The Council of Europe – through its standards and mechanisms – aims to promote and ensure respect for the human rights and dignity of every individual, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons ( LGBT persons) and to combat discrimination and violence against them in the 47 member states. For this purpose, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 on Measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Council of Europe LGBT-Project contributes to the implementation of CM/Rec(2010)5 as well as to other key legal instruments and the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights.
During its 2013 summer session the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) of the Council of Europe debated and adopted a report by Håkon Haugli (Norway, SOC) on tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The report has a special focus on freedom of expression and assembly and on prevention of and protection against homophobia and transphobia. It also addresses recent concerns about the adoption or an intention to introduce discriminatory and homophobic laws. In its resolution PACE urges member states to refrain from adopting such laws.
The resolution conveys deep concern about homophobic statements by politicians and other personalities. It emphasises that far from being manifestations of freedom of expression, these statements “amount to hate speech and incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence.”
PACE wants member states to introduce a total ban on coerced sterilisations and castrations
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) adopted in its summer 2013 session the report ‘Putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations’ by Liliane Maury Pasquier (Switzerland, SOC).
The report notes that in Council of Europe member states there is a small, but significant number of both sterilisations and castrations which would fall under the various definitions of “coerced” which are mainly directed against transgender persons, Roma women and convicted sex offenders. The PACE resolution calls member states to, inter alia, revise their laws and policies as necessary to ensure that no one can be coerced into sterilisation or castration in any way for any reason.
In June, the European Commission for Democracy Through Law, the Venice Commission, launched their opinion about legislation on prohibiting so-called “homosexual propaganda”, recently adopted in some Council of Europe member states.
The Commission holds that it considers such provisions being incompatible with ECHR and international human rights standards. The Commission further states, that it seems that the aim of this legislation is to curtail non-traditional values and attitudes by punishing their expression and promotion. To read the Venice Commissions opinion please click here
In an opinion released on July 15, the Commissioner for Human Rights Niels Muzinieks called on the Russian Federation to revise its legislation regulating NGO’s. In his opinion, the Commissioner welcomes recent announcements made by President Putin that the “Law on Foreign Agents” to a certain extent will be amended. But, the Commissioner further states that any continuing use of the term “foreign agent” in the legislation in relation to NGO’s will have a “chilling effect” on its activities, highlighting the important function of NGO’s as a “public watchdog” in a democratic society.
The current “Law on Foreign Agents” has been applied also to organizations and individuals working with LGBT issues. Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland has earlier welcomed the intention of the Russian president to amend the legislation in order to better define “political activity”. To read the Commissioner’s Opinion please click To read the Secretary-Generals comment please click here
The Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has stated that the Upper House of the Russian Parliament should not approve the draft law prohibiting the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors. The Secretary General emphasises that the majority does not have the right to adopt legislation that clearly discriminates minorities. He also reminds that even though public opinion may be in favour of it there is no justification for legalising prejudice. To read the Secretary General’s statement
The Secretary General urged the Ukrainian authorities to guarantee the principles of freedom of expression and non-discrimination, which are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, before submitting this bill to a second reading.
The Ukrainian Parliament needs to protect sexual minorities and reject “initiatives which are likely to increase intolerance and prejucides in society at large,” he said, adding that the Council of Europe was ready to offer all necessary assistance.
In a letter sent to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Lytvyn, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland expressed deep concern over a bill which proposes to ban the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality.
Responding to the ban of the Belgrade Pride 2012 event, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland issued the following statement: “I am surprised and disappointed that the Belgrade Pride event has been banned again. Citizens should be able to exercise their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Serbia should be in a position to safeguard such an event, which is commonplace is modern democracies.”
On 17th October, the Current Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities decided to prepare a report on LGBT persons’ rights. Ms Yoomi Renström (Sweden) will be the rapporteur. This document will deal with the role of local and regional authorities in insuring respect of LGBT people's rights.
In 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the first ever international instrument dealing specifically with LGBT issues: CM Recommendation (2010) 5 to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, which has a human rights-based approach and recommends a range of measures to be taken by member states in order to combat discrimination in this area and covers the major challenges facing LGBT persons:
The purpose is not to create new rights, but to ensure that every person enjoys equal rights and dignity. CM/Rec(2010)5 affirms the principle that “neither cultural, traditional nor religious values, nor the rules of a “dominant culture” can be invoked to justify hate speech or any other form of discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity »
The LGBT Issues Unit attends these roundtables as a member of the Informal Network of Focal Points and brings the Coordinators from our partner countries. It is generally the occasion to add a meeting between the LGBT Project and its Coordinators on the latest stage of our work together.
The UNHCR and the Council of Europe will organise a conference in Rome, Italy, to review the assessment of LGBT asylum claims. Participants from the 47 member states of the Council of Europe have been invited.
24/7 Unicorn conference on LGBT diversity in the workplace and Sticks & Stones career fair
The Sticks & Stones career fair is an annual event where businesses encourage employment of LGBT people. The LGBT Project will attend this event and the related conference the day before. The Project has invited their project countries to send relevant persons as well, and is organising a ‘Meet & Great’ side event for guests from project countries and business representatives from the same countries.