Friday

9th Dec 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail

As a result of my peaceful civil activism, I have been arrested 13 times, undergone five trials, and been sentenced to 34 years of imprisonment and 154 lashes in total. I am currently in Evrin prison, without the slightest regret.

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

From the outset, arms manufacturers eyed this war as a profitable business opportunity. Structural changes took place across the EU, not only to fast-track arms to Ukraine, but also to make more public finance available to the highly-lucrative arms industry.

Column

Autocrats make us all less secure

How should democratic states co-operate with authoritarian governments in the future? My organisation, Democracy Reporting International, has studied the security strategies of 13 democratic governments to understand how they see this relationship.

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

From the outset, arms manufacturers eyed this war as a profitable business opportunity. Structural changes took place across the EU, not only to fast-track arms to Ukraine, but also to make more public finance available to the highly-lucrative arms industry.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  2. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  3. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  4. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  5. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  6. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  7. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  8. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us