Queer Lawfare Seminar Series

To mark the celebration of 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in Norway, LawTransform ran, throughout 2022, a seminar series focused on queer rights activism in different contexts. While fighting for the recognition of rights, activists have to develop strategies and adapt to complex political landscapes and sometimes even face persecution and repression.

This 50th anniversary is a great and important opportunity not only to remember and commemorate what has already been achieved but also to increase awareness about the challenges the queer community continues to face in Norway and beyond. LGBTQ rights have become increasingly politicised, and queer persons continue living under threat because of their sexual and gender identity. There are still countries that criminalize homosexuality and even more societies that even without criminalisation are marked by homotransphobia and do not recognise rights such as marriage, adoption, change of name and gender marks for trans people, and ban of reversion therapies. And activists that fight for these rights face harassment, arrest, and persecution. This project is supported by Fritt Ord.


9.March: Queer rights activism under political uncertainty

This hybrid seminar discusses the strategies queer rights activists adopt according to opportunity structures in unfavourable contexts, especially when dealing with criminalisation or lack of legal recognition.

On the panel: Yvee Oduor (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya), Sonia Audi (Queerhive), Matthew Gichohi (CMI), Lise Rakner (UiB-CMI), Liv Tønnessen (CMI), Ayo Sogunro (University of Pretoria) and Siri Gloppen (UiB – moderator).

21.March: LGBT rights in Sudan

LawTransform co-organized (with Sex&Politikk and NORAD) a film screening of the Art of Sin and a panel discussion on LGBT rights in Sudan with our co-director Liv Tønnessen, Ahmed Umar (the Norwegian Ambassador to Sudan) and an LGBT activist from Sudan. Jon Lomøy (former head of NORAD) chaired the panel. The seminar was in person and by invitation only as an activist from Sudan participated and the film will be shown at NRK later this year.

On the panel: Liv Tønnessen (LawTransform/CMI), Ahmed Umar (the Norwegian Ambassador to Sudan), Jon Lomøy (former head of NORAD) and an LGBT activist from Sudan.

23. March: Film screening – “Camila comes out tonight”

LawTransform and Bergen Global are happy to invite you for the second event in our “Queer Lawfare” seminar series, this time in partnership with Cine Latino! On March 23rd at 16.30, we will be waiting for you at Jussbygget II (Jekteviksbakken 31, room 145 – Auditorium) with empanadas, candy and popcorn for a free screening of the film “Camila comes out tonight” followed by a conversation on “Queer youth as activists”, with representatives from LawTransform, Skeiv Ungdom, and Skeiv Verden.

On the panel: Ana Côrtes (LawTransform), Isabella Lie Befring (Skeiv Ungdom), Erwin Rapiz Navarro (Skeiv Verden), and Siri Gloppen (UiB – moderator)

7. April Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTQ persons

The COVID-19 pandemic had devastating effects on several social minority groups. This event aims to address the specific effects it had on the LGBTQ community, highlighting the experiences from Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Uganda. In this seminar, we will also have the opportunity to hear from two of LawTransform’s current guest researchers.

On the panel: Carmeliza Rosario (CMI), Adrian Jjuuko (Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum) and anonymous

Date and time: 7th of April 2022 – 14.00 (Bergen time)

07.June: Global Queer Movements: Perspectives from the Global South

LawTransform is collaborating with Skeiv Verden Vest and Rafto on an event that is part of the official Bergen Pride calendar and invites speakers from Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and South America to give us a picture of the current situation when it comes to fighting for rights and the existence of LGBTQ+ people around the world.

On the panel: Frank Mugisha (he/him) LGBT advocate from Uganda, Rafto prize and John F. Kennedy Human Riights winner. Frank is the most prominent LGBT advocate in Uganda.

Suneela Mubayi (she/her) scholar, translator and writer. Advocate in gender and sexual liberation, and the intersection between language, the body and poetry. Has Indian descent and citizen of the world.

Ana Cortes (she/her) lawyer, activist and researcher. Has a background in working with trans rights cases in Brazil. She is the current Board leader of Skeiv Verden Vest.

Romeo Cabarde (he/him) lawyer, queer and political activist from the Philippines. Has a background in law and is very engaged in the promulgation of queer rights in the Philippines.

20.June: The Forbidden Library

In the context of global anti-gender movements, SAIH and the CMI-UiB Centre on Law & Social Transformation reunite KKeval Harie (GALA Queer Archive South Africa), Tone Hellesund (UiB), Liv Mar Taule (Skeivt Arkiv) and a representative from Skeiv Verden Vest for an exciting panel discussion moderated by Liv Tønnessen (CMI). By that means, we aim to debate the importance of preserving queer knowledge – and the challenges for achieving this – counting on the experience of scholars, civil society organizations, and archives that document, preserve and disseminate queer history and culture. 

On the panel: Keval Harie (GALA Queer Archive South Africa), Tone Hellesund (UiB), Liv Tønnessen (LawTransform/CMI) and representatives from Skeivt Arkiv (TBC) and Skeiv Verden Vest (TBC)

20. August: [BeEx] Keynote with Svati Shah: Postcolonial Queer and Trans Theory: The Country, the City, and Rural Imaginaries

Chair: Ana Côrtes

As LGBTQI+ movements and visibility gain momentum in South Asia and Africa, these spaces take shape as urban, developmentalist, and, in some respects, homonationalist and homocapitalist. In their keynote, Dr. Svati Shah reads work by South Asian historian Neeladhri Bhattacharya with political theorist Lyn Ossome’s work on gender, land rights and political enfranchisement as sites of a potentially countervailing theory of the rural and non-urban for postcolonial queer and trans theory. The talk sets these issues into the broader context of anti-democratic governance and battles over historical memory in India.

