Boris Dittrich

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Boris Dittrich
Boris Dittrich cropped.jpg
Member of the House of Representatives (Netherlands)
In office
17 May 1994 – 29 November 2006
Party and Parliamentary leader Democrats 66
In office
22 January 2003 – 3 February 2006
Preceded by Thom de Graaf
Succeeded by Lousewies van der Laan
Personal details
Born Boris Ottokar Dittrich
(1955-07-21) 21 July 1955 (age 59)
Utrecht, Netherlands
Political party Democrats 66
Website www.borisdittrich.nl

Boris Ottokar Dittrich (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈboːrɪz ˈdɪtrɪx];[1] born 21 July 1955 in Utrecht, the Netherlands) is a human rights activist, former Dutch politician and writer.[2]

Dittrich's father came to the Netherlands as a political asylum seeker from Czechoslovakia in 1948, he became a professor in Eastern-European history at the University of Utrecht.

Boris Dittrich grew up in Utrecht and went to law school at Leiden University. He worked as a lawyer in Amsterdam from 1981 till 1989 and later as a judge in the district court of Alkmaar from 1989 till 1994. Dittrich is married to the Dutch / Israeli sculptor Jehoshua Rozenman.

Parliamentary career[edit]

In 1994 he became a member of parliament representing the social-liberal party D66.

Boris Dittrich rose to become party leader of D66 in 2003 after Thom de Graaf stepped down because of disappointing results in the 2003 general elections.

Dittrich negotiated the participation of D66 in the Dutch coalition government Balkenende II with the Christian-democratic CDA and the other liberal party VVD.

Dittrich decided not to become a minister but to stay party leader in parliament in order to monitor whether the new government would execute the coalition contract. The new government introduced major reforms to which the staggering Dutch economy responded positively.

Dittrich was strongly against Dutch military participation in the Afghan province of Uruzgan and he tried to persuade the Dutch government and parliament not to get involved in the war. However when the Dutch cabinet (including his own D66-ministers) decided to follow the American lead under President Bush, backed by 75% of the Dutch parliament, he decided to take political responsibility and stepped down as leader of D66 on 3 February 2006. A few months later D66 withdrew its support from the government after 3 years because of a dispute with the Dutch minister Rita Verdonk (minister of foreigners' affairs and integration) about the way she handled the issue of the Dutch passport of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. D66 and the minister had had many clashes before because of her harsh policy towards asylum seekers and immigrants. This withdrawal caused the fall of the government and new elections were announced for November 2006.

Dittrich has been one of the most productive Dutch parliamentarians since the founding in 1838. He is the first member ever to have drafted four different Private Bills that have successfully become law. Dittrich took the initiative for laws against stalking, for rights of victims to speak during the criminal trial, for abolishing the timelimits on prosecution of crimes like murder and manslaughter, and finally he wrote the law to fix book prices in order to protect smaller bookshops, authors and customers.

During his career Dittrich became a national figure for his initiatives on issues like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, legalization of specific forms of sex work and decriminalizing the use of soft drugs. Issues that have made the Netherlands 'leading' when it comes to this kind of legislation in the world.

Dittrich was the first openly gay member of parliament who focused on LGBT rights. In 1994 he proposed to introduce marriage equality to the dismay of the Dutch LGBT organization COC. Dittrich embarked on a long campaign which ended in 2001 with the introduction of same sex marriage. By that time COC had already changed its position and supported equal marriage rights. The Netherlands became the first country in the world to introduce marriage equality. The argument often used against Dittrich: ‘the Netherlands will become a legal island in the world’ proved to be wrong. Based on nationwide laws per 2013 same sex couples can marry in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Uruguay, Iceland, France and the United Kingdom. Also in Brazil, in about 10 states of the USA and in parts of Mexico same sex couples can marry. Per 2013 about 10% of the world’s population lives in countries with marriage equality.

He is a strong advocate for human rights and represented the Dutch parliament on numerous occasions at meetings in the United Nations. Dittrich was member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and was also vice president of Liberal International until October 2007.

