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The Copenhagen 2021 Human Rights Forum

Copenhagen 17 August 2021
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Ms Reintke,

Commissioner Dalli,

Minister Moreno,

Dear friends,

 

It is a great pleasure to join you for this Worldpride – the pride of prides – which does so much good in promoting visibility, awareness and equality at the European and international level.

Just a few short decades ago, it would have been unthinkable for LGBTI people to take to the streets of Europe – anywhere in Europe – and state their rightful pride in who they are.

Yes, there are still places where this remains difficult, or impossible.

Yes, there are many places where LGBTI people suffer discrimination.

And yes, we should act to make things better.

But the fact that many more people are much more free, that they are able to live more happy and fulfilled lives – and that so many of us are outraged when this is not the case – well, this is progress on which to build.

At the Council of Europe, we ourselves take pride in the role that we play in bringing about positive change.

Our role is set in common legal standards for our 47 member states, drawing upon the values contained in European Convention on Human Rights.

Over the years, our action has ensured that same-sex relationships are decriminalised;

That same-sex partnerships are given legal recognition;

And that transgender people seeking legal recognition are not subjected to sterilisation.

Our work has also contributed to greater freedom of assembly and association and efforts to tackle bullying, violence and employment issues.

Some of this has been achieved through the implementation of the European Convention, including the case law of the European Court of Human Rights – and this is crucial.

And some has been the result of specific initiatives – most notably the implementation of our Committee of Ministers’ 2010 recommendation on combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The first international legal instrument to specifically address the human rights of LGBTI people, this ground-breaking instrument guides national authorities towards delivering equality, even today 11 years later.

A recent implementation report confirmed the progress that it has helped to make.

But it also pointed to the problems that, regrettably, we all know persist.

In parts of Europe today, LGBTI rights are being framed as a threat to the family, traditional values and even state sovereignty –

And some authorities are operating and pushing at the limits of their international legal obligations.

Such as referendums on equal marriage;

Restrictions on public events, with blind eyes turned where hate crimes occur;

Discrimination when it comes to public services and interaction with state authorities.

All of these are worrying developments, and none should be ignored.

So, we will take further specific steps towards ensuring equality – real, true equality. This is what it is all about – equal rights.

At the same time, we are working to improve the review procedures for our 2010 recommendation, which will include greater involvement of civil society;

We are looking to develop new standards to counter hate speech and hate crime more effectively, and ensure equality for intersex people.

A new General Policy Recommendation on LGBTI rights will draw from the country-specific work carried out by our monitoring body ECRI, the European Commission against racism and intolerance, and take account of the changing issues and realities over recent years.

And of course, we will protect the progress that we have made by supporting the implementation of existing and future standards, including the developing case law from the Strasbourg Court.

At a practical level, we will be there with member states, assisting them and building their capacity, providing technical support and expertise, as well as raising awareness and sharing best practice, so that we can see real results.

These are certainly challenging times for some of our LGBTI citizens.

But we can act to ensure that required legal standards are met, and equality is ensured ‒ granting all our citizens the same rights, irrespective of their ethnicity, religious background or sexual orientation.

Much progress has been achieved in Europe and many LGBTI people can march in many streets throughout our continent, stating their rightful pride in who they are, but much more remains to be done, and we are ready to play our part.