Combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity

Sexual orientation and gender identity : The first international human rights instrument against discrimination


Malta improves protection of human rights for trans and intersex people

Malta Flag15/04/2015 - A bill aimed to protect and promote human rights of trans and intersex people was signed into law yesterday by Maltese President Marie Louise Coleiro. The law is grounded in the respect for human rights and emphasizes particularly the right to self-determination and physical integrity. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act will allow legal gender recognition in a quick, transparent and accessible manner, through a simple declaration. The law will improve protection of bodily integrity by making medically unnecessary treatment on sex characteristics without the informed consent of the person unlawful. The law also provides parents with the possibility to postpone the entry of a gender marker on their children’s birth certificate which will allow them to take into consideration the self-perception of an intersex child. Link to the document

Colloquy "Being homosexual in Europe during the Second World War (History, remembrance, commemoration)", Paris, 27 March 2015

Colloque Memory Paris 201527/03/2015 - "We will not forget the suffering of the past. We will work every day to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself in the future", said Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary of the Council of Europe at the opening of a seminar in Paris on 27 March 2015 on Gay and Lesbian lives in Europe during the Second World War.

"Survivors have often been silenced by either fear or shame and there is still limited understanding about the fate of homosexual Europeans who were sent to Nazi concentration camps.

As time passes and the number of people who lived through the Second World War dwindles, the Council of Europe works to ensure the remembrance of all the victims of the holocaust, through our programme "Passing on the Remembrance of the Holocaust and prevention of crimes against humanity".

The seminar was organised by the Council of Europe, the CNRS and Université Paris Sorbonne.

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Guaranteeing the rights of LGBT people at local and regional level

Congress March 201525/03/2015 - The Congress debated and adopted the resolution and recommendation presented by Yoomi Renström (Sweden, SOC) on “Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights: a responsibility for Europe’s towns and regions”. The text calls on local and regional authorities to mobilise against the discrimination of all kinds which LGBT people suffer at local level and to introduce policies more respectful of their rights. Read more

European Court of Human Rights: Turkey wrong to refuse transsexual’s gender reassignment surgery wish

11/03/2015 - Judges say Turkey’s refusal to allow a transsexual to have access to gender reassignment surgery breached human rights law.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Y. Y. v. Turkey (application no. 14793/08) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights Read more...

Call for experts on Sexual orientation and gender identity

Call for experts25/02/2015 - The purpose of this call is to provide the Council of Europe with a list of candidates who would be interested in taking on consultant contracts in connection with activities related to the area of combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity and the implementation of related programmes/projects and co-operation activities.

The selected candidates will be taken into consideration when awarding consulting contracts, but are not guaranteed to be awarded one. Please see the call for experts and also the application form.

An expert study on human rights challenges of trans and intersex children

TomboyTomboy, de Céline Sciamma ©Pyramides - 11/12/2014 - The Council of Europe bodies have in recent years highlighted the need to pay more attention to human rights violations against trans and intersex children. The Parliamentary Assembly, adopted in 2013 a Resolution on children’s right to physical integrity which also underlined the need to generate more knowledge about issues regarding intersex. In one of the recent human rights comment on LGBTI children’s right to safety and equality, the Commissioner for Human Rights drew attention to obstacles faced by trans and intersex children when exercising their right to self-determination. Furthermore, one of the objectives of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015) is eliminating all forms of violence against children and guaranteeing the rights of children in vulnerable situations including child victims of discrimination based among others on sex, birth or other status such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

An expert study released today by the Council of Europe, looks into the specific challenges of trans and intersex children in Europe. The study highlights the importance of information, better knowledge and understanding of trans and intersex children in order to protect them against violence related to sex and gender norms.

Developments regarding recognition of same-sex couples in Council of Europe member states

Marriage for all12/12/2014 -  During a second reading today, the Finnish Parliament voted in 101-90 in favor of equal marriage rights. The legislative proposal was taken to the Parliament through a citizens’ initiative which was backed by more than 170, 000 citizens. The new legislation will enter into force in March 2017.

