Plenary summary: Priorities of the Portuguese Council Presidency, annual report on human rights and democracy, reports on gender equality and access to housing, and resolution on Turkey

During its January I plenary session, the European Parliament Plenary debated and voted on several files that relate to the human rights of LGBTI persons: 

Presentation of the work programme of activities of the Portuguese Council presidency

On Wednesday 20 January, the Portuguese Prime-Minister António Costa presented the work programme of activities of the Portuguese Council Presidency. It will be anchored on 5 principles:

  1. Resilient Europe – Promoting recovery, cohesion and European values
  2. Green Europe – Promoting the EU as a leader in climate action
  3. Digital Europe – Accelerating the digital transformation for citizens and businesses
  4. Social Europe – Enhancing and strengthening the European social model
  5. Global Europe – Promoting a Europe that is open to the world

Watch the plenary interventions here (part I) and here (part II).

2019 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter

Still on Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament adopted the 2019 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter (Rapporteur: Isabel Santos, Portugal/S&D).

The report expresses very serious concerns about the decline in democratic and human rights standards and in the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms that the crisis has caused in some countries, as well as the attacks on human rights defenders and the discrimination still faced by LGBTI persons. The report additionally calls for the EU and Member States to promote gender equality and SRHR and to pay special attention to vulnerable groups such as LGBTI persons, with the objective of attaining universal health coverage through linked SRHR and HIV interventions. 

The report carries a specific section on the rights of LGBTI persons:

  • Condemns the stigmatisation, arbitrary detention, torture, persecution and killings of LGBTI persons and the incitement to violence against them; considers regrettable the growing divergent developments between countries which are moving towards a better protection of the rights of LGBTI persons, notably by de-criminalising homosexuality, and those which undermine them and leave the field free for persecution, discrimination and stigmatisation against LGBTI persons; believes that practices and acts of violence against individuals on the basis of their real and perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or sex characteristics should not go unpunished and must be eradicated; (¶91)
  • Calls for the EU to play a leading role in defending the human rights of and combating discrimination and stigmatisation against LGBTI persons, so-called conversion therapy, genital mutilation and forced sterilisation of transgender people; further calls for the EU to use all diplomatic tools at its disposal to advocate the de-criminalisation of sexual relations between consenting same-sex partners, and to set an example in tackling violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, through the effective implementation of the new LGBTI+ equality strategy, both within the EU and externally; calls for the EU and the Member States to thoroughly and consistently apply the EU Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI persons across its external policy; (¶92)
  • Highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit LGBTI communities hard, due to a spike in domestic violence against LGBTI people who were forced to quarantine or return to discriminatory families and households, increased unemployment and homelessness, the inability to access life-saving medical treatment such as HIV services and transition-related medical care, and leading to increased scapegoating; calls for the inclusion of LGBTI people in COVID-19 relief programmes; (¶93)

Watch the plenary interventions here.

Consult the results of the roll-call final vote here (page 21-22) (final votes (684): +459, -62, o163)

Report on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality 

On Thursday 21 January, Members of the European Parliament adopted the report on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality (Rapporteur: Maria Noichl, Germany/S&D). 

The report addresses the strong political engagement of the Commission with European gender equality policies through the adopted Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which sets a decisive, clear and ambitious police framework to realise women’s rights and gender equality, as well as to support the goal of a European Union without discrimination and structural inequalities, for all people in all their diversity. Additionally, the report states:

  • Recalls the need to combat multi-layered discrimination, especially against vulnerable groups, including women with disabilities, black women, migrant, ethnic minority and Roma women, older women, single mothers, LGBTIQ+ people and homeless women, and stresses the importance of ensuring that they benefit from the objectives and actions of the EU Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025; (¶8)
  • Is concerned about the lack of an explicit prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of a person’s gender identity and gender expression in EU law; notes the persistence of discrimination, harassment and exclusion from the labour market of LGBTIQ+ people; welcomes the adoption of the first ever LGBTI+ strategy, and calls on the Commission to follow up on its LGBTI List of Actions 2016-2019 with specific measures to tackle discrimination at work on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics; (¶29)

Watch the plenary interventions here.

