Norway prides itself for being a staunch defender of human rights, evident in their comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. Although there is no protection against discrimination in the Norwegian Constitution, the major human rights conventions (CEDAW-OP, ECHR, ICCPR, ICESCR, CRC, CERD) are incorporated into Norwegian law through the Human Rights Act of 1999. It takes precedence over Norwegian legislation, except for the Constitution which remains the most important legal provision. The protection of freedom of expression for everyone including LGBTI people is also covered by Article 100 of the Constitution.
In 1993, Norway became the second country in the world to introduce legislation regulating registered partnerships between persons of the same sex through the Registered Partnership Act. The Act was repealed in 2009 when the Norwegian Marriage Act came into force, explicitly stating the inclusion of same-sex marriages. The Marriage Act also allows same-sex couples to become adoptive parents and stipulates the right to assisted conception.
Norwegian discrimination law is based on several anti-discrimination acts, providing protection against sexual orientation and gender discrimination:
- The Gender Equality Act (GEA): Prohibition against gender discrimination in all areas of society with the exception of internal matters in religious communities.
- The Anti-Discrimination Act (ADA): Promoting equality, ensuring equal opportunities and rights and preventing discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, descent, skin colour, language, religion or belief. ADA applies in all areas of society except family life, personal relationships and religious or belief communities.
- The Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act (AAA): Promoting equality, ensuring equal opportunities for all persons, rights to social participation regardless of disabilities, and prevention of discrimination on the basis of disability. The act applies to all areas of society with the exception of family life and personal relationships.
- The Working Environment Act (WEA): Protection against discrimination in employment and prohibition of unlawful discrimination based on political views, membership of a trade union, sexual orientation and age.
In addition, the Seamen’s Act of 30 May 1975 no 18 chapter II is a specialised legislation providing seafarers with protection against discrimination in employment on the basis of political views, membership of a trade union, sexual orientation, disability or age. Specialized legislation also includes the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in four different Acts in regards to housing legislation (the Tenancy Act, the Housing Association Act, Residential Building Association Act and the Property Unit Ownership Act).
All the anti-discrimination laws are enforced and monitored through the Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act. The Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud (LDO) combats discrimination and promotes equality on the basis of gender, ethnicity, functional ability, language, religion, sexual orientation and age.
The Government’s Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Development Cooperation 2007–2009 focuses on gender equality and the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the fight to prevent all forms of discrimination and stigmatisation due to sexual orientation. In addition, the plan of action for improving the quality of life for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons 2009-2012 aims to put an end to the discrimination faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons (LGBT) in different phases of life, social contexts and working environments, and promote better living conditions and quality of life. In terms of gender equality, the Norwegian government’s action plan for Gender Equality 2014 specifies gender equality objectives in a wide range of societal areas. Norway has also endorsed the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international law in relation to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Norway also became the first country in the world to enact a law to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the provision of goods or services and in access to public gatherings by amending Section 349a of the Norwegian Penal Code of 1902. In addition, the amendment in Section 135a of the Penal Code prohibits hateful expressions against sexual minorities, punishable with a prison sentence of up to three years. The penal code provisions in Section 135a apply to discrimination on the account of ‘(a) skin colour or national or ethnic origin, (b) religion or life stance, or (c) homosexuality, lifestyle or orientation’.
In this case, the Court concluded for the first time that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention in a case concerning the recognition of transsexuals. A transwoman complained about the refusal of the French authorities to amend the civil-status register in accordance with her wishes.
The court rejected the appeal of an Iranian man for asylum in Norway on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing that he should adapt to Iranian culture, and that religious criticism and similar problems are not enough to be granted asylum or any other type of protection.
A v. The State (Immigration Appeals Board), HR-2012-667-A (Case No. 2011/1688), Norway: Supreme Court, 29 March 2012
The case concerns the validity of a decision by the Immigration Appeals Board and raised the question as to whether an Iraqi citizen is entitled to asylum on the grounds that he as a homosexual has a well-founded fear of persecution in Iraq. The Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal's judgment with appeal proceedings as the Court of Appeal failed to make a decision based on the reason why the asylum seeker kept his sexual orientation a secret. The condition that there must be a "well-founded fear of being persecuted" would be satisfied given the real grounds for fearing persecution and the fear of persecution was crucial to his choice.