In October the Estonian Parliament voted in favor of Cohabitation Bill which will recognize also cohabiting same-sex couples. The law will allow same-sex couples to register their partnership through a cohabitation agreement certified by a notary and gain legal rights and obligations.

Read more: Parliament of Finland / Paliament of Estonia

What is it like to be young Roma and LGBT?

07/11/2014 - "Although we are two barely educated Roma women living in quite bad conditions, we dared to ask to be recognised as a same-sex family and, when resettled, to be granted one social housing unit where we will be living together."(Maria, 28, Serbia)

You can read the life story of Maria and other young LGBT Roma in "Barabaripen. Young Roma speak about multiple discrimination". Many young Roma are affected by multiple discrimination because of their ethnicity and other grounds such as social status, sexual orientation or gender identity, gender or migrant status. Barabaripen includes life stories of nine young Roma, and an analysis of the mechanisms of discrimination and the strategies that young people use in order to tackle it.

The publication is also an awareness-raising and educational tool with proposals for educational activities with youth using the life stories and background materials. The booklet is published by the Youth Department of the Council of Europe as part of the Roma Youth Action Plan, the SOGI unit cooperated with the publication. You can download a pdf version of Barabaripen here.

ILGA Europe's Annual Conference - Council of Europe Worskshop, Riga, 10 October 2014

Ilga Logo06/10/2014 - All around Europe, LGBT people suffer from discrimination, violence and exclusion on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Council of Europe’s standards, mechanisms and monitoring tools to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity will be the focus of a Council of Europe organised workshop to take place on 10 October 2014 in Riga, Latvia. The workshop will be part of the ILGA annual conference, Europe’s largest gathering of LGBT activists and stakeholders. Marja Ruotanen, Director of Human Dignity and Equality, will deliver an opening address at the conference.

Call for Applications - Police training

02/10/2014 - The Council of Europe, through the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit (SOGI) the Support Team of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Roma Issues and the Criminal Law Co-operation Unit, is organising a training of trainers on non-discrimination and with a focus on Roma and sexual orientation and gender identity, on 19-21 November 2014 in Strasbourg, France. Read further

LGBTI children have the right to safety and equality

02/10/2014 - “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) children are often victims of bullying and violence in schools, at home and via social media. This has a serious effect on their well-being and prevents openness about their personal identity. Like all children, LGBTI children are entitled to enjoy human rights and require a safe environment in order to participate fully in society” writes Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks in a Human Rights Comment published today. Read further

Call for Applications - Police training

02/10/2014 - The Council of Europe, through the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit (SOGI) the Support Team of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Roma Issues and the Criminal Law Co-operation Unit, is organising a training of trainers on non-discrimination and with a focus on Roma and sexual orientation and gender identity, on 19-21 November 2014 in Strasbourg, France. Read further

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission (ECRI) publishes new reports

16/09/2014 - Today the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has published four new reports on the fight against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and racial discrimination in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. The reports examine the situation of LGBT persons in these member states with regard to legislative measures and policies to combat discrimination and intolerance on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Link to the ECRI press releases

Adequate and equal legal protection for all families

12/09/2014 - “The European Court of Human Rights in its judgments has extended the principle of non-discrimination in matters relating to rights and obligations of same-sex couples and parent-child relationships in rainbow families, and held that the notion of “family life” includes the relationship between two same-sex partners and the child of one of them living together in the same household, whatever the circumstances of the child’s birth. The Court’s judgments are reflected in the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec (2010)5 to member states on combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, the first international instrument to specifically address human rights of LGBT people. It identifies specific measures to be adopted and effectively endorsed by member states to combat discrimination, ensure respect for LGBT persons, promote tolerance towards them and ensure that victims have access to legal measures.” Council of Europe standards and work to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are presented in this year’s report on the International Family Equality Day (IFED).

The European Court of Human Rights rules on change of marital status as requirement for legal gender recognition for trans persons

17/07/2014 - On 16 July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights has delivered its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Hämäläinen v. Finland (app. no. 37359/09). In its judgment, the Court held that a change of marital status for a trans person, as a requirement for legal gender recognition, does not constitute a violation of human rights.



