Combating sexual orientation discrimination
European Group of Experts reviews legislative measures taken by the Member States
of the European Union to combat sexual orientation discrimination
January 1, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe
by Thomas Hammarberg
Many people in Europe are stigmatised because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and cannot fully enjoy their universal human rights. Some of them are victims of hate crime and may not receive protection when attacked in the street by fellow citizens, while some of their organisations are denied registration or are banned from organising peaceful meetings and demonstrations. Some people have fled to Council of Europe member states from countries where they risk being tortured or executed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Too few opinion leaders and leading politicians have taken a firm stand against homophobic and transphobic expressions, discrimination and violence.
I have often discussed these and other problems with the authorities of Council of Europe member states. The serious concerns about the problems faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are reflected in my country monitoring reports as well as in thematic publications. I have also initiated a debate on the specific human rights issues encountered by transgender persons. Unfortunately, I have repeatedly noted that there is too little objective data and information available to conduct a well-informed discussion with author- ities on these questions. For this reason, my Office launched a comprehensive study on the situation concerning homophobia, transphobia and discrimina- tion on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. This report, coupled with a more comprehen- sive version, is the result of the study and contains a socio-legal analysis of the situation of LGBT persons across member states. The study relies on data and information made available by public authorities, national human rights structures, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academic experts in the member states.
I extend my gratitude to all organisations and people involved for their active participation and forthcoming contributions. Special thanks and recognition are due to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which kindly shared its research and data on the 27 member states of the European Union. In this regard, effective use was made of respective areas of expertise and complementary capacities. The standards used in this report are based on judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and recent recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly. Several institu- tions of the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations have expressed concerns relating to the treatment of LGBT persons. The report clearly demonstrates that member states need to take further steps to address discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also provides a knowledge base for effective measures to combat homophobia and transphobia.
There is considerable resistance among many people to discuss the full enjoyment of universal human rights by LGBT persons. Even if this may not be a popular human rights topic, the time has now come to take the discussion forward and make it concrete. Supported by the facts presented in this report, I look forward to a constructive dialogue with authorities and other stakeholders to improve respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.
View pdf link here
March 14, 2011 – Bay Windows
Euro Parliament blasts Iran on gays
by Rex Wockner – Bay Windows Contributor
The European Parliament on March 10 adopted a resolution urging Iran to "stop discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation" and denouncing "the inhumane and medieval practice of sentencing people to death for alleged offences pertaining to choice of partners or sexual practices."
The parliament also welcomed "steps taken by several Member States to provide shelter to those Iranian human rights defenders, dissidents, journalists, students, women, children and artists who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, opinions, sexual orientation, or other aspects of the exercise of their human rights."
Iran has the death penalty for consensual homosexual sex. While no such executions have been documented in recent years, it is widely believed they may have occurred. Executions are known to have taken place in recent years following convictions in cases of alleged nonconsensual sex between males.
April 6, 2011 – UK Gay News
European Parliament Calls for Special Protection of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Asylum Seekers
Strasbourg – Members of the European Parliament voted today to modernise the EU-wide system for examining asylum claims. Among the measures adopted today, groups of asylum-seekers with special needs were updated to include people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a report drafted by French centre-left MEP Sylvie Guillaume (Socialists & Democrats), the European Parliament adopted a series of amendments to guarantee that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people seeking asylum in the EU would receive particular attention.
Measures include providing expert advice to asylum officials on sexual orientation and gender identity; protecting claimants’ privacy; guaranteeing that physical examinations fully respect human dignity and integrity, for instance in cases involving minors or transgender people; and ensuring that applications by LGBT asylum-seekers are not ‘fast-tracked’ for removal to their country of origin.
“This is a major step towards fully complying with our engagements under international asylum law,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen, member of the centre-right European People’s Party and vice-president of the Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, “I am particularly proud that my centre-right colleagues agreed on the need for special protection, regardless of their general position on asylum. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection taking into account cultural sensitivity,” she added.
Rui Tavares MEP, Civil Liberties Coordinator of the left GUE/NGL political group and vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “The European Parliament is showing that asylum rules need updating to reflect reality: 76 countries criminalise homosexual acts, and seven foresee the death penalty – maybe eight soon, with Uganda. “I regret that other progressive provisions did not pass, but today’s text will ultimately bring more fairness for LGBT asylum seekers.”
The text adopted today is the European Parliament’s formal position at first reading. Asylum rules will effectively be amended once EU governments examine the text and conclude an agreement with the European Parliament.
Read the legislative resolution (not yet amended following today’s votes)
April 8, 2011 – UK Gay News
European Convention on Violence Against Women to Include Protection for Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Women
Brussels – ILGA-Europe has welcomed the announcement yesterday by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a new convention to protect women from violence, which includes lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. The Brussels-based LGBT rights group today described the announcement as “a major step forward” in the fight against gender-based violence and towards full protection of women across Europe from both domestic violence and in other circumstances such as violence in public places, forced marriage, rape, ‘honour’ crimes and genital mutilation.
Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are at heightened risk of gender-related violence, particularly hate crimes, due to intersectional discrimination as has been recognised by authorities at the UN and Council of Europe. It is therefore especially important that the non-discrimination article of the Convention protects these women without discrimination and covers the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
ILGA-Europe used its ‘observer status’ at the expert committee which drafted the Convention to argue the need to cover of sexual orientation and gender identity. “We see the inclusion of these grounds as of great symbolic importance – the Convention is the first legally binding international agreement ever to cover the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the ILGA-Europe statement says. “Additionally, such an inclusion confirms that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people constitutes an integral part of universal human rights.”
The Convention will now be opened for signature in May, and will come into force when ratified by 10 member states. “ILGA-Europe warmly welcomes the adoption of the Convention and the recognition that lesbian, bisexual and trans women are particularly vulnerable to violence and require specific measure of protection,” commented Linda Freimane, co-chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board.
“We urge governments of Council of Europe member states to ratify the Convention as soon as possible. While celebrating this important advance, we are shocked that at all stages the Russian Federation and Holy See opposed specific inclusion of protection from violence for LBT women in the Convention, raising disturbing questions regarding the extent of their commitment to such fundamental rights as the right to life, and the right to protection from violence,” she added.
July 7th, 2011 – LGBT Intergroup
LGBTI Rights in the World
On 30 June 2011, the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights held a hearing on LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) rights in the world. Members of the European Parliament, European Parliament staff, European Commission staff, ambassadors and members of the public heard from human rights defenders, civil society and high-level EU civil servants about the human rights of LGBTI people worldwide.
Read entire summary