Ahead of International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, Commissioner Mijatović issued the following statement today.
“As we mark International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, I want to pay tribute to the defenders across Europe who stand up for the rights of LGBTI people to be free and equal.
One would think that the brave individuals who defend our rights would not need protection. However, the current reality of the work of LGBTI defenders in Europe paints a worrying picture.
Those openly defending equal rights for lesbians are the target of online harassment in France; offices of LGBTI organisations have recently been attacked in Lithuania and in Spain; after appearing in parliament, a trans activist became the target of a hate campaign in Armenia and had to relocate abroad; some candidates running for the European Parliament elections while openly expressing their sexual orientation and gender identity are receiving death threats. In Russia and Turkey, the work of LGBTI activists has been obstructed by bans on access to information or on LGBTI activities. In some countries, being a trans or gay activist can get you killed. And in many places across Europe the right to march freely and safely is still not ensured.
These examples show how LGBTI activists face increasing pressure and harassment. In addition to the threats they face for the work they do protecting and promoting human rights, they are threatened for advocating on behalf of a discriminated community. Sometimes, for being gay, lesbian, bi, trans or intersex themselves.
The current wave of intolerance and prejudices weeping much of the world, including Europe, has generated many worrying trends, including the scapegoating of minorities and an increased hostility and backlash against LGBTI people and those who work for advancing their rights.
This needs to change. We are all born equal in dignity and rights. States must keep the commitments they have made to fight discrimination and protect defenders.
I call on Council of Europe member states to honour those commitments, and to protect LGBTI defenders. Hate speech, hate crimes and violent attacks against LGBTI activists must be effectively investigated and punished. LGBTI activists perform a very important role. Rather than feeding homophobia and transphobia, states, politicians and opinion leaders must combat the prejudices in society that weaken defenders’ crucial work.
Let’s defend the defenders.“