Recognition of same-sex partnerships in Council of Europe member states: the Parliament of Croatia adopts Law on Life Partnership

16/07/2014 - Yesterday Croatia’s parliament adopted a Law on Life Partnership which will officially recognize same-sex couples. The law will grant same-sex couples most of the same rights that married couples enjoy excluding the possibility to adopt. Just a month ago the parliamentarians in Luxembourg voted for opening marriage (including adoption rights) for same-sex couples.

After the decisions in Croatia and Luxembourg 12* member states recognize same-sex couples through a registered partnership or a civil union and 11** Council of Europe member states have opened up marriage to same-sex couples.

** Number includes only countries where registered partnership/civil union provides the most comprehensive recognition for same-sex couples.

** Number includes United Kingdom where same-sex couples can marry in England, Wales and Scotland.

United for Dignity

15/07/2014 - On 26-28 June Council of Europe Youth department, Sexual orientation and gender identity Unit and the Support Team of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Roma Issues joined forces to organise a conference focusing on multiple discrimination of young Roma. The conference brought together youth organisations, Roma and non-Roma, which work on non-discrimination, researchers and policy makers. The conference explored more specifically multiple identities and multiple discrimination at the intersections of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability and migrant status. In fall 2014 the Council of Europe will publish a compilation of life stories of young Roma which will paint a picture of experience of multiple discrimination.  Read more (video...)

International Pride Day marked with action “Hate-Free Zone” in Belgrade

10/07/2014 - On 27 June the Council of Europe office in Belgrade joined an event to mark International Pride Day. It was organised by several NGOs and was held under the slogan Hate-Free Zone. The main objective of the action was to highlight intolerance towards the LGBT community, but also towards other minorities and disadvantaged groups and individuals and to symbolically “free” public places in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia from hate. The event which took place in Belgrade comprised of a short walk through central town. Serbian Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrušić, Deputy Ombudsman Gordana Stevanović and several diplomatic delegations were present. The Council of Europe office took part in the action led by Antje Rothmund, the head of office.  Read more

Denmark adopts new legislation on legal gender recognition

Denmark12/06/2014 - On 11 June Denmark passed legislation which allows legal gender recognition for transgender people based on their self-determination. Legal gender recognition is the process which allows transgender people to change their name and gendered information on official key documents in accordance with their gender identity.  Continue reading

LGBT rights are human rights, not special rights

Video SOGI16/05/2014 - In an interview with the Associated Press about the International Day Against Homophobia, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland says that he is “optimistic” about Europe “going in the right direction” on measures to combat discrimination against LGBT people.

Please click here to watch our new video spot on LGBT rights.

A boy or a girl or a person – intersex people lack recognition in Europe

Intersex09/05/2014 - On 1 March, Fox News presenter Clayton Morris had to apologise for his ‘ignorant and stupid’ comments mocking the new gender options for Facebook profiles which allow users to register as intersex. The TV presenter had ridiculed the move of the social media company referring to intersex by saying “whatever that is”. This case illustrates the prejudice and ignorance surrounding the reality of individuals who cannot be clearly classified as male or female at birth. Most countries worldwide still neglect this human rights problem and intersex people remain invisible to the majority.

The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia of 17 May is also aimed at highlighting the struggle against the discrimination and prejudice suffered by intersex people. The word “intersex” has replaced “hermaphrodite”, which was widely used by medical practitioners during the 18th and 19th centuries. The social expectations for either a girl or a boy at birth, or a woman or a man in society, are the source of the problems intersex people face. Society does not usually recognise a person without reference to their sex. Yet intersex individuals’ chromosomal, anatomical or gonadal characteristics do not belong exclusively to either sex. This is why intersex persons encounter huge barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights. Continue reading .

Malta recognises same-sex civil partnerships

Malta ParliamentOn Monday April 14th the Maltese parliament passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter civil unions. The legislation provides same-sex couples also with the right to apply for joint adoption. After the Maltese decision there are now 22 Council of Europe member states which legally recognize same-sex couples.

On the same day the Maltese parliament passed an amendment to the country’s constitution including sexual orientation and gender identity among the grounds of prohibited discrimination. Malta became the first European country to mention gender identity as a prohibited discrimination ground in its Constitution. More