Almost all EU institutions mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Today, almost all major EU institutions are marking the International Day Against Homophobia. The European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council, the European External Action Service as well as the Fundamental Rights Agency will all issue statements on this occasion.

EU flagThe date commemorates the decision of the World Health Organization to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness on 17 May 1990. The International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) was officially marked for the first time by EU institutions last year, in 2010.

This year, several institutions and agencies of the European Union marked the International Day. The only main EU institution not to do so is the Council of the European Union, currently chaired by Hungary.

European Commission

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship issued a statement condemning homophobia as “a blatant violation of human dignity”:

Commissioner Viviane RedingHomophobia is a blatant violation of human dignity and is incompatible with the principles upon which the EU is founded. I am fully committed to combating homophobia and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The principle of equal treatment is a fundamental value for the EU. This principle is guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yet, sadly, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the EU are still victims of exclusion, hate speech, hate crime, discrimination and other forms of intolerance. This is confirmed by the available data collected by the Fundamental Rights Agency, by Member State institutions and by civil society.

Commissioner Andris PiebalgsAndris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, addressed the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, currently meeting in Budapest. This morning, Commissioner Piebalgs mentioned to parliamentarians from the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that today was the International Day Against Homophobia, reminding them that the EU is legally committed to rooting out homophobia, both under the EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Update (18 May) Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, published a blog post in which she repeated her commitment to equality and non-discrimination, notably in the area of asylum and freedom of expression and assembly:

Commissioner Cecilia MalmströmWe know that Pride Festivals are cancelled in some countries and that homosexuals are victims of hate crime, discrimination and other forms of intolerance. A serious example can be found in the Czech Republic where “phallometric testing” is used in the asylum procedure, as reported by the EU agency for Fundamental Rights last year. This practice consists in testing the physical reaction to heterosexual pornographic material of gay men who have filed a claim for asylum on the basis of their homosexual orientation. This is a pure medieval method and a huge violation of the individual’s right to privacy.

Today the exhibition ‘Different Families, Same Love’ by ILGA-Europe will also be inaugurated at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

European Council

Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, published a strong statement fully endorsing comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon against violence and the discrimination of LGBT people:

Herman van Rompuy, President of the European CouncilLast December, on Human Rights Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared: “When individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation, we must speak out.” He added: “Yes, we recognize that social attitudes run deep. Yes, social change often comes only with time. Yet, let there be no confusion: where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day.” I can fully endorse the Secretary General’s statement.

In particular, when individuals are victims of discrimination, attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or other reasons, we must speak out. Such attacks do not just affect the individual victims – they are attacks on all of us. They devastate families. They pit one group against another, dividing larger society.

We have a collective responsibility to stand against discrimination, to defend our fellow human beings and our fundamental principles.

European Parliament

Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, read a moving speech while opening an exhibition on gay prides in Europe, at the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament on 10 May. He declared:

Jerzy Buzek opening the Walk With Pride exhibitionHomophobia is deplorable because it aims to denigrate people and deprive them of these rights on the basis of their sexual orientation.

But as we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, we must also remember, which may be of special importance, that some people are not only deprived of their basic rights, but may be tortured and punished because of their sexual orientation. In some countries they may even face the death penalty.

We have a duty to protect human rights, wherever they are, and in whatever form they take.

Louis Michel, Co-President of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, opened the joint parliamentary assembly’s meeting in Budapest yesterday by reading strong remarks to parliamentarians from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries:

I wish to say with the greatest determination that we will never accept that governments or politicians may use, or even exploit, any ‘cultural’ argument in an attempt to justify the hunt and demonization of homosexuality.

Any minority, regardless of what makes it one, must benefit from identical rights.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge all European and ACP parliamentarians not to be carried away by misleading approximations. The sexual difference between consenting adults, love between two men, or two women, or between a man and a woman definitively belongs one’s intimacy, which is a sacred entitlement for any human being.

The European Parliament website also features a special report on the International Day.

Presidents of the Intergroup published a column on the International Day on and in the Parliament Magazine.

European External Action Service

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, published a written statement condemning the harassment and violence faced by LGBT human rights defenders. She reminded countries that still criminalise homosexuality that this was against international human rights law, and paid tribute to the work of human rights defenders David Kato, John Edison Ramirez and Jacqueline Kasha:

Commissioner Catherine AshtonI want to reaffirm the strong commitment of the European Union – and myself – to the entitlement of all persons to enjoy the full range of human rights without discrimination. Around the world, gender identity and sexual orientation continue to be used wrongly as the pretext for serious human rights violations. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons continue to be subjected to persecution, discrimination and gross ill-treatment, often involving extreme forms of violence. Transgender and intersex persons are a particularly vulnerable group among LGBTI people.

Around 80 States still criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults, and seven even foresee the death penalty. This is incompatible with international human rights law. The EU calls on all States to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On this day, we also pay tribute to David Kato and John Edison Ramirez, prominent LGBTI activists, who were murdered last year, and would like to commend the selection of the Ugandan LGBT-activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera as Laureate for the renowned Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Fundamental Rights Agency

The Fundamental Rights Agency announced it would start working on a EU-wide survey of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

Today, on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, in some EU countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are better protected than before. However, in others they are not, underlining the need for the relevant governments to act to treat all citizens equally across a variety of issues.

The Agency will provide policy makers with concrete evidence of unfair treatment, abuse or violence following the launch of its survey of LGBT people in early 2012.

The EU-wide online survey will capture the actual experiences of discrimination and hate crime felt by LGBT people, something that has never been done on this scale before. In 2012, the Agency will also identify good practice by authorities in preventing and addressing discrimination and abuses against LGBT people.