April 29, 2004
The Netherlands in 2002 became the first country in the world to legalise gay and lesbian marriages. The Dutch tradition of tolerance and acceptance has become a trademark for the country.
Now that the Dutch kingdom has achieved social equality in almost every sense, the question is, what is next?
Recently the Dutch gay and lesbian advocacy group, the COC, has started 'exporting' emancipation to former East Bloc countries. Called U SEE LGBT-project, short for United South Eastern Europe, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project.
The COC, founded in 1946, is a federation of twenty-four ad-hoc groups and organisations in most of the larger Dutch cities. In the international arena, COC has been working towards the advancement of LGBT organisations in various Eastern European countries, starting with Romania six years ago.
Currently similar projects are running in Bulgaria, Moldavia, the countries of former Yugaslavia. These projects are co-financed by the Dutch Foreign Office.
The COC also co-operates with development organisations as NOVIB (Oxfam) and HIVOS who partly fund the South African Lesbian & Gay Equality Project, amongst others.
Within the European Union, COC co-operates with other European LGBT organisations in EU programmes like Equal.