LGBTI persons are often victims of discrimination, social exclusion and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These behaviours are manifestations of homophobia and/or transphobia. For several years the Congress of the Council of Europe has been working to combat discrimination against LGBTI people by addressing recommendations to local and regional as well as national authorities. It also organises fact-finding missions to examine particular situations in certain countries.
Report on LGBTI rights in Europe
In June 2021, the Congress adopted a report, resolution and recommendation calling on local and regional authorities to step up the fight against hatred and discrimination against LGBTI people.
This comes against the backdrop of declining LGBTI rights all over Europe and a disturbing picture of violations of their rights in several countries. Reminding local and regional authorities that the protection of these rights is essential to strengthening social cohesion and democracy, Congress outlines different ways in which backsliding on international commitments or adopted legislation in this respect occurs and examines how this negative trend has affected the lives of LGBTI people. The report also provides good practice examples from cities and regions that have adopted policies and legislation and acted in defense of LGBTI people’s rights.
Report on the situation in Poland
In June 2021, the Congress adopted a resolution on the role of local authorities with regard to the situation and rights of LGBTI people in Poland following a fact-finding mission on November 2020.
In response to the decision by a number of municipalities to declare themselves “LGBT ideology-free zones”, the Congress calls on Polish local and regional authorities to withdraw all declarations and resolutions against so-called “LGBT ideology” and all analogous texts regardless of their title. Moreover, the Congress urges local and regional authorities in Poland to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, with particular attention to the deleterious impact of hate speech on the lives of LGBTI people.
Report on discrimination towards LGBTI
The report adopted in 2015 by Congress calls on local authorities to mobilize against discrimination towards LGBTI people and to guarantee their rights through action plans.
The report describes the discrimination and challenges faced by these people and makes policy recommendations that will remove the obstacles to promoting respect of LGBTI people’s human rights based on examples of good practice and strategies with proven success. It underlines that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are recognised as prohibited grounds for discrimination. The Congress recommends developing a culture of human rights, providing effective human rights protection and ensuring the delivery of discrimination-free policies and services.
The Congress published in 2019 "Human rights handbook for local and regional authorities". One of its three chapters aims to combating discrimination against LGBTI people. Examples presented include the establishment of codes of conduct prohibiting discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTI people, training of officials including municipal police officers and consultation with the LGBTI community in the development of local policies. Some of the issues addressed in the Handbook are presented below. To view the whole content, download the Handbook in PDF format.
Definitions (p. 124-125)
Knowing what exactly “LGBTI” means is the first step to not only appropriately using this term in the public discourse but also to developing effective LGBTI-inclusive policies. LGBTI is an umbrella term, an initialism for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons. Below is a specific definition of each category.
- Lesbian: women who form sexual and affectionate relationships with women.
- Gay: men who form sexual and affectionate relationships with men.
- Bisexual: men and women attracted to and having sexual relations with both sexes.
- Transgender: also know as Third Gender, these are people who identify themselves with a gender identity other than the one that was assigned to their biological sex at birth or people who view their gender as more fluid than the strictly male or female gender categories allow.
- Intersex: people born with chromosomal, hormonal levels or genital characteristics which do not correspond to the given standart or "male" or "female" categories for sexual or reproductive anatomy. Intersex status is not about sexual orientations or gender identities.
What are their rights? (p. 128-129)
International human rigths law applies to LGBI+ people as it does to everyone else, without distinction of any kind. In short, LGBTI+ people have the same rights and freedoms as other individuals :
- Right to safety
- Right to housing
- Right to social security
- Right to health care
- Right to education
- Right to privacy
Challenges (p. 130-131)
While progress has been made, such as the recognition of same-sex marriage by 14 Council of Europe member States. LGBTI+ people suffer from negative attitudes especially in access to employment, housing or health but also from domestic violence, bullying and harassment and are deprived of legal recognition.
Local authorities are at the forefront of the fight against discrimination against LGBTI+ people. Public policies may meet some opposition due to the historical, political and legislative context of the country but also due to the religious and moral beliefs of the population.
Responses (p. 132-150)
The Congress gathered a set of good practices that have been successfully implemented by local and regional authorities that have actively advocate for the inclusion of their LGBTI+ communities including :
- Access to social rights and services (including employment, healthcare and housing)
- Developments in local and regional legislation
- Awareness-raising, education, visibility and mainstreaming in policy-making processes
- Co-operation between authorities
- Safety and security
The Congress proposes a set of recommendations aimed at :
- Improving access to social rights and services
- Recognising LGBTI rights in local and regional legislation
- Raising awareness, enhancing visibility of the LGBTI community and mainstreaming their rights in policy-making processes
- Promoting co-operation between authorities
- Protecting LGBTI communities and improving their safety and security
- Protection of LGBTI people in the context of rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination: the role of local and regional authorities - Report CG(2021)40-18 - Resolution 470 (2021) - Recommendation 458 (2021)
- The role of local authorities with regard to the situation and rights of LGBTI people in Poland - Report CG(2021)40-19 - Resolution 471 (2021)
- Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights: a responsibility for Europe’s towns and regions - Report CG/2015(28)9 – Resolution 380 (2015)
- Freedom of assembly and expression for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons - Resolution 230 (2007)