LGBT Rights: Advocacy Chief Wins Dutch Award

Jos Brink State Prize for Boris Dittrich

(Amsterdam) – Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch has been awarded the Dutch government’s prestigious Jos Brink State Prize for 2013. Jet Bussemaker, Dutch minister of education, culture and science, presented the award to Dittrich in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to LGBT emancipation during the last 30 years, in the presence of the high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. The ceremony was held in Diligentia theater in The Hague on May 17 – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Dittrich, a former member of the Dutch parliament, proposed a bill to legalize same sex-marriage in 1994. After years of debate, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to do so, in 2001. As a member of parliament he took many other initiatives, ranging from adoption of children by same-sex couples to registration of hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

At Human Rights Watch since 2007, he has traveled the world, contacting local human rights defenders, pressing leaders to decriminalize homosexual conduct, introduce anti-discrimination legislation including sexual orientation and gender identity as non-discrimination grounds and improve their policies for LGBT people.

In his acceptance speech, Dittrich paid homage to LGBT activists throughout the world who work in difficult and dangerous circumstances, and he dedicated the state award to straight allies.

“Everyone in his or her own way can contribute to a better future,” Dittrich said. “I would like to dedicate this award to our straight allies all over the world. To those fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, family and friends. To all those government officials and diplomats who tirelessly work to defend us. Our straight allies who support our struggle for equal rights, dignity, respect and non-discrimination. Our straight allies who believe in the true meaning of human rights for all. Without you all we would still be behind bars and suffering. Now we stand strong and aspire to a better life for all of us, wherever we are!”

The Dutch government award is presented every two years to an individual, group, or institution that has made a fundamental contribution to the improvement of the position of lesbians, gay men, bisexual men and women, and transgender people. The award underlines the commitment of the Dutch Government to LGBT equality in Dutch society and beyond. Jos Brink (1942-2007), after whom the award is named, was a famous Dutch entertainer, writer, and religious pastor, who devoted himself to promoting the acceptance of homosexuality.

The award jury, consisting of Sara Kroos (chairman), Karin Bloemen, Arthur Japin, Jörgen Raymann, and Rik van de Westelaken, commended Dittrich as a great advocate for the rights of LGBT people around the world: “In his advocacy approach Boris Dittrich also includes his opponents,” the jury said. “He is in contact with victims on the ground, but also with politicians and government leaders. Moreover, he proves to be a human rights defender and at the same time an effective diplomat.”

This is the third time that the Jos Brink State Prize has been awarded. Previous recipients were volunteers from the Dutch LGBT organization COC in 2011 and the Friends of the Gaykrant Foundation in 2009, a newspaper focusing on LGBT rights.

Source – Human Rights Watch