“When hate speech is acceptable violence follows”

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir on Oslo, hate speech, and her 21-point action plan for LGBTI rights.

Despite many steps forward for LGBTI rights in Iceland, the community is now facing a backlash that some members say was expected. Many activists and leaders say we’re not doing enough to speak out and stand up for our rights and that we need more protection enshrined in law. Speaking to GayIceland about the wave of backlash the queer community in Iceland has seen, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir says part of this reaction may be related to increased rights for trans people but Iceland passed a legislation on gender autonomy in 2019.

“This legislation pushed the barriers. We’ve had more of an open debate about the rights of trans people specifically and we’ve seen a lot more open hate speech and degrading behavior, which is gravely concerning.”

Though she can’t say it’s directly related to the legislation, Katrín also thinks it may have something to do with all of us being stuck inside and online during the pandemic that has gotten certain people down into rabbit holes they may have otherwise avoided.

“With new technologies [hate speech] can spread rapidly. You see changes happen so swiftly in how we interact. During the time of covid, you also saw a lot of young people entering this world of watching Youtube and TikTok videos all day where this behavior is shown. In a way society changed overnight to a place of isolation where people didn´t meet face to face. Now we’re kind of going out again.”

Seeing each other out in the street again may help with tolerance and acceptance, but Katrín says she’s still surprised to see how much hate speech and backlash there’s been.

“This backlash we are seeing is horrifying and you think “wow, how does this happen?” in spite of our success in pushing barriers and really making progress with legislation. Visibility has increased. But then again those who have been campaigning for the rights of trans people say that increased visibility means increased hate speech.”

From her perspective, the answer to this backlash is twofold. First, Katrín is targeting hate speech with the law to hinder anyone that’s making threats against minorities. Second, it may be that these changes in legislation need to proceed changes in culture. Or is it the other way around?

“What we’ve decided to do is tackle hate speech specifically. Not just hate speech towards LGBTI people but also those of different ethnic origins and other vulnerable groups. I put together a group in my office that will deliver proposals later this year. And I’m not just talking about legislation, I’m also talking about culture and attitude. What we have seen is sometimes you transform political policy into legislation but the culture doesn’t change until later. A perfect example of that is the Icelandic legislation on shared parental leave where we changed the legislation in 2000 but we didn´t see the change in attitude and culture until a decade later mainly because it’s very deeply rooted. So there we had very progressive legislation and didn’t really see the change in attitude until later. We have been changing the legislation when it comes to LGBTI rights, definitely. The urgent task we must tackle now is to accelerate the change in culture and attitudes.”

Photo / Saga Sig

However, Iceland looks so queer-friendly to the outside eye. After all, we have a very big, family-friendly pride and we’re in 9th place on the ILGA Europe equality map. So what gives? Where is this backlash coming from? And how do we address it?

“The good thing about Iceland is that even though we have been making progress, we kind of never stop,” she laughs. “The gender equality issue is a good example because we’ve been on the top for the last 13 years but we are always like “ok, but we’re not there yet.” Part of this is the fact that we have a history of a very strong feminist movement and one of the reasons we have achieved a lot of progress on LGBTI rights is because of a similar strong grassroots movement.”

“So, the milestones we have reached are not just because of governments and politicians, it’s not least because the grassroots movement is so strong in Iceland. That’s something that we seem to be doing right, to create an atmosphere where people have the space and power to keep on fighting. A great example is the pride festival in Iceland, people are protesting and fighting but it’s also about showing support. It´s common for whole families to attend, generations march into town together, to show support.”

“This backlash we are seeing is horrifying and you think “wow, how does this happen?”

In late June, London Pub in Oslo, Norway was attacked by an Islamic extremist intent on showing his disapproval of the LGBTI community. Following the attack, there was an outpouring of support and shock from the European and international communities. Katrín tweeted in Norwegian: “Shocking to hear about a fatal attack on the LGBTI community in Oslo. We support Norway in preserving human rights and the right to love for all.”

When asked about how she felt after hearing the news, Katrín mentions that acts of violence are often preluded by hate speech.

“Oslo was a very violent example of this hate, an act of hate towards the rights of people to be themselves and love whomever [they choose]. What I want to tackle in the hate speech group is a reaction to this escalation in hate. We have seen that when hate speech is acceptable, violence follows. When nothing is done you are legitimizing attitudes and opinions that can prove dangerous.”

“What we’ve decided to do is tackle hate speech specifically. Not just hate speech towards LGBTI people but also those of different ethnic origins and other vulnerable groups.”

“I think the attack in Oslo really touched us here in Iceland because obviously they are some of our closest neighbors, our history and culture is common, and we don’t really expect violent crimes to happen there. One of the challenges we face is that we need to think about this type of violence in regards to a lot of different groups as I mentioned, vulnerable groups that are subject to this kind of hate speech, but also we need to think about it pan-politically. It shouldn’t be a Left-Green issue. It should be an issue that politicians unite about.”

Katrín also hopes that her 21-point Governmental LGBTI Action Programme  addresses some of these foundational principles. One of the pieces would be a survey focusing on the attitudes and situation of LGBTI people within the industries of fisheries and agriculture.

“There are a lot of projects concerning education because education is really all about raising awareness. Since this plan was put in motion there was a  research on LGBTI people in the labor market in Iceland and I thought “ok, this really shows the need for education and awareness everywhere in our society” because a lot of the findings of the research such as inequality in the labor market when it comes to LGBTI can be [attributed] to people not having that understanding. I think the best way to deal with this is to keep the conversation alive among professionals, elected representatives, the police, people working with children and teenagers, extracurricular activities.”

