The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a "worldwide federation of more than 1,700 organizations from over 160 countries and territories campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights." Its activities include advocacy work at the Human Rights Council, fighting for the inclusion of queer people in international law, discussing queer women's issues at the Commission on the Status of Women, and more.
A brief overview of the founding and goals
The ILGA was founded in 1978 in Coventry (UK) at a meeting at the annual conference of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Among the attendees were members of gay organizations from Australia, Britain, Denmark, France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, and the United States. The meeting was chaired by Rob Pistor (of Netherland's COC) and Peter Ashman of Britain's (CHE.)
The aims were to maximize the effectiveness of gay organizations through international coordination as well as to set up an information center to distribute information on gay matters. The ILGA would continue to advocate for gay rights throughout the decades and to this day, and they would notably gain become the first non-governmental organization to gain UN Consultative status.
Affiliation with NAMBLA and the question of intergenerational relationships
- See also: Historical examples of LGBT-MAP unity.
According to David Paternotte, the ILGA's "discourse on pedophilia" was influenced heavily by "liberationist rhetoric," with the ILGA insisting on a "need for solidarity with other sexual minorities, including pedophiles and young people." Many identified common roots of oppression as well. He notes that youthlovers had been able to associate much more freely in countries such as the Netherlands, as well as observing that French intellectuals had begun to campaign for the decriminalization of homosexuality and the lowering of the Age of Consent. They would have support from individuals such as Foucault, Sartre, Beauvoir, and more. However, there was immediate conflict within the ILGA which was further spurred on by anti-pedophile campaigns in the USA and UK. One such example is Anita Bryant's campaigns, which "used pedophilia to attack gay groups."
The organization first handled the issue in 1979 during the Bergen (the Netherlands) conference. There was disagreement on what official position to adopt on the topic of intergenerational relationships, and so a specific panel was to be created. The decision was still yet postponed, and the debate was carried on at the next two conferences (Brighton 1979 and Barcelona 1980.) The justification for supporting intergenerational relationships was the need for solidarity between oppressed minorities and to support young people's sexual autonomy. The women's caucus would display concern over power imbalances and of patriarchy against women and children but would ultimately state that "mutual relationships are possible between adults and children."
The debate would continue when a 1984 letter from the Flemish FWH to the Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM) revealed that the IGRM had suspended its memberships due to the handling of pedophilia in a 1983 Vienna conference. FWH made a call for 'international solidarity in the face of universal oppression,' and the original founding document of the ILGA included pedophiles and considered their oppression a "gay issue" regardless of whether the youthlover was gay. Paternotte goes on to express how discourse around pedophilia would change as the rights of youthlovers and youth sexual autonomy became disjointed. Though youth had previously formed their own groups within and outside of the ILGA wherein they called for the abolition of the AoC, they slowly began to advocate for a lower AoC.
At the same time that (some) youth began claiming there to be a need for sexual protection from adults, the views of women's groups switched. The topic of pedophilia began to be seen as a "male issue." These activists now focused on the "psychological and biological development" of the child, rather than a "constructivist approach" to sexuality. Furthermore, initiatives concerning "children's rights" began to emerge which, in one example, called for the ILGA to remain exclusive to lesbian and gay rights all the while stating that "sexual relations between sexually immature children and adults constitute an abuse of the child. ILGA should work against such abuse on a global basis." Though unsuccessful, controversy was further stoked.
Positions that separated youth autonomy and youthlovers rights would continue to be held and encouraged. Though not officially condemnatory, the ILGA's rhetoric began to favor the child advocates and liberationist sentiment was becoming less noticeable. Advocates for intergenerational relationships were beginning to feel far less supported in this new environment.
This controversy within the ILGA would come to a climax with the "United Nations crisis." The ILGA had finally gained a consultative status to the UN, but conservatives felt keen to fight against this. A Lambda Report article would be published that implied ILGA's age of consent and children's rights policies were based on NAMBLA's. Additionally, their consultative status would be suspended after a campaign by conservative US senator Jesse Helms, and a bill would be introduced to cut funding to the UN unless they could show they didn't grant official status to "any organization which promotes, condones, or seek the legalization of pedophilia." The ILGA would eventually kick NAMBLA from its membership, alongside Project Truth and Vereniging MARTIJN.
Although this would mark the end of the ILGA's official involvement with organizations like NAMBLA, it would not mark the end of clandestine support by remaining members.
In the current day, the ILGA still seeks to advance the rights of queer individuals. The organization publishes "State-Sponsored Homophobia reports," conduct surveys on the attitudes of populations towards queer people, and came to sponsor the International Intersex Forum which has taken place annually since 2011. They currently claim that their prejudiced position on youthlove is "clear and a matter of public record" despite evidence to the contrary.