OPEN UP YOUR WORKPLACE: challenging homophobia and heteronormativity
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
Those are the first words in the first article of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even though it was adopted in 1948, there are still significantly large groups of people who have not yet been granted equal dignity and rights. One such group is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
It is a fundamental human right to live, work and love in accordance with your true identity. Nevertheless, discriminiation on the the grounds of sexual orientation is a large, and growing problem throughout Europe. While most European countries have anti-discrimination legislation, many nevertheless provide little or no protection for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Homophobia and harassment, even to the extent of violence, is widespread. Many non-heterosexual people feel that they must hide their sexual orientation, in some cases from their family and friends but particularly in the workplace.
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals are often made invisible in the workplace – either by their own choice as a safety precaution or because their colleagues do not want to recognize their existence. The result of this invisibility include emplouees that do not feel that they fit in at work and a workplace that is not the best that it can be.
Homophobia and discrimination must be fought against, and the heteronormativity that causes them must be challenged. A number of European Union guidelines specifically recognise the fundamental right to live, work and love according to one’s sexual orientation. There will not be a change towards openness and mutual respect unless awareness is raised by strategic work on every level of society. The responsibility to raise the issue lies not only with individuals, but also with employers, trade union, policy makers and political institutions.
This book, as well as the Norms at Work: Challenging Homophobia and Heteronormativity research reports book, is a result of the colaboration between four projects in France, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden. All of the projects have focused on the situation in working life, with the overall objective to create a society where everyne is accepted and respected regardless of their sexual orientation. Hopefully their insights, experiences, and advice will inspire you to begin and continue working to make sure that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights really does apply to everyone.
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