
Despite a supreme court ruling and a declaration by the welfare minister that LGBTQ couples are to face no obstacle to adopt children, these advances have yet to be put into practice. We need to establish a precedent that will allow future couples to adopt a child/baby, as having this right only on paper is not enough.
Adoption in the family - change of procedure
Currently if two parents use a form of adoption that does not end with the child being placed with a biological parent (surrogacy, sperm banks, etc.) the adoption process is overly complicated and cumbersome. Further, this process can last several years during which time the parent has no legal relationship with the child. The current process discriminates against children of the LGBTQ community who have the right to have both of their parents recognized at birth.
The current surrogacy law allows only married women to use a surrogate mother. We demand that this law be expanded to include gay couples. Expanding Israel’s surrogacy law to include gay couples would help decrease the bureaucratic process involved in using surrogacy abroad while also enabling couples to better cope with the complex ethical issues that arise when using surrogacy in a Third World country.
Many of the legal rights of same-sex couples today only exist due to “holes” in Israeli laws. We demand a change in legislation that would allow gay couples to marry, divorce, register as parents, have the rights granted from “common law” status, and much more.
The Right to Protection from Hate
Prevention of Incitement
Today, the Penal Code prohibits the incitement of racism. The law defines racism as "persecution, humiliation, contempt or hatred, hostility or violence, or causing discord to the public or sections of the population, all due to color, race or belonging to national-ethnic group." However, the LGBTQ community regularly suffers from racism. The incitement of racism encourages violence against LGBTQ community members. We require an amendment to the Penal Code that recognizes this reality. We demand protection against the incitement of racism for the LGBTQ community.
Hate Crimes (Compensation)
A hate crime is different from other types of crimes as it is a social crime. As a result of the terrible murder of the LGBTQ youth in Tel Aviv, we have demonstrated the true need for government backing of severance damages in similar cases.
“Refugee” status based on sexual persecution
The Refugee Convention (of which Israel is a part of) states that a person is a refugee if he was persecuted due to "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Courts throughout the Western World (including USA and Europe) interpreted the phrase "particular social group" to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Israel however has rejected asylum applications of LGBTQ people and demanded that they return to their countries.
The Right to Identity
Gender change in the ID
The Interior Ministry requires a person wishing to change the gender on his/her ID to provide confirmation of a sex change operation. However, we ask that the clause be changed depending on the law of “registry of sex”, according to a medical certificate given by law. The Interior Ministry also currently refuses to change the sex on the birth certificate
even if the certificate owner had a sex change operation.
Interpretation Act (sexual orientation= gender identity)
Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation should also include the prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity. We demand a change in the law so that wherever "sexual orientation" is mentioned “gender identity" will also be included.
The Right to Health
Transgender individuals are highly discriminated against in various areas of health care. These areas include budgets and funding allocations for treatments, ignorance among physicians, and the lack of medical research. We demand that all relevant treatments for transgender people that are currently not covered be provided, including but not limited to funding for freezing sperm, eggs and embryos, IVF financing, and funding for breast surgery when medically necessary.
Magen David Adom - Blood donation
When donating blood to MDA’s blood bank, one must fill in a form that asks, among other questions, if you have had a man-to-man sexual relationship since 1977. If the answer is yes, your blood cannot be used. We seek a change of wording in the questionnaire. We want the question to refer to unprotected sexual acts without referring to the sex of the participants in the act. The current question is discriminatory, as potential donors are denied the opportunity to receive annual blood insurance, which is received by all blood donors.
In addition, MDA categorically prevents blood donations by people who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery. This policy is carried out silently, where the guidelines banning trans-sexual blood donations are kept secret.
Spouses and other rights for medical treatment
We seek to promote the “power of attorney card" in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Unlike married couples, members of the same sex couples do not receive automatic spousal status if one of them is hospitalized. The “power of attorney” which allows non-married couples to have similar status to married couples currently requires a complex bureaucratic procedure. We want there to be a card, issued by the Ministry of Health, that would allow every person to authorize another person (even if that person is not their spouse) to make all medical decisions on his/her behalf during a hospitalization.
The Right to Equality in State Resources
Municipal and government funding
LGBTQ organizations are currently supported by individual cities and municipalities. Many municipalities change the criteria for their support, to prevent LGBTQ organizations from receiving funds promised to them by law. We demand that budgets be given to LGBTQ organizations and that those budges reflect the community’s activities, size, and needs.