After 12 ½ years in Parliament Dittrich decided to work outside national politics. He continued as a member of parliament until the elections of November 2006.

Post-parliamentary career[edit]

In early 2007 Dittrich became Advocacy Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch in the Headquarters of the non-governmental organization in New York City.

Dittrich works on different levels to achieve non-discrimination and equal rights for LGBT people. On a national level he supports grass roots organizations to achieve the goals they set out in their country specific context. For instance when groups in Cameroon asked Human Rights Watch to research the effects of the law that criminalizes homosexual conduct in that country. The research resulted in a joint report that Dittrich and the groups’ representatives discussed at a national level with the Cameroonian prime minister, minister of Justice, members of Parliament, and other stakeholders. On an international level Dittrich presented the findings from the report on Cameroon to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

In New York he co-organized yearly events at the United Nations to celebrate International Human Rights Day on December 10. In 2007 he chaired the event that introduced the Yogyakarta Principles to the UN in New York. In 2008 the event introduced a joint statement by 66 countries to denounce violence and discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2009 the Holy See took the floor and called upon the more than 76 countries in the world to decriminalize homosexual conduct. The events became increasingly important. In 2010 and 2012 UN secretary-General Ban Ki Moon gave the opening address. In all events human rights defenders from different parts of the world shared their personal stories about how discriminatory laws and practices influenced their lives. In most cases also positive examples of activism were given to inspire the hundreds of attending diplomats.

Mid 2013 Dittrich moved from New York to Berlin, Germany where he continues to work as advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. He will remain a global advocate, with a special focus on Russia and Eastern Europe.

Honors[edit]

In 2006, then Queen Beatrix granted Dittrich Knighthood in the Order of Orange-Nassau for his political work.

In 2012 he received the Bob Angelo Medal, an award from the Nederlandse Vereniging tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit COC for defending the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.[3]

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, at the reception for the Jos Brink Award and Innovation Award in The Hague, The Netherlands, on May 17, 2013. Together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay

On the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) May 17, 2013 Dittrich received the national Jos Brink Award from the Dutch government for his activism on LGBT rights during three decades. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attended the celebration in The Hague. In her speech she highlighted the world wide UN led campaign against homophobia and transphobia called "Free and Equal".

In 2013 Dittrich also received a golden pin (Gouden Wimpel) on behalf of the Dutch Postcode Lottery for his LGBT work for Human Rights Watch. The pin was given to him in Kenya, while on a field trip with Kenyan LGBT activists, by Winston Gerschtanowitz the ambassador of the Postcode Lottery.

Guest Lecturing[edit]

While working for Human Rights Watch Dittrich has been a guest lecturer about human rights law and sexual orientation/gender identity at many universities, among which: • Harvard University; • Yale University; • Columbia University; • Berkeley University; • University of Chicago; • University of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden, Groningen (the Netherlands); • Meiji University (Tokyo, Japan); • Rikkyo University (Tokyo, Japan); • University of Sydney, Australia; • University of Auckland, New Zealand

Media[edit]

In the course of his advocacy work for Human Rights Watch Dittrich has given many interviews on LGBT rights.

Books[edit]

Dittrich is the author of four books:

  • Een blauwe stoel in Paars’, stories about his work as Member of parliament (including a chapter on the same sex marriage legislation, and on his laws on stalking and cancellation of term limits in relation to murder and manslaughter) Van Gennep Publishers, Amsterdam 2001.
  • ‘Elke Liefde Telt’, about Dittrich's work around the globe for Human Rights Watch, Nieuw Amsterdam Publishers 2009.
  • ‘Moord en Brand', a thriller about politics and journalism in the Hague, Nieuw Amsterdam Publishers 2011.
  • 'De Waarheid liegen’, a novel about a murder at Grand Central’s subway station in New York, de Arbeiderspers Publishers 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Boris in isolation: [ˈboːrɪs].
  2. ^ Boris Dittrich writes thriller NOS news, 13-APR-2011, visited 29 January 2012
  3. ^ Boris Dittrich krijgt COC-prijs Dutch news site NU.nl, 29-JAN-2012

External links[edit]