Human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)

Despite progress in many areas over the last decades, people in Europe are still stigmatised because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons cannot fully enjoy their universal human rights. They run a risk of becoming victims of hate crime and may not receive protection when attacked in the street by fellow citizens.

Some LGBTI organisations are denied registration or are banned from organising peaceful meetings and demonstrations in Europe. The freedom of expression of LGBTI people has also been subject to unjustified restrictions. Many LGBTI persons have fled to Council of Europe member states from countries where their human rights are not protected and they may even 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. The Commissioner for Human Rights has therefore put the human rights of LGBTI persons and the fight against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics firmly on his agenda.

The Commissioner regularly raises this topic with authorities in member states, and has expressed his concerns in country monitoring reports and specific thematic publications, such as the Issue Paper on Human Rights and Gender Identity.

In 2011 the Commissioner launched a detailed report on 'Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity', covering all the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. In May 2015 the Commissioner published an Issue Paper on human rights and intersex people.

Overview of the work
 

Overview of the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe
on LGBTI issues (2012-2016)open/close
 

Priority themes: freedom of expression and assembly; hate speech, hate crimes, anti-discrimination; right to family; legal recognition of gender identity without divorce/sterilisation requirements; rights of intersex people; rights of LGBTI children; human rights defenders working on LGBTI issues.

Country Visits during which LGBTI issues were a key topic:

  • Latvia (2016) – (will cover same-sex partnerships)
  • Serbia (2015)
  • San Marino (2015) – (including same sex partnerships)
  • Slovak Republic (2015) – (including same sex partnerships)
  • Georgia (2014, 2015)
  • Montenegro (2014)
  • Hungary (2014)
  • France (2014)
  • Moldova, Russia and Turkey (LGBTI not a key theme of the visit but meetings with LGBTI activists and concerns relayed to authorities) (2013)
  • Finland (2012)

Issue Papers:

Letters (only those with links have been published):

  • In support of pride events (for example Serbia (2013), Turkey (2016))
  • Against the anti-“homosexual propaganda laws” (Lithuania)
  • Supporting trans legal gender recognition (Ireland 2012 + 2015, Finland (2014), Croatia (2013), Poland (2013))
  • Encouraging the fight against hate crime, homophobia and transphobia (Greece (2016))
  • Supporting second-parent adoption in line with recent EctHR case law (Portugal (2013))

Human Rights Comments:

Third Party Interventions before the European Court of Human Rights related to LGBTI rights:

  • None

Other communication work related to LGBTI:

  • Facebook post on the Belgrade Pride Week and Pride March in Serbia (September 2015)
  • Video message in support of the Baltic Pride in Vilnius, Lithuania (July 2013)
  • Statement condemning violence against LGBTI protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia (May 2013)
  • Web item “How long must LGBTI persons still wait to live free from prejudice?” (October 2012)
  • Video message for the opening ceremony of the 17th Budapest Pride festival (July 2012)

Events:

  • CommHR address on the rights of intersex people at event organized by the LGBTI Intergroup of the European Parliament, Strasbourg (September 2015)
  • CommHR participation in an expert meeting on the human rights of intersex people organized by OHCHR in Geneva (September 2015)
  • CommHR office organized a consultation on human rights and intersex persons, Malta (December 2013)
  • Participation by the CommHR office to the 2013 IDAHO Forum, The Hague (May 2013)
  • Participation by the CommHR office to an expert meeting on the human rights of LGBTI persons organized by ILGA-Europe, Brussels (March 2013)
  • Participation by the CommHR office to the second Intersex Forum, Stockholm (December 2012) + exchange of views on the possibility for the office to undertake further work to promote the rights of intersex people
  • Participation by the CommHR office to the Council Meeting of Transgender Europe, Dublin (September 2012)
  • Participation by the CommHR office to a UNESCO meeting on education sector responses to homophobic bullying, Paris (May 2012)

Conference presentations and lectures related to LGBTI:

  • Keynote Address at the European Transgender Council entitled “European Societies should recognize the full diversity of gender identities”, Bologna (June 2016)
  • Video address to an international conference on gender, diversity and social inclusion, Istanbul (November 2015)
  • Video address to international conference on transgender issuers in the social and medical context, Kyiv, Ukraine (October 2015)
  • Video Message – Opening speech to the European Intersex Forum, Douarnenez, France (June 2015)
  • Keynote speech at IDAHO Forum “Ending hate crime and violence”, Budva, Montenegro (May 2015)
  • Keynote address at the 2nd IDAHO Forum on responses to homophobia and transphobia, Valletta, Malta (May 2014)
  • Video Message to the ILGA-Europe 2013 annual conference “Family matters! Reaching out to hearts and minds”, Zagreb (October 2013)
  • Keynote address at the annual conference of the European Region of the International LGBTI Association (ILGA-Europe) on “advancing LGBTI equality in challenging economic times”, Dublin (October 2012)

Forthcoming work on LGBTI:

  • Keynote address at European Governmental LGBTI Focal Point Network Roundtable, Strasbourg (November 2016)

Human rights and intersex people (2015)
Traces the steps which have already been taken towards understanding and responding to the situation of intersex people from an ethical and human rights perspective. It urges governments to end medically unnecessary “normalising“ treatment of intersex people when it takes place without their free and fully informed consent. It also suggests ways forward in terms of protection against discrimination, adequate recognition of sex on official documents and access to justice.

Issue paper available in English and French

Opening video message for the European Intersex Forum in Douarnenez

Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe (2011 - 2nd edition)

This report presents the results of the largest socio-legal study ever carried out on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. Six thematic chapters give a broad overview of the human rights situation of LGBT persons and recommendations are provided for developing and implementing effective measures to address discrimination.

Report available in: English | French | Russian 
Order the report: http://book.coe.int

Available translations of selected sections of the report: Bosnian/Serbian | Croatian | Turkish
(Foreword, Introduction, Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations)

Background document to the report

Resources

Book

Combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity - Council of Europe standards (2011)

Issue paper

Human rights and gender identity (2009)

Launch of the report - Speeches and Statements

- Opening speech by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
- Intervention of Rt Hon Dominic Grieve, QP, MP, Attorney General for England and Wales
- Intervention of Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Minister of Justice, Germany (forthcoming)
- Statement of Jasenko Selimovic, State Secretary, Ministry of Employment, Sweden
- Statement of Lionel Veer, Human Rights Ambassador, the Netherlands
- Statement of Morten Kjaerum, Director, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
- Statement of Richard Köhler and Julia Ehrt, Vice-chairs of Transgender Europe
- Statement of Ambassador Petter F. Wille, Permanent Representative of Norway to the Council of Europe
- Statement of Jan Jarab, Regional Representative for Europe of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Statement of Helena Nygren-Krug, Health and Human Rights Adviser, World Health Organization
- Statement of Michel Pasteel, Director, Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, Belgium

A documentary on the launch of the report
See the long version (15') / short version (2')