Indirect economic discrimination
Apart from the inherent discrimination within the laws, many members of the LGBTQ community are indirectly discriminated against by the many institutions in Israeli society. For example, they may be discriminated against in relation to housing or employment.
Equality at work
Within Israeli society there is now a significant gap in wages between men and women. Lesbians, being a household of two women, are even larger victims of this wage gap.
Education and information
We require that resources be provided to help educate and inform others about the LGBTQ community with a specific emphasis on tolerance and non-discrimination.
About Jerusalem Open House
The Jerusalem Open House (JOH) - a grassroots, activist organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) people and their allies - aims to provide direct services for the LGBT community in our city and to secure LGBT rights in Israeli society at large, while reaching out with our message of equality and acceptance to all those that hold Jerusalem as a holy city. With a constituency as diverse as the city itself, JOH transcends political, ethnic and religious boundaries to build and unite a community in pursuit of the common goal of tolerance and mutual support.
· Community Support
To provide direct support services for the LGBT community in Jerusalem and to foster cooperation and unity among those of differing faiths, sexual orientations, genders and world views.
· Human Rights Advocacy
To advocate for social change on issues related to the LGBT community, taking action to promote the values of tolerance and pluralism.
· Religious inclusion
To empower LGBT people of faith to better integrate their identities, while pursuing visibility and inclusion in their religious frameworks.
When the JOH was founded in 1997, many were incredulous as to whether LGBT people even existed in Jerusalem, let alone whether we could sustain a vibrant LGBT center. Much has changed since then. In the intervening years the JOH has firmly established itself in our city, becoming a leading LGBT service and advocacy organization with deeply committed volunteers, hundreds of supporters in Israel and worldwide, and thousands touched by our message. Our annual Jerusalem Pride marches have become the largest human-rights demonstrations in Jerusalem, creating important legal precedents for freedom of speech in Israel. With Jerusalem Pride already a cornerstone of LGBT public visibility in our country, in 2006 the JOH brought Jerusalem to the international LGBT stage by hosting WorldPride. The JOH also founded the first LGBT health clinic in Israel and developed innovative programming including a comprehensive youth program and unique projects bridging LGBT and religious identities.
The JOH’s annual budget is derived entirely from private donations, foundation and federation support, and membership and participation fees. The JOH does not receive financial aid from municipal, governmental sources or commercial sponsorships, while we challenge the illegality of lack of funding by the Jerusalem Municipality. Our current institutional supporters include the UJA-Jewish Federation of New York, the JCF of San Francisco, the Arcus Foundation, the Schusterman Foundation, FrontLine -The Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the MAC AIDS Fund, amongst others.
The Jerusalem Open House (JOH) operates in three somewhat overlapping spheres, in a local scale providing services to those community members in Jerusalem, on a national scale as we advocate for legal change, and on a global scale as Jerusalem is an important city for people of faith around the world, so advances made by the LGBT community here are significant the world over:
The Jerusalem Sphere
The Jerusalem Open House is a vibrant community center in the heart of downtown Jerusalem that enables lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to explore their personal identities and to build community where almost none existed before in the city. The center serves as a gathering place for the entire community, providing a safe and affirmative environment for an incredible scope and variety of activities.
· Community wide picnics, regular movie nights, soccer games and a constant array of lectures and speakers offer opportunities to meet new people, pursue shared interests and gain insight on a range of topics.
· Monthly trips around Jerusalem and Israel, led by trained guides are a very
popular activity at the Open House.
· The welcoming service for first time visitors offers community members with
information about the programming of the Open House. In times of crisis the welcoming
service acts as a referral service to those in need to the JOH Psycho-Social Services, which in turn provides mental care in need.
· Various interest groups meet regularly, such as vegetarians/vegans, English speakers, religious men/women, singles, parents of LGBTQ people, future parents, and many others.
· The Open House is open daily as a community center where young and old can come have a cup of coffee, check their e-mail, meet a friend or enjoy the center as they like.
Safe Space for Youth
·TheJOHistheonlycenterinthecitytoaddresstheneedsandwell-being ofLGBT youth. Weekly group meetings facilitated by trained counselors offer LGBT and questioning youth unbiased information, a safe space, and a sense of belonging as they explore their sexual and gender identities.
· The Speakers Bureau sends volunteer speakers to schools and other educational networks to address stereotypes and to help change the reality in which our young people live.
· Hore BeCafe (or parent in the coffee) offers youth a parental perspective in a casual setting. Those young people who are unable to go to their own parents are able to speak to a parental figure.