In this case an Ethiopian man was blackmailed and faced brutality by gang members due to his feminine looks and appearance. The appeal board did not grant the applicant refugee status because the experience of the applicant was viewed as discrimination, not rising to the level of persecution. The court decided that the applicant should seek protection from the state and the police in Ethiopia.
An Iranian lesbian woman was granted asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation, because her sexual orientation might put her life at risk if she returned to Iran. Later she married an Iranian man and as a result the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration decided to revoke her asylum status. The Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals interpretation of Article 1C(5) of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was incorrect and that the judgment must therefore be set aside. Essentially, the Supreme Court of Norway argued that Norwegian law interpreted Article 1C(5) of the Convention to only consider the revocation of asylum status owing to changes in the applicants’ country of origin, rather than personal circumstances, so in this case A’s marriage to a man could not be considered a reason to revoke her status.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Since the 1970s, transgender people in Norway can only change their legal gender recognition on the discriminatory requirement that they must first undergo medical treatment, psychiatric diagnosis and castration. As a result, the Ministry of Health and Care Services (HOD) set up a Health’s Expert Committee in 2013, which received input from Amnesty International. Paving way to transgender rights, the Committee recommends that people must be able to change their legal gender without the requirement of castration or other forms of sterilisation.
The majority of the Norwegian population has a neutral or positive stance towards homosexuality. This is also emphasized through education in Norwegian schooling as something that depicts Norwegian society. However, lower tolerance has been noted in the youth, people with lower income and lower levels of education. In 2012, the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs set up a dedicated LGBT Centre for sexual orientation and gender identity.
With respect to LGBTI people, Norway is seen as progressive due to the social environment and the provision of legal rights. However, the youth have higher levels of mental health disorders (depression and suicide), particularly the ones who lack support and acceptance from their parents.
Moreover, the media has insufficient awareness of transgender issues and a tendency to use the words ‘homo’, ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. A 2010, the Norwegian documentary series, ‘Jentene på Toten’ (The Toten Girls), about a group of transsexual women, was appreciated in public discourse and also contributed to an increase in acceptance for trans people.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Norwegian LGBT Association (LLH)
Address: Tollbugata 24, 0157 Oslo
Contact email: postllh [dot] no
Telephone: +47 231 039 39
LLH's aim is to work for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their liberation from all forms of discrimination. The organisation focuses on public and government attention on cases of discrimination against LGBT people, by asserting political/diplomatic pressure, providing information and working with other organisations and national media.
Skeiv Ungdom [Queer Youth] (LLH’s youth organisation)
Address: Queer Youth, Tollbugata 24, 0157 Oslo
Contact email: postskeivungdom [dot] no
Telephone: +47 231 039 36
Queer Youth is a politically and religiously independent, voluntary organization for youth under 30 years. The target group are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer and others who fall outside traditional gender norms, but all who support the organization's mission are welcome as members. The organization works to create social services for queer youth across the country.
Skeiv Verden [Queer World] (LLH’s network for LGBT immigrants)
Address: Torggata 1, 0181 Oslo
Contact email: infoskeivverden [dot] no
Telephone: +47 232 145 98
Queer World is a national organization for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer people (LHBTQ) with a minority background. It is also a religiously and politically independent organization that organises social events and gives people the chance to share experiences and to have the opportunity to be themselves.
Norwegian Association of Trans Persons (FTP)
Address: Nordahl Bruns Gate 22, Oslo Postboks 6698 St. Olavsplass, 0129 Oslo
Contact email: postftpn [dot] no
Telephone: +47 456 90900
The FTPN is the Norwegian Association of Transgenders. The organisation's purpose is to provide support for Norwegian transgenders, and to broaden the acceptance and recognition of transgenderism in Norwegian society.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We have no specialist on LGBTI for Norway, but we welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Fatima Hashmi
Email: fhashmi79gmail [dot] com