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«European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Homophobia and Discrimination on

Grounds of Sexual Orientation

and Gender Identity in the

EU Member States:

Part II - The Social Situation

European Union Agency for

Fundamental Rights

Homophobia and Discrimination on

Grounds of Sexual Orientation and

Gender Identity in the EU Member


Part II – The Social Situation

(Updated version)

DISCLAIMER: The data and information contained in this report were provided by COWI and The Danish

Institute for Human Rights. The responsibility for the conclusions and opinions lies with the FRA.

Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States Part II – The Social Situation Foreword On December 18 2008 the UN General Assembly heard a strong declaration drafted by France and The Netherlands on behalf of the European Union and co-sponsored by sixty-six countries from all regions. It called for the global decriminalization of homosexuality and condemned human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the European Union Article 13 of the EC Treaty prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is the first international human rights charter to explicitly include the term “sexual orientation”. The legal study we published in June 2008 shows that 18 EU Member States already provide quite comprehensive protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. In July 2008, a further step has been made when the European Commission proposed stronger EU wide protection against discrimination on all grounds.

The social situation, however, is worrying. In recent years a series of events in EU Member States, such as the banning of Pride marches, hate speech from politicians and intolerant statements by religious leaders, have sent alarming signals and sparked a new debate about the extent of homophobia and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons in the European Union. Such events led the European Parliament to adopt in 2005 a resolution condemning homophobia and sexual orientation discrimination.

Two years later in the summer of 2007 the European Parliament asked the newly established Fundamental Rights Agency to develop a comprehensive comparative report covering all EU Member States on the situation regarding homophobia and sexual orientation discrimination. In response the Agency carried out a large scale legal and social research project during 2007 and 2008.

This comprehensive report composed of two parts, a legal and a social analysis, is presented to the European Parliament and its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs as evidence for actions needed in order to respect, protect and promote the fundamental rights of LGBT persons across the EU.

The social analysis contained in this publication is based on data and contextual information contained in country reports for all EU Member States. Unique material was gathered through fieldwork interviews with LGBT NGOs, Equality Bodies and public authorities in all Member States and a questionnaire survey of stakeholders. This new data has been combined with a thorough examination of existing academic studies and Eurobarometer surveys to develop the second part of our report, a comprehensive social analysis that complements the FRA’s legal analysis released in June 2008.

The work shows that the current human rights situation for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transsexuals and transgender persons is not satisfactory. Many LGBT persons experience discrimination, bullying and harassment, while, more worryingly, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights occurrences of physical attacks were also detected: Derogative words are used for gays and lesbians at schools. Harassment can be an everyday occurrence at the workplace.

Relationships often lack the ability to secure one another as full legal partners. At retirement homes, awareness of LGBT persons’ needs is rare. Under these circumstances ‘invisibility’ becomes a survival strategy. In a European Union that bases itself on principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination legislation this is unacceptable.

What needs to be done?

Combating fundamental rights violations effectively requires first of all a firm political commitment to the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination. Political leaders at EU and national level need to take a firm stance against homophobia and discrimination against LGBT and transgendered persons contributing in this way to a positive change in public attitudes and behaviour.

Secondly, it requires good knowledge of the situation based on robust data guiding the development of evidence based policies and actions. This research represents an important positive step in this direction. But equality authorities and other specialised bodies in many Member States still need to develop data collection mechanisms, promote scientific research, and actively encourage LGBT people to come forward and lodge complaints on incidents of discrimination.

In the light of the findings of this social analysis, the Agency welcomes the European Commission’s Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. This new Directive would extend the protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation beyond the area of employment and thus address some of the key issues emerging from this report.

The opinions contained in this report provide EU institutions and the Member States, as our Regulation requires, with the necessary assistance and expertise in order to support them when taking measures or action within their respective spheres of competence to fully respect fundamental rights.

In closing I would like to thank for their work the staff of the Agency, Caroline Osander, project manager from the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and project manager, Mikael Keller, consultant Mads Ted Drud-Jensen from COWI.

–  –  –






Clarification of terms and concepts




1. Attitudes towards LGBT people

2. Hate Crime and Hate Speech

3. Freedom of assembly

4. The labour market

5. Education

6. Health

7. Religious institutions

8. Sports

9. Media

10. Asylum

11. Multiple Discrimination


Annex 1 Authors of Country Reports

Annex 2 Stakeholder E - Questionnaire

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

–  –  –

Executive Summary Background The principle of equal treatment constitutes a fundamental value of the European Union.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is the first international human rights instrument to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual

orientation” in its Article 21 (1):

“Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”.