· Motzei ShBentz is a more open, club like program for youth that meets biweekly and offers youth an opportunity to socialize with their peers in a safe environment.
Arts & Culture
· The center is one of the only venues in Jerusalem that promotes LGBT arts and culture. Exhibitions by promising new artists are continuously displayed on the walls of the community center. The JOH also promotes a variety of cultural activities focusing on LGBT artists throughout the year.
· We offer free access to a library with nearly eight hundred volumes of activist writing, gay fiction and the latest LGBT magazines from around the world.
The Open Clinic: free and anonymous rapid HIV/AIDS testing in Jerusalem
· The JOH’s pioneering efforts to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and encourage better care and prevention in Jerusalem culminated in 2007 with the launch of Israel’s first LGBT health clinic: the Open Clinic. In a city where conservative culture deters at- risk populations from receiving HIV/AIDS testing, the Open Clinic has created unprecedented accessibility to HIV/AIDS testing for the city’s residents, whether they identify as LGBT or not. The clinic provides the only free, anonymous, rapid-result HIV/AIDS testing service in the country. Created by the community, for the community, it offers a medical “safe space” where clients receive care and counseling from professional staff that is sensitive to their needs and concerns and free of prejudice. The clinic has shown a remarkable ability to reach at-risk populations, including ultra- orthodox men, new immigrants and Palestinians.
· The JOH’s "Jerusalem LGBTQ Leadership Initiative" is helping to transform Jerusalem into a younger and more diverse city by shaping young, socially engaged community members. The program fosters leadership and community engagement among LGBTQ teenagers and young adults, by offering participants the necessary training to become the next generation of leaders for our community. Thus far the "Leadership Initiative" has been very successful, producing youth community leaders as well as many of the key volunteers at the center including youth counselors, health clinic volunteers, and members of the speakers’ bureau.
· We are also developing a youth leadership program that will travel overseas to meet with their peers and work together to develop their leadership skills. The first youth delegation is planned to go to Germany this summer.
The Israel Sphere
Located in the capital of Israel we are the leading advocacy organization for LGBT rights in Israel. Our approach to this work is one of leading through inclusion; The JOH founded and leads a national platform of LGBT organizations and activists working together to improve our community’s legal rights and social acceptance.
Advocacy and Social Change
· The JOH takes action on a variety of issues concerning the LGBT community through campaigning and advocacy. We are working to achieve recognition for LGBT victims of the Holocaust and their inclusion in Israel’s national Holocaust memorial ceremonies; and to eradicate “conversion therapy” and its disastrous consequences.
· Targeted advocacy campaigns and community-wide discussions enable LGBT people
of all backgrounds and age-groups to collaborate on issues of civil rights.
· JOH is also the coordinator of the efforts to gain legal rights for the community on a
wide range of issues (see attached LGBTQ Bill of Rights). We are leading a platform that
brings together all of the organizations working on behalf of the LGBT community to collaborate in the fight for equal rights.
· The JOH works closely with other LGBT and human rights organizations to promote social change and foster tolerance in Israeli society. By working to build new and/or stronger coalitions, and by collaborating and sharing experiences with these coalitions, the JOH is able to more effectively advance LGBT rights.
Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance
· Since the first March for Pride and Tolerance in 2002, Jerusalem Pride has become an established event in our city, each year bringing in additional partners and supporters. The march the city’s largest human rights demonstrations with thousands of marchers. Meeting violent opposition from religious extremists and the stabbing of three marchers in 2005.
· Jerusalem Pride 2011 is scheduled to take place on July 28, 2011 and will be marched in commemoration of the fatal attack on the Tel Aviv youth Center two years ago. JOH is leading the march, that will end at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), demanding LGBTQ legal rights. These include the right to family (marriage and parenthood), the right to protection, the right to identity, the right to health, and the right to equality in state resources. The rights we will be demanding are written out in the attached LGBTQ Bill Of Rights, that was presented in Pride 2010.
The Global Sphere
Being the birthplace of the three monotheistic faiths, Jerusalem is a place of special significance in the heart of people of faith around the world. Through our appeal to audiences worldwide to raise their voice in shaping Jerusalem, we encourage people to seek a better balance between their own sexual and religious identities, and to act towards inclusion in their own frameworks and institutions.
Religious Programming and outreach
· We foster local faith communities through religious and spiritual activities; · Our local communities develop networks with faith-based groups around the world, seeking to develop a joint religious narrative and activism platforms. · The JOH is highly visible in international LGBT religious fora, sharing experience and accumulated knowledge and advocating ownership and visibility in religious frameworks.