Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has again spoken out to call on leaders of European memeberstates to address human rights violations against their LGBT citizens.
Hammarberg, who earlier this year wrote a piece for New Europe in which he was particularly critical of states like Croatia and Latvia for failing to adequately protect the rights — and indeed the lives– of their LGBT citizens during Pride events and in choosing to exercise their right to freedom of speech and assembly, has now turned his attention to the disproportionately high cases of anti-LGBT violence in Turkey in an opinion piece published in the Hurriyet Daily News.
No less than 36 hate killings were recorded in Council of Europe member states in the period of January 2008 to November 2010. Of these cases 13 were reported from Turkey. This according to reports from a reliable non-governmental source (Transgender Europe). Harassment and violence by police toward LGBT persons has also been flagged as a major concern by several human rights organizations and activists in the country, including in a report published by the Istanbul Provincial Human Rights Board.
Citing the recently published Council of Europe report into the state of LGBT rights in the EU, “Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe,” Hammarberg goes on to write of the obstacles LGBTs face in the union with regards to basic exercises of freedom and criminalization, and then turns his attention to Europe’s transgender citizens, whom he notes currently suffer extremely high levels of discrimination:
There has been little response to national studies and reports that flag that a disproportionate number of young LGBT persons see no other way out than committing suicide due to the non acceptance of their sexual orientation or gender identity by their peers and families. Very few countries recognize homophobic or transphobic violence in their hate crime legislation.
Transgender persons face particularly severe human rights problems in almost all areas of life. If they want their preferred gender to be legally recognized, in 29 member states they face a legal requirement to undergo gender reassignment surgery, leading to infertility. Some 15 member states even require the transgender person to be unmarried in order to obtain recognition, which entails mandatory divorce if the person is already married.
Hammarberg goes on to again call on leaders of European memberstates to muster the necessary ”genuine political will” to tackle these issues, saying that governments must take a diverse approach by acting both through the legislative and the policy process — that it is not enough to solely legislate against discrimination because politicians must also lead by example and halt what he calls the “disturbing” anti-LGBT rhetoric he has observed being offered on the political stage in some memberstates.