EUROPE – Tip of the Iceberg: Religious Extremist Funders against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe

by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, 15 June 2021

This report exposes the money behind a network intent on overturning laws related to sexuality and reproduction in Europe. It identifies 54 anti-gender funders active in Europe who put a total of USD 707.2 million into anti-gender funding over the 2009–2018 period originating from the United States, the Russian Federation and Europe.

Annual anti-gender spending in Europe has increased by a factor of four starting from USD22.2 million in 2009 to reach USD96 million in 2018.

The largest European-based anti-gender funders include actors in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland. The research found links to anti-abortion initiatives in France, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and at EU level, and links to anti-gay marriage movements in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Slovakia and Romania.

While the rise of ultra-conservatism in Europe has been apparent for several years, precisely how these actors are organising, fundraising and attempting to exert influence across national borders or issue areas has not been clear. This report attempts to fill this gap by painting a transnational picture of the clandestine funding system which supports the anti-gender actors’ deliberate strategy to roll back human rights in Europe.

The report also examines the main channels through which the religious extremist groups generate funding and how it circulates. The picture that emerges is of a transnational community of likeminded religious extremists and related alt- and far-right actors making strategic funding decisions across international borders.

Members of the European Parliament will be voting on the first European Parliament Report specifically dedicated to the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights in almost 10 years at the end of June 2021. In the lead up to the vote, rapporteur for the European Parliament Report Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matić has been spammed with political hate mail by organisations investigated in the report. He said, “To those who obstruct us along the way I can only say that the protection of human rights is above petty political interests and that this is the first step in stopping the attacks on women’s rights across Europe. I can only say that these messages make me even more certain that I am doing a good job and the right thing.”