Sexual orientation and human rights

Norway plays an active role as an advocate for the human rights of LGBT people, both in the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly and bilaterally. In the UN General Assembly in December 2008, Norway was part of a core group that promoted the statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The statement was supported by 66 countries. Our main message has been that homosexuality must be decriminalised and that states must take steps to combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The starting point for Norway’s efforts is that human rights apply to everyone, regardless of their sex, social and ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation. In practice, LGBT people are subject to criminalisation and discrimination, in the form of both harassment and actual violence. In some cases, LGBT people are the victims of abuse and discrimination on the part of the authorities themselves. In others, the authorities fail to protect them against abuse and discrimination by family members or society in general. Many LGBT people also experience more indirect forms of discrimination in the labour and housing markets.
LGBT activists who are working for their rights and fighting discrimination are considered to be human rights defenders, in the same way as other human rights activists.
Norway is a staunch defender of Human Rights. Our policy with regards to LGBT people is that Norway is willing to speak up when others are silent, and to raise the issue of equality and rights for LGTB people. There is a need for an increased focus onequal rights, including the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a priority area in the Government’s Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Development Cooperation 2007–2009. Norway also endorses the Yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.


In ordinary speech we often talk of lesbian and gay rights. The UN uses the term sexual orientation and gender identity. Common generic terms are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people (LGBT). The term “transgender” or “third gender” applies to all that do not fall into the definition man/woman.

Long-term approach

In many countries, securing the rights of LGBT people is a sensitive issue, and the work of Norway’s embassies in this field must be adapted to the local context and what will give the best results for the target group. A long-term perspective is needed. It may be worthwhile to look back on the history of campaigns for greater equality in Norway. Both women and gay and lesbian groups have used campaigning methods that were against the law in order to make themselves heard. Due to the efforts of Norwegian homosexuals, their situation has changed from a prohibition against homosexual practices 35 years ago to the recent adoption of amendments to the Marriage Act to make it applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. It seems likely that there will be situations where LGBT activists in other countries make use of campaigning methods that states consider to be illegal. Norway should take a particular responsibility for speaking out precisely in cases where the rights of sexual minorities are a controversial issue. Norway is playing a leading role in promoting women’s and children’s rights, and should have the same level of ambition when it comes to the rights of LGBT people.


The Ministry’s efforts

Please refer to the guidelines for systematising and strengthening the efforts of foreign service missions to support human rights defenders, which are available at
Many of the types of initiative that can be taken to support human rights defenders can also be used to support LGBT activists and organisations.
Read more on the Norwegian LGBT Organization website.