On May 20th and June 4th, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit (SOGI) hosted the 24th Roundtable of the European Governmental LGBTI Focal Points Network (EFPN). The meeting was hosted online and addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTI persons in Europe.
Several representatives of Council of Europe Member States shared the latest updates on the wide-ranging actions undertaken in their country to make sure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons are not left behind.
In her statement ahead of IDAHOT 2020, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić stressed that COVID-19 has led to the emerging of new challenges and to the exacerbation of existing inequalities, including for LGBTI persons. During the online discussion, several national focal points highlighted increased support to civil society organisations, especially in light of the key role played in providing support online and - when possible – offline. This support also included providing emergency shelter or food, improved reporting of domestic abuse and grants to NGOs. As a result of the pandemic, the work of National Parliaments has been impacted in different countries, resulting in the rescheduling of important discussions around new legislation having a key impact on the lives of LGBTI persons.
As for the most vulnerable groups, LGBTI youth, homeless, elderly, HIV positive and transgender persons, together with all those prevented from accessing health services considered as “not fundamental”, emerged as being amongst the most subject to discrimination.
Looking ahead, several Member States are in the process of collecting data, in order to have more information to evaluate the concrete impact of COVID-19 during the pandemic and to measure the foreseeable impact in the future. Pride celebrations were cancelled in several countries, and in some cases replaced by online events.
The roundtable was also an important occasion to discuss the upcoming EU LGBTI Equality Strategy – with a keynote presentation of Silvan Agius, Cabinet Expert of EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli – and the presentation of the latest survey of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), covering the situation of LGBTI persons in the EU, provided by Patrycia Pogodzinska from the FRA Project Manager, Legal Research, Research and Data Unit.
The roundtable served as an opportunity to share good practices that can be replicated around Europe, in line with the two main aims of the Network, which are notably to mainstream equality by exchanging experiences among policy experts/advisors from European Member States and competent regions and to interact with the European policy level to always be updated with the latest SOGIESC developments.