Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons still face discrimination in Europe

Strasbourg, 23/06/11  – “Millions of people in Europe are discriminated, stigmatised and even victims of violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. They cannot fully enjoy their universal human rights. There is an urgent need for all European governments to remedy this situation and take policy and legislative measures to combat homophobia and transphobia”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, publishing today a report on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report is the result of a two-year study carried out by the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. It contains a socio-legal analysis of the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons across member states, relying on data and information made available by public authorities, national human rights structures, non-governmental organisations and experts. It also builds on research and data made available by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

The report analyses the situation of LGBT persons in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe as regards attitudes and perceptions towards them, legal standards and their implementation, protection from violence and access to asylum, freedoms of assembly, expression and association, gender recognition and family life, and access to health care, education and employment.

“Significant, although uneven, progress has been made over the past decades concerning the attitudes and practices towards LGBT people. The pathologisation and criminalisation of homosexuality in Europe clearly belong to the past. Equal treatment legislation is beginning to demonstrate its effects in addressing discrimination. However, serious gaps remain, especially in relation to transgender persons.”

“In some member States, LGBT organisations have been denied registration or are banned from organising peaceful meetings and demonstrations. Those who have fled to Council of Europe member states from countries where they risk being tortured or executed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity face serious obstacles in the process of being granted asylum. Inflammatory and aggressive discourse, held by opinion shapers, religious leaders, politicians and state authorities are frequent. It is also of particular concern that such discourse rarely receives official condemnation and that only very few member states recognise homophobic or transphobic violence in their hate crime legislation.”

The report also underlines specific problems faced by transgender persons, such as the lack of legislation regulating the recognition of gender reassignment, the requirement for transgender persons to undergo surgery leading to infertility or the obligation to be unmarried or divorced in order to be legally recognised.

“There is considerable resistance among many people, including political leaders, to discuss the full enjoyment of universal human rights by LGBT persons. Even if this may not be a popular human rights topic, the time has now come to take the discussion forward and make it concrete. Converging efforts by the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE and the UN are essential for ensuring the full enjoyment of universal rights by LGBT persons everywhere.”

More information on the Commissioner’s work on the protection and promotion of the human rights of LGBT persons is available on his thematic page.

Read the report on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity


Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int   

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