A legal proposal that would upgrade protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons from discrimination outside of employment in as much as 17 European Union countries has been with the Council of Ministers for more than two years.
This is one of the findings by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency which released today an updated EU-wide legal analysis: Homophobia, Transphobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The Agency had been asked by the European Parliament for an updated legal analysis.
The report presents legal evolutions in fields affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the European Union between 2008 and 2010. It tackles issues such as gender reassignment legislation; non-discrimination and equality inside and outside of the workplace; freedom of expression and assembly for LGBT people; free movement and mutual recognition policies affecting the lives of LGBT people; and asylum policies.
The EU Agency also singles out Lithuania for its uniquely retrograde attitude vis à vis freedom of expression.
And the report finally concludes that the EU should look into a coherent approach to tackle discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, such as the EU-wide multiannual Strategy for equality between women and men, or the recently-adopted European Union Disability Strategy.
“The Fundamental Rights Agency provided the Parliament with an invaluable tool to assess the legal situation of LGBT people throughout the EU,” said Michael Cashmen MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s all-party ‘Intergroup for LGBT right.
“This report shows the EU might be the world’s most advanced region in terms of legal protection for LGBT people, but also that much more needs to be done for genuine equality.”
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, the other Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, continued: “Now that we have an updated and objective EU-wide legal snapshot of LGBT people’s fundamental rights, we will keep demanding that the Commission, the Council and Member States take decisive action, such as finally adopting the proposed anti-discrimination Directive.”
The report was compiled in response to European Parliament’s request to examine the situation of LGBT persons in depth, following restrictive legislation on their rights in a number of EU Member States.
The report also clearly highlights the hardship that transgender people still face in changing their legal gender, which often includes forced sterilisation and compulsory divorce.
Additionally, the real life test requirement oftentimes leads transgender people into unemployment and social marginalisation. FRA calls on EU Member States to “abolish divorce and genital surgery as preconditions to the rectification of the recorded sex or alteration of name on official documents.”
Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, 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.”
ILGA-Europe is calling upon EU institutions and Member States to follow the opinions of FRA by drawing up a strategy to fight homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In particular, ILGA-Europe encourages taking a decisive step towards the adoption of new directive banning discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion /belief and sexual orientation in such areas as access to goods and services, health, and education.
LGBT people need to be included in the process of the implementation of the Stockholm Programme to ensure their civil status is being recognised across the EU, that they are protected from hate crimes, and the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are taken into account in asylum claims. ILGA-Europe says.
Speaking from London, Esther Paterson, the chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation said that the report highlighted what IGLYO has known for some time.
“Although changes are being made across Europe, progress on a whole is slow and uneven,” she pointed out.
“Negative attitudes and stereotyping are cited as common roots for this discrimination and this reflects the experiences cited by young people during IGLYO’s consultations and research. We are pleased to see the recommendations in the FRA report and would welcome further research around the experiences of LGBT young people in particular.
“We know that for LGBTQ youth, school can be a hostile and difficult environment and there is little protection offered across most of the EU Member States. We hope that the EU Parliament recognise the unique experiences of LGBTQ youth within this report and supports steps to provide better protection to youth to safeguard their wellbeing and future development.”