Berlin, den 02.11.2007
Tolerantia Prize 2007 Awarded
On the evening of November 3, the German-French-Polish Tolerantia Prize initiated by MANEO was awarded for the second time. This year’s awarding ceremony took place at the Louvre in Paris.
With this tri-national prize, the organisations SOS-Homophobie (France), Lambda-Warsawa, Campaign Against Homophobia and Foundation for Equal Rights (Poland) and MANEO (Germany) acknowledge exemplary committed efforts aimed at overcoming homophobia and hate violence in their countries. This year’s award-winners are the Polish civil rights campaigner and deputy editor-in-chief of the liberal daily newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza” Piotr Pacewicz, the French theatre project “Place de Mythos” and the German group “Menschenrechte und sexuelle Identität (MERSI)” at amnesty international.
In a Word –The Award-Winners 2007
Vanva Gauthier, director of the theatre project “Place de Mythos / Delusion Square” (France), awarded the Tolerantia Prize 2007:
<< We have been working for around twelve years with young people from Ris-Orangis, a suburb of Paris, which is a social hotspot. Three years ago we came up with the idea of putting the theme of “bad reputation” on stage. In banlieus such as ours, girls who go out with boys are branded as bitches, and boys who don’t go out with girls are stamped as “fags”. At the start of our project, our youths also revealed strong homophobic tendencies. But over time, a change took place in the minds of most. And our play contributed to this.
We are extremely proud to be awarded the Tolerantia Prize. It is very important for us because we know who was awarded the prize before us, and that makes it even more valuable. We wanted to set an example for the concerns of homosexuals with “Place de Mythos”. This prize is a prize of the heart. >>
Richard Harnisch, speaker of the group “Menschenrechte und sexuelle Identität (MERSI)” at amnesty international, awarded the Tolerantia Prize 2007:
<< We are very happy that our long-standing commitment to human rights all over the world has been acknowledged in this way. What is of great importance for our work is a functioning network that allows the quick exchange of information and the ability to respond to critical situations. The Tolerantia Prize enables us to establish closer ties to Poland, in particular. This is very important for us, since we have been engaged for quite some time in improving the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender in our neighbouring country. >>
Piotr Pacewicz, the Polish civil rights campaigner and deputy editor-in-chief of the liberal daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, awarded the Tolerantia Prize 2007:
<< When I wrote a commentary on the results of the last ‘violence report’ of the organisation KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) and Lambda for our paper Gazeta Wyborcza, I titled my article “Keep Quiet, You Gays”. Homosexuals are victims of all sorts of aggression. According to the latest report, 20 percent of all gays are victim to physical violence, around half have experienced verbal injuries and intimidation. But the biggest problem is the alliance of keeping silent about this violence. 85 percent of gays conceal their homosexual orientation at the workplace, 79 percent at schools and universities. 50 percent of all mothers and two thirds of the fathers do not know the truth about their children. One of the reasons for these worrying statistics is Catholic conservatism.
Poland was ruled for two years by rightwing populists, for the most part by the party of the Kaczynski brothers ‘PiS’. They utilized and strengthened homophobic attitudes.
Last month the Kaczynski brothers lost the parliamentary elections in Poland. The head of the government, Kaczynski, explained his defeat by saying it was caused by a powerful front led by the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
The changing political climate will soon contribute to the condemnation of homophobic remarks as the politically correct tone, just as it is already the case with anti-Semitic remarks.
In a broader context, I also view this as a challenge to civil society. Although our country continues to develop rapidly and dynamically and Poles are becoming better educated at the same pace, our social capital is not developing with the same speed. Trust in others, goodwill and the willingness to cooperate, the will to assume civil responsibility – all this is still on the lowest level in Europe. Poles are not yet fully mature citizens.
Declarations such as the Tolerantia Declaration are like stars in the sky, the way Immanuel Kant saw them. They can support civil mobilization. This must also take place on the side of homosexuals. >>
The Tolerantia Prize
In 2006 for the first time, the projects MANEO, the French association SOS-Homophobie and the Polish organisations Lambda, KPH and the Foundation for Equal Rights founded a network together with the “Schwule Weimarer Dreieck” aimed at closer collaboration on a tri-national basis in anti-violence work.
The “Tolerantia Prize” is the most symbolic expression of this cooperation. In May 2006 it was awarded within the frame of a charity event attended by Berlin’s governing mayor, Klaus Wowereit, to the Green Party politicians, Volker Beck and Günther Dworek (Germany), the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia, Dr. Louis-Georges Tin (France), and Senator Kazimierz Kutz (Poland).
The Tolerantia Award-Winners 2007
Group “Menschenrechte und sexuelle Identität (MERSI)”, at amnesty international
MERSI, originally founded on November 18, 1995, under the name “Sektionskoordinationsgruppe Homosexualität” at amnesty international, is today dedicated to uncovering all over the world violations of human rights against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender and to improving the social and political framework conditions for those affected.
Presently, MERSI has around sixty activists working in district groups in several German cities. Via amnesty’s internal network “amnesty international members for gay and lesbian concerns”, MERSI additionally has contacts with more than 25 countries.
A proven instrument of amnesty international are the so-called “urgent actions” aimed at bringing flagrant abuses to the focus of public attention and putting pressure on government authorities or the police to take action. Today, more than 1,000 supporters participate in the urgent appeals; more than 40% of the interventions are successful: persons arrested on account of their sexual identity are released, perpetrators are charged.
The book “Das Recht, anders zu sein“, published by members of MERSI, documents numerous cases of violations of human rights against LGBT worldwide. Detailed information is given on legal regulations and the way homosexuality is treated in various regions of the world. www.mersi-amnesty.de
Prior to founding the first independent daily newspaper, “Gazeta Wyborcza”, after the radical changes in 1989, Piotr Pacewicz was editor of the largest newspaper of the then-illegal Solidarność, “Tygodnika Mazowsze”, for eight years. From 1980 on, he additionally worked at the Institute of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and was lecturer in social psychology at the Technical University in West-Berlin. In 1989 he was then engaged in the round-table discussions, and since 1995 he is deputy editor-in-chief of the liberal “Gazeta Wyborcza”. In 2005 he took part in the banned equal rights parade, which he simultaneously supported in his editorial work. He has repeatedly protested against the homophobic rabble-rousing propaganda of Polish politicians. Thanks to his numerous articles and commentaries, the image of homosexuals in the Polish media has improved significantly.
Piotr Pacewicz, born 1953, graduated from the Department of Psychology at Warsaw University.
Theatre project “Place de Mythos / Delusion Square” of Ris-Orangis
The youth project Ris-Orangis is located amidst a social hotspot: Violence, discrimination and homophobia are the order of the day in this Parisian suburb. In November 2006 a youth worker and a theatre director approached the youths of the club with an idea: They were to write and stage a play that would reflect their everyday life and the constant climate of violence. On their own accord, the youths decided to take up the theme of homophobia – which in their view is the worst and most widespread form of discrimination in their neighbourhood. This resulted in an authentic two-hour musical with rap, hip hop and R’n’B elements – the 16- to 21-year-old heterosexual actors deliberately chose musical styles that in the past have been repeatedly criticized for their homophobic and sexist texts. The show was a huge success and will continue to be performed frequently in the future in theatres in and around Paris. Not only French LGBT organisations were enthusiastic; the French NCC awarded the project the label “All different All equal“.