Until the Treaty of Amsterdam, the focus of EU legal action in this respect was on preventing discrimination on the grounds of nationality and sex. Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty granted the Community new powers to combat discrimination on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Consequently, two new EC Directives were enacted in the area of antidiscrimination: the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive.

However, protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is only provided by the Employment Equality Directive in the area of employment and work.

In June 2007 the European Parliament asked the Fundamental Rights Agency to develop a comprehensive, comparative report on the situation regarding homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Member States of the European Union with the aim of assisting the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, when discussing the need for a Directive covering all grounds of discrimination listed in Article 13 of the EC Treaty for all sectors referred to in the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC. These sectors are education, social security, healthcare, and access to goods and services.

In response the Agency prepared and launched a major project in December 2007 composed, following its socio-legal interdisciplinary methodology, of two parts. The first part, published in June 2008, is contains a comprehensive, comparative legal analysis of the situation in the European Union Member States. The comparative legal analysis was based on 27 national legal studies covering all EU Member States drafted on the basis of detailed guidelines provided by the FRA. The second part, which is the present publication, is a comprehensive, comparative social analysis, based on available data throughout the European Union, as well as fieldwork research consisting of interviews and roundtable discussions with relevant key actors, carried out by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the international consultancy firm COWI.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

–  –  –

Key findings The current social situation for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transsexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons represents a problem for the European Union. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transsexual and transgender persons experience discrimination, bullying and harassment across the EU. This often takes the form of demeaning statements, name calling and insults or the use of abusive language, and also, more worryingly, verbal and physical attacks. As the results of the July 2008 Eurobarometer Discrimination Survey showed, on average over half of EU citizens consider that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is widespread in their country.

Our investigation also shows that in their everyday life LGBT persons experience homophobia; the irrational fear of, and aversion to, homosexuality and to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals stemming from prejudice. Transgender persons experience in a similar way transphobia.

Discrimination, homophobia and transphobia affect the lives and choices of LGBT persons in all areas of social life. From their early years the derogative words used for gays and lesbians at schools teach them to remain invisible; they often experience harassment and discrimination at the workplace; in many countries they cannot secure their relationships to one another as legal partners; they rarely see positive LGBT representation in the media; when seeking treatment for themselves or their partner they hesitate to reveal themselves in settings that take heterosexuality for granted; at retirement homes, understanding and awareness of their needs is rare. And if they are refugees seeking asylum from persecution in third countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they are often not believed or, worse, simply rejected, even if in the country from which they fled homosexuality is a crime.

Fear of discrimination, homophobia and transphobia contributes to the ‘invisibility’ of LGBT persons in many parts of Europe and in many social settings. LGBT persons often adopt ‘invisibility’ as a ‘survival strategy’ because of the perceived risks of being exposed to discrimination. This contributes to the comparatively low number of

–  –  –

discrimination complaints on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression across the EU compared to complaints of discrimination on other grounds.

Some differences between Member States The fundamental right to freedom of assembly has been obstructed in a number of Member States either by public authorities or by ‘counter-demonstrator’ attacks. Such incidents were reported in five Member States (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania). Furthermore, in these, and in six Member States (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy and Malta), calls for improving the rights of LGBT persons have invariably been met with negative responses from some politicians and representatives of religious institutions or groups.

In other Member States, however, LGBT organisations celebrated pride events often with the participation of government ministers, political parties, and, in some cases, religious organisations: in the Netherlands the 2008 Canal Pride in Amsterdam was joined by three government ministers, representing the cabinet, and the mayor of Amsterdam. In Austria, among the 120,000 participants of the 2008 Pride was the equality body of the city of Vienna; In Sweden, the Minister for EU Affairs opened the 2008 Stockholm EuroPride attracting more than 80,000 participants among which the country’s Lutheran Church; In Spain, the 2008 Madrid Pride was joined by the Equality Minister and hundreds of thousands of participants from all over Europe; In France, more than half a million joined the Paris Gay Pride in 2008 including the Mayor of Paris.

Another issue that was already analysed in the FRA’s legal study concerns differences between Member States regarding partnership rights. Fourteen Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary,1 Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) do not grant any partnership rights to LGBT persons, but three Member States (Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain) have given same-sex couples full marriage rights. Lack of partnership rights means that same-sex couples lack access to a number of rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.

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