Lesbian couple and art duo Fleur Pierets and Julian P Bloom, known professionally as JF. Pierets, “can’t keep up” with the attention their marriage equality project 22 is attracting.
The duo is symbolically marrying 24 times, once in each of the countries that has achieved marriage equality. The project is designed to celebrate the places that have legalised same-sex marriage whilst highlighting the work that still needs to be done in the 170 countries that don’t.
Wedding number one was performed in New York in September, and now weddings two and three have brought the duo television appearances, newspaper interviews and their first experience of being recognised in the street.
“When we first started "22", we told each other that even if there would only be one person thinking about gay equality, the project would be a success. Obviously, we didn’t expect it to grow so quickly so needless to say we are more than grateful about the way the story gets spread and will hopefully create some ripple effects.”
Wedding number two was held in The Netherlands on September 12, officiated by Amsterdam’s Director of Communications, Joost Ravoo. Julian lived in Amsterdam for 15 years and grew up wondering why she wasn’t allowed to marry her pre-school girlfriend. That changed in 2001, when The Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage. Same-sex joint and stepchild adoption are also legal and lesbian couples can access IVF.
Wedding number three was officiated by Flemish Representative Of The People, Paul Cordy, in Antwerp, Belgium on October 21. In 2003, Belgium became the second country to legalise same-sex marriage, with same-sex adoption legalised in 2006. Lesbian couples also have access to IVF.
Fleur lived in Belgium for twenty years, so the duo attracted plenty of media attention and support, enabling them to organise the wedding in a week. The couple were gifted a reception, which meant they could celebrate with friends.
Whilst '22' highlights the great work done on equality, on Friday 27 October the UN’s Independent Expert On Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented his first report on the urgent work that needs to be done. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn called for immediate action to stop the horrific human rights violations of people around the world based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“It is unconscionable that people with an actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression different from a particular social norm, are targeted for violence and discrimination in many parts of the world,” he said.
Muntarbhorn listed the horrific violations that LGBT people suffer, including killings, rape, mutilation, torture, arbitrary detention, abduction, harassment and physical and mental assaults. LGBT people are also subjected to lashings and forced surgical interventions, bullying from a young age, incitement to hatred and pressures leading to suicide.
“More than 70 countries around the world today still criminalize same-sex relations, and in some of them the death penalty may be applied,” he added, calling for all laws criminalising same-sex activity to be removed from statute books.
Muntarbhorn called for effective anti-discrimination measures covering both public and private spheres and stressed the need to build communities open to understanding and respecting sexual and gender diversity. He also voiced concerns about the targeting of human rights defenders for doing their work raising issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Muntarbhorn is the UN’s first independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He was appointed to the position by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016, which he sees as a major step forward for LGBTIQ rights.