The Arab Institute for Women

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Lecture: Gender & LGBTQ+ Politics in Iceland

On November 16, 2022, The Arab Institute for Women (AiW), in collaboration with the Title XI Office at the Lebanese American University (LAU), hosted a talk titled “Gender & LGBTQ+ Politics in Iceland” by Dr. Irma Erlingsdóttir – Professor at the University of Iceland and Director of the UNESCO-affiliated Gender Equality Studies and Training Program (GRO-GEST). The event was attended by embassy representatives, LAU faculty and staff, and students from different majors.

In her talk, Dr. Erlingsdóttir presented a brief historical overview of the women’s/LGBTQ+ movement in Iceland, discussed the milestone achievements, and highlighted some of the persisting challenges to achieving gender equality.

During her presentation, Dr. Erlingsdóttir introduced Iceland as a successful and leading example for achieving gender equality on issues of women’s/LGBTQ+ rights. Through the presentation of facts and numbers and the narration of juncture episodes (e.g., the women’s strike of 1975), Dr. Erlingsdóttir thoroughly explained the development of strategies and rationales vis a vis matters of rights and equality. As she explained, the Icelandic model is one of the very few which boldly champions the notions of equality and nondiscrimination through both: national laws and practices (e.g., the election of a female head of state in 1980), and widespread public support (e.g., the support of 98% of the population to LGBTQ+ rights). As Dr. Erlingsdóttir yet explained, although countries like Iceland celebrate equality and nondiscrimination, they continue to face rising challenges and recurring events of violence (e.g., the repercussions of the economic and political instabilities post the 2008 financial crisis on women’s effective participation and LGBTQ+ rights). The struggle for rights, she thereby argued, is a continuous and long-lasting commitment which requires steady efforts and renewed endeavors.

On a positive note, Dr. Erlingsdóttir confirmed the importance of a gender sensitive and an intersectional approach to legislation and policy making in advancing women’s/LGBTQ+ rights. The challenges and opportunities, in addition to the ongoing struggle to promote equality, according to Dr. Erlingsdóttir, together have shaped the Icelandic gender rights’ experience. Thus, as she finally stated, the model of Iceland, notwithstanding contextual, political, and economic differences across countries, can serve as an inspiration and a case study to many organizations working in the field of human rights in Lebanon and around the world.

The talk concluded with a short Q&A session.