One of the biggest institutions in need of queer education is the Icelandic school system, where organizations like Samtökin ‘78 think we don’t need more research but swift action instead. After all, primary school has always been more difficult for queer kids so how much research do we need to show something everyone already knows? At the moment only a handful of municipalities have an educational partnership with Samtökin ‘78. Katrín defends her plan for more research saying that for the government to move on something like this there has to be a solid foundation to bolster the move.

“I’ve heard that criticism too. The work of Samtökin ´78 is  very important but I also think it’s very important that the state does its own research. Now, I am aware that people may say this is unnecessary but I think it’s important because you need to have that strong foundation if you want to achieve results. For example with the education system, you need to have a very firm ground to stand on and be aware of what is broken in order to fix it. In my time as the Minister of Education one of the things that we implemented in the curriculum was actually education on human rights and democracy. In my opinion, just as a human being, this should be something that you shouldn’t have to debate but it took me two years to implement this in the curriculum,. So, I know that people want to do things faster but I also know that it takes time and if you want changes to have an impact and last it’s important to have very solid ground.”

Although this plan is only another step, Katrín thinks it’s important that the government does this work. Community organizations that were consulted in the process of making it say the plan doesn’t go far enough. Katrín explains:

“As a plan, it’s a limited paper. At the same time, it’s groundbreaking work because we’re doing these things for the first time. Just as in the fight for gender equality we have seen changes happen gradually over the years and progress is indeed being made but at the same time you still feel like everything is so slow. The big task is how we implement these thoughts on LGBTI rights into everything we’re doing.

The interesting bit about working on a plan like this is that you’re trying to really get all of the ministries and the institutions to do their part. So, we have some projects that some people would say “ok, this is kind of specific” like LGBTI people in fisheries and the agriculture sector but this is because we’re trying to work broadly. We’ll derive a lot of experience from this plan and implementing it and learn before we do the next one.”

One of the most notable points in Katrín’s action plan is a change to the regulations on blood donation in Iceland that has the purpose to abolish the discrimination which blood donors have been subject to on account of their sexual orientation. Katrín says this action is long overdue after many speedbumps on the road to getting it done.

“I think the [changes to the blood donation rules] will be very important because it’s been in progress for quite some time but there’s a really broad consensus in parliament that this is something that should be done. It´s important for us who are ministers when we get very broad support for such an important matter.”

Then Katrín wants to set up a human rights insitute in Iceland to continue work like this. She says human rights has always been at the core of Iceland’s principles, but that it’s taken some time to get those principles into practice:

“I was the Minister for Education back in the day when we put six new pillars in the curriculum, one concerning human rights and democracy, one about gender equality. Actually it has been part of the legislation in Icelandic primary school since 1976 that children should learn about gender equality but it was only put into curriculum in 2011. This shows you that you really can make positive changes to legislation but is anybody really doing anything with it? Sometimes for us politicians we tend to think “ok, I’m just going to put this into legislation” but you also have to provide the environment so people can actually implement what it says in the legislation. You have to give the teachers some tools to work with what’s in the law in this case.”

“The next step I’m taking in these issues, because I think the legislation on gender autonomy was quite a big step, the next step when it comes to human rights in general is a new human rights institute in Iceland. It’s something we probably should have done many years ago.”

“The next step I’m taking in these issues, because I think the legislation on gender autonomy was quite a big step, the next step when it comes to human rights in general is a new human rights institute in Iceland. It’s something we probably should have done many years ago. We tend to think everything’s just ok because we’re so small but there are so many things we’re talking about when it comes to disabled people for example that we can do a lot better. Such an institution will be fundamental so we can actually fully implement the human rights convention on disabled people for example. So there we’re also going to see a new tool in the fight not just for disabled people but for LGBTI people, people of different ethnic origins, etc.”

Acknowledging the long waitlist for gender confirming healthcare at Landspítalinn and holding people accountable for hate speech, Katrín mentions that we have to start thinking more about how to put the horse before the cart instead of the other way around:

“There are two anti-discrimination laws that we adopted 2018. Equal treatment in the labor market and equal treatment outside the labor market. Both legislation regards equal treatment irrespective of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity etc. This spring we changed the general penal code to include a provision on hate crime. So we have been making a lot of progressive changes in legislation but we need to think a bit more about culture and how we are doing things.”

“We also have to think about the implementation and how we’re going to do it. There’s a lot of work to be done for example in the legislation on gender autonomy when it comes to providing sufficient services. That is something that we need to work on. One day I’m going to leave this office and I hope that one can say we really strengthened the infrastructure for human rights in Iceland when it comes to legislation and culture but also institutionally.”

To read Katrín’s full 21-point action plan, click here.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Nasdaq

         

        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        Whales of Iceland
        - larger than life

        Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

        Landsbankinn
        - leading financial institution
        Landsbankinn

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        Aurora Reykjavik
        - northern lights center

          Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

          Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

          The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

          Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

          Contact Aurora

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            Dohop
            - get inspired
            Dohop

            Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

            Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

            More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf

               

              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              Macland
              - for all your Apple needs
              Macland

              From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

              Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
              For all your Apple needs. We are here.

              Ísey skyr
              - once tasted never forgotten

              Our Story
              Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

              For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

              Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
              This is our secret and you are in on it

              You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

              Núðluskálin
              - noodle bar
              Núðluskálin

              Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

              All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
              We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
              Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

              Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

              Seatours
              - adventure cruise

              Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
              and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

              The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

              600x400-seatours-tasting

              This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

              600x400-seatours

              The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

              Birds, possible to spot:
              -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
              -eider ducks
              -shags
              -kittiwakes
              -fulmars
              -white-tailed eagle

              The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
              Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

              Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

              Contact Us


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