Consult the results of the roll-call final vote here (page 339-340) (final votes (676): +464, -119, o93)

Report on the gender perspective in the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period

Also on Thursday, Members of the European Parliament adopted the report on the gender perspective in the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period (Rapporteur: Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland/EPP).

The report stated:

  • Calls on the Commission and Member States to closely monitor and strongly respond to disinformation, negative public discourses, insufficient prioritisation, restricted or denied access to relevant services and regressive initiatives related to women’s rights, LGBTQI+ rights and gender equality; (¶7)
  • Regrets that access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services was neglected, restricted or even attacked in some Member States during the crisis; strongly rejects any attempts to back-track on SRHR and LGBTQI+ rights and highlights that opponents of SRHR should not be allowed to abuse this crisis as a channel for limiting women’s rights, such as the right to safe abortion; (¶10)
  • Notes with serious concern the impact of the crisis on LGBTQI+ persons, in particular young persons, many of whom have had to social distance or quarantine in hostile family environments, increasing their risk of being subjected to domestic and LGBTQI+-phobic violence; notes that a greater-than-average rate of LGBTQI+ people are unemployed or working in precarious jobs with limited and unstable financial resources, resulting in them remaining in a hostile or abusive environment; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that all COVID-19-specific initiatives regarding domestic, gender-based and sexual violence take the increased risk to and specific challenges of LGBTQI+ people into account, and that victim support services and special COVID-19 initiatives responding to domestic violence explicitly reach out to LGBTQI+ victims of domestic violence; (¶21)

Watch the plenary interventions here.

Consult the results of the roll-call final vote here (page 337-338) (final votes (679): +485, -86, o108)

Report on access to decent and affordable housing for all

Still on Thursday, Members of the European Parliament adopted the report on access to decent and affordable housing for all (Rapporteur: Kim van Sparrentak, the Netherlands/Greens/EFA).

The report calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the right to adequate housing is recognised and enforceable as a fundamental human right through applicable European and national legislative provisions and calls on them to ensure equal access for all to decent housing. Particularly, the report also recognised LGBTI persons as disproportionately affected among those living in homelessness and further stated:

  • whereas the European Commission’s study on legal gender recognition in the EU highlights discrimination against trans and gender non-conforming persons in access to the housing market, including the loss of their homes due to the divorce requirement of some gender recognition processes in the EU; whereas access to legal gender recognition increases trans persons’ likelihood of finding housing in cases where their documents are required to match their gender expression; (AU.)
  • Welcomes the attention to LGBTIQ homelessness, particularly LGBTIQ youth homelessness, in the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy; invites the Commission to create tools for enhanced data collection, to foster research across the EU, and to facilitate the exchange of approaches to tackling the problem of LGBTIQ homelessness between Member States; (¶18)

Watch the plenary interventions here.

Consult the results of the roll-call final vote here (page 329-330) (final votes (683): +352, -179, o152)

Resolution on the Human rights situation in Turkey, in particular the case of Selahattin Demirtaş and other prisoners of conscience 

The last text voted on Thursday was the resolution on the human rights situation in Turkey, in particular the case of Selahattin Demirtaş and other prisoners of conscience

The resolution addresses also the case of Cihan Erdal, an LGBTI activist imprisoned in Turkey, and LGBTI human rights defenders:

  • highlights the case of Cihan Erdal, member of the youth wing of the Turkish Green/Left party, who was detained on 25 September 2020 and indicted on 7 January 2021 together with more than 100 defendants, including Selahattin Demirtaş, as part of the ‘Kobane case’; (¶8)
  • Expresses its great concern at the shrinking space for civil society and the ongoing deterioration of fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey; highlights, in particular, concerns over Turkey’s sustained backsliding as regards the independence of the judiciary; calls on the Turkish authorities to put an end to its judicial harassment of human rights defenders, academics, journalists, spiritual leaders, lawyers and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, whose fundamental rights have been infringed, especially after the failed coup d’état attempt; urges the Turkish Government to immediately release the prominent civil society figure Osman Kavala in compliance with the ECHR judgment of May 2020 and following the repeated calls and resolutions from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe; (¶9)

Watch the plenary interventions here.

Consult the results of the roll-call final vote here (page 345-346) (final votes (681): +590, -16, o75)

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