Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Opinion

The illusion of the EU’s commitment to LGBT rights

  • European Parliament: The EU has not done enough to prevent the regression taking place on its own soil (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The EU is good at promoting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi(sexual) and transgender people) rights beyond its borders, but it should pay more attention to what is happening in its member states.

Same-sex couples are now able to wed in the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) and Finland, while the Maltese government unanimously approved a Civil Unions bill which also grants same-sex couples the right to adopt.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Denmark passed a piece of legislation on trans issues which activists hail as one of the most progressive laws in the world.

Meanwhile, the EU has been vocal when it comes to third countries and gay rights, criticising the likes of Uganda and Kyrgyzstan.

The EU's diplomatic service even has an LGBT "toolkit" to promote rights in third countries.

But despite this progress, there are regressive trends developing in the EU which are not getting enough attention.

Banned in seven member states

European LGBT citizens experience frequent oppression, fear, discrimination, maltreatment, harassment and violence.

Seven member states have banned same sex-marriage in their constitution.

Recently, a Lithuanian MP warned that a local LGBT NGO will face a Charlie Hebdo-like massacre if it continues its "provocative" activities.

In Austria, a lesbian couple was recently thrown out of a cafe because they were kissing. In the UK, a taxi driver kicked out a gay couple for cuddling, and a trans woman was fired for using the women’s bathroom.

An EU-wide report by the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) showed that 47 percent of respondents felt discriminated against or harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT youth are hit particularly hard.

Students often experience bullying at school due to their perceived identity and 67 percent of them hide their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The FRA report found that 91 percent of respondents had heard negative comments or seen negative conduct because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT.

A majority of member states continue to ignore the rights of trans people, particularly when it comes to requirements of gender recognition.

In its report "The state decides who I am", Amnesty International finds that in many European countries transgender people cannot obtain legal recognition of their gender unless they get a psychiatric diagnosis and undergo medical treatments which include hormone treatment, surgery, and irreversible sterilisation.

Tip of the iceberg

Contrary to popular belief, legalising same-sex marriage and civil unions is just the tip of the iceberg for most European LGBT people.

The EU has a long way to go before it can truly deserve its reputation as being the champion of LGBT equality and human rights.

While the EU lacks real power over the social policy of its member states, it should vocally condemn policies and legislation that intend to restrict LGBT rights.

The lack of openly LGBT high-level EU officials is dispiriting for young LGBT Europeans who want to make a difference in the world through the EU institutions.

Just as the EEAS published a toolkit to combat LGBT discrimination in third countries, the EU should develop similar tools to improve the situation in member states.

Nitin Sood (Finland) has a degree in Global Challenges from Leiden University and is a member of FutureLab Europe, a selective programme aiming to empower the voice of young Europeans. Nitin has lived in many countries, including Swaziland, Croatia, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Slovakia bitterly divided on social issues

Slovakia will hold a referendum on marriage and gay rights this weekend, amid a debate so bitter the country's president has warned of "broken" social relations.

Lithuania grapples with homophobia

Lithuania has recently started discussing its attitudes towards homosexuality, in what remains a novelty for a country ranked as among the most homophobic in the EU.

Blocking Brexit will boost the far-right

Mainstream British politicians have a responsibility to find ways how to counter the growing far-right extremist threat. Overturning Brexit will only serve to intensify it.

Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril

Matteo Salvini's recent gambit may have failed, but, in his own words: "From today you will find me even more pissed off and determined. I will go from town to town and we will take this country back."

Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration

Brussels' current vision for cooperation on defence, where third countries can contribute but have no say in decision-making and in the guidance of operations, is unlikely to be attractive to the UK.

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

News in Brief

  1. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  2. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  3. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  4. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend
  5. Global car industry fears no-deal Brexit shock
  6. France: de-escalation between US and Iran priority
  7. Spain demands UK 'reciprocity' on resident rights
  8. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  6. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  7. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  10. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us