Helem Wins 2009 IGLHRC's Felipa de Souza Award

From IGLHRC website:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) announced on January 23rd 2009 that it would award its 2009 Felipa de Souza Award to the Lebanese group Helem. IGLHRC’s Felipa Award recognizes the courage and effectiveness of groups or leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and other individuals stigmatized and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status. The first organization in the Arab world to set up a gay and lesbian community center, Helem’s work has consistently broken new ground in a country that criminalizes homosexuality and where violence and abuse are persistent problems.

“We are so pleased to be able to present our 2009 Felipa Award to Helem,” said IGLHRC’s Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick. “Helem works in very challenging circumstances to make a very real difference to the lives of countless LGBTI people in the Middle East and beyond. We applaud their courage and commitment to human rights for all.”

Founded in 2004, Helem (the Arabic acronym of “Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender”) is based in Beirut, with support chapters in Australia, France, Canada and the United States. The organization’s work is multifaceted, ranging from advocacy to public education. A major focus of its human rights advocacy work revolves around eradicating Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which is used to criminalize homosexuality; another advocacy focus addresses HIV/AIDS. Its community center has consistently offered the local LGBTI community a wide range of services ranging from HIV testing and counseling to workshops and publications about how to respond to harassment and arbitrary arrest.

The Felipa Award embodies the spirit of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th Century inquisition trial in Brazil.

The Felipa Award will be presented to Helem as part of IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage gala event on March 30, 2008 in New York and on April 2, 2008 in San Francisco. For more information regarding IGLHRC’s Felipa de Souza Award and its A Celebration of Courage events, visit: http://www.iglhrc.org.

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