The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency this week released a report in which it noted that, while some countries continue to work positively on LGBT rights measures, several nations in the European Union are lacking in basic protections for LGBT citizens, which means an uneven legal landscape as LGBTs move through the EU and that, in certain nations, LGBTs continue to face violations of their fundamental rights.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) works to provide advice to EU policy makers on human rights issues. Here is a little background taken from the FRA website on the subject of the FRA’s involvement in LGBT rights:
According to the treaties of the European Union, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and an EU directive adopted in 2000, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people enjoy the right to equality and non-discrimination. However, FRA reports reveal that LGBT persons do experience discrimination, bullying, harassment, verbal and even physical attacks throughout the EU. In addition, unequal treatment also derives from inadequate structural dynamics and legislation, as is the case for employment, free movement, freedom of assembly or refugee claims.
The work on LGBT rights aims to contribute to the eradication of homophobia and transphobia in the EU. Leaning on its data collection, the FRA wants to foster knowledge about the social and legal situation of LGBT people in the EU. This will assist policy and law makers in their efforts to devise a proper framework for non-discrimination, equal treatment and the promotion of equality through diversity policies.
The 2010 FRA Report
The 2010 report notes that clear progress has been made since the last report in 2008, with several nations enacting legislation to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The 2008 report found that eight Member States recognized sexual orientation as a reason why a particular group might face prejudice, be it social stigma or actual violence. The 2010 report notes that the number of Member States which explicitly consider lesbian, gay and bisexual people as a ‘particular social group’ has risen to 22. Yet, at the same time, the report also notes that certain other Member States have taken action to block attempts at a sexual orientation-inclusive non-discrimination directive.
The updated report also documents an improvement in allowing LGBTs freedom of assembly and expression. Examples in the report include the successful pride marches in nations like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria; while seeing displays of opposition, and even violence, at these events, they were still allowed to go ahead under police protection. In contrast to this, the report notes that in Lithuania, the 2010 Baltic pride had to endure threats of cancellation from local officials, while similarly in Latvia, pride organizers had to go to court to fight attempted bans.
The 2010 report notes that several more nations have enacted same-sex marriage legislation (Portugal for instance), with more countries currently considering it (Luxembourg). This helps same-sex couples move easier from nation to nation knowing that their relationships will be recognized and therein that rights associated with their marriages are more likely to be upheld.
Still, even with the aforementioned improvements, the 2010 FRA report points out three key areas in which LGBTs face violations of their basic human rights in the EU:
- Lack of visibility
- Potential of violent attacks in certain EU countries
- Unequal treatment when moving through the EU in the workplace, in the housing sector, how their marriages/partnerships are treated, etc..
Crucially, the 2010 report also specifically notes the prejudice faced by transgender people in the EU, including everyday hardships of marginalization and chronic disadvantages in employment due to transphobia.
The report goes on to outline wider human rights violations trans people face in having their gender identities recognized, and how this process often includes the preconditions of forced sterilization, genital surgery and compulsory divorce from existing partners.
The report also notes instances of bias-motivated attacks due to sexual orientation and gender identity; trans people in particular continue to suffer under a disproportionately high level of violent attacks that can go underreported and under-investigated.
Acting on the 2010 FRA Report
Speaking for ILGA-Europe, Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said:
“We welcome the updated report and that fact that the rights of LGBT people remain among the priorities of the Fundamental Rights Agency. Sadly, since the original FRA report in 2008, LGBT people in some EU Member States still suffer from violations of their basic fundamental rights to safety, peaceful assembly and are restricted in their ability to move freely across the EU. Some Member States are single-handedly blocking the adoption of a new anti-discrimination directive which would level up the protections available to various communities, including LGB people, from discrimination in the areas of EU competence highlighted by the FRA report.”
As such, ILGA-Europe is in consultation with Member States and is asking that leaders of the European Union work together to create strategies to tackle homophobia and transphobia, with an emphasis on enacting a uniform non-discrimination directive to cover such things as health care and education.
ILGA-Europe also says there is the need to ensure that LGBT citizens are protected from hate crimes and that such crimes are thoroughly investigated and recorded.
You can also read ILGA-Europe’s consultancy document(.pdf) by clicking here.