Svati Shah is a queer feminist anthropologist who works on questions of sexuality, gender, migration and caste capitalism in India. They hold adjunct appointments in the Departments of Anthropology and Afro-American Studies at UMass-Amherst. Dr. Shah’s ethnographic monograph, Street Corner Secrets: Sex, Work and Migration in the City of Mumbai (2014, Duke University Press and Orient Blackswan, India) discussed sex work as an aspect of labor migration that is mediated by the politics of space, urbanization and caste. They are currently researching the rise of authoritarianism and the histories of new left social movements, queer feminist critique, and anthropology in South Asia.

20. August: ROUNDTABLE – Queer Lawfare in Africa: Queer Identities as Political Currency in Autocratization Processes and Courts as Sites of Resistance

Across much of Africa the lives of queer people – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTIQ+) – are deeply affected by an extreme politicisation of queer identities and rights. Church leaders and politicians are whipping up hatred, and anti-queer laws are tightened and more harshly enforced. This is by now a familiar issue. But it is only one part of a bigger picture. Some African countries have liberalised the law, decriminalised same sex relations, strengthened rights of transgender people, and outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – and are seeing more tolerant attitudes in the population. And queer activists are using multiple strategies and arenas to advance their cause – such as by taking cases to court, sometimes with considerable success. The Botswana High Court decriminalised homosexuality in 2019, in a judgment upheld by the court of appeals. This roundtable discusses the dynamics of queer lawfare in a range of African countries: why developments are so different across countires; how autocratic leaders use anti-queer mobilization; and the relationship between queer activism and poltiical backlash.
Introduction: Adrian Jjuuko (Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda – HRAPF)
Participants: Getnet Tadele (Addis Ababa University), Nicholas Orago (University of Nairobi), and Liv Tønnessen (LawTransform / CMI)
Commentator: Bruce Wilson (University of Central Florida)
Moderator: Siri Gloppen (UiB/LawTransform)

20. August: ROUNDTABLE – Sexuality Politics, Lawfare and Violence: Global Contestations

The celebration of the 50 year anniversary for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Norway was marred by violence when on the eve of Oslo Pride two people were killed and many wounded in a shooting near a well known gay bar. That this happened in a country frequently named as one of the world’s most LGBTIQ+ friendly and least violent, underscores that violence against queer people is a global problem. While statistics are patchy, existing evidence shows a clear pattern of widespread, brutal violence, often committed with impunity. This roundtable discusses the relationships between increasing queer visibility, politicisation of queer rights, and violence. 

Participants: Ana Côrtes (LawTransform / University of Coimbra), Juliana Jaramillo (Los Andes University), Hamada M (Sudanese Activist – Shades of Ebony), Lívia Buzolin (Getulio Vargas Foundation), Vikram Kolmannskog (Norwegian Gestalt Institute, participates digitally)

Moderator: Adrian Jjuuko (Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda – HRAPF)

21.October: Film screening – Into my name

In partnership with BIFF, Bergen International Film Festival, LawTransform will screen the Italian film “Into My Name” at the Bergen Cinema in Magnus Barfot Gate (17.15). It will open the festival’s LGBTQ programme. Next, we will have a talk with the director Nicolo Bassetti and the producer Gaia Morrione at Kulturhuset (19.15). The evening will end with a party at Kulturhuset!

Check out the synopsis:

Four friends – Nic, Leo, Andrea and Raff – tell the stories of their gender transitions. Looking back on their childhood and youth, they share their personal memories and experiences. Even if they did not always conform to the social norms of femininity – all four were socialised as girls. Each of their gender biographies may be different, yet there are parallels. This helps them to understand each other and feel less alone. The discussions with partners, the choice of pronouns, the hormone therapy, decisions about surgery and dealing with the authorities – the processes are diverse, and lengthy. In the strictly binary world we live in, the decision to determine one’s own gender identity is a subversive act.
Nel mio nome gives trans people a space to describe their personal paths to their own identity with the name they have chosen for themselves. The film is also a frank and sensitive depiction of the hurdles that they have had to overcome in society in order to implement the necessary social, physical and legal changes.

On the panel: Nicolo Bassetti (film director), Gaia Morrione (film producer), Ana Côrtes (LawTransform / University of Coimbra)

24. Mars 2023: Film screening – Almamula

“He’s not the first boy who’s missing in the forest. The boy that was with him says that a monster has taken him.”Santiago del Estero, northern Argentina. When Nino is deemed a bad influence to the other boys in his neighbourhood and has to endure homophobic attacks on the streets, his parents temporarily move the family to the countryside. Away from the city, Nino wanders in a forest supposedly haunted by the Almamula, a monster that takes those who commit carnal sins and impure acts. It’s summer: the bodies sweat, the line between dream and reality becomes blurry. A boy disappears. In a world surrounded by whispers, unspoken desires and prayers, Nino’s curiosity and impulses surface. As an escape from a reality flooded with toxicity, repressions, interdictions and imminent violence, the hidden and sensuous mysteries of the forest become increasingly attractive to Nino.

On the panel: Juan Sebastián Torales (film director) and Larissa Margarido (LawTransform / Getulio Vargas Foundation).

To contact us about the Queer Lawfare Seminar Series, please reach out to Ana Côrtes (ana.cortes@cmi.no).

Photo credits: Cecilie Johnsen via Unsplash.