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8th May 2021

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

  • No place for hate or discrimination in today's EU, Věra Jourová said (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission, on Thursday (12 November), launched its first strategy to protect the rights of LGBTIQ people in Europe, as right-wing governments in Poland and Hungary have become increasingly homophobic.

In the EU as a whole, 76 percent of citizens think LGBTIQ people should have the same rights as heterosexuals, according to a Eurobarometer survey in 2019 - an increase from 71 percent in 2015.

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But in nine member states - Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, and Slovakia - the trend went down.

At the same time, the commission said 43 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex, and queer people reported having been discriminated against last year, up from 37 percent in 2012.

And more than 50 percent of LGBTIQ people are almost never or rarely open about who they are, the commission said.

In Poland, some municipalities recently declared themselves to be "LGBTIa-free zones".

Hungary, in May, banned gender changes in personal documents, while its government proposed a bill on Tuesday making adoption by same-sex couples essentially impossible.

But other corners of the EU are more liberal: Finland's 34-year old prime minister Sanna Marin, for instance, was raised by same-sex parents.

"We will defend the rights of LGBTIQ people against those who now have more and more appetite to attack them from [an] ideological point of view," the commission vice-president in charge of EU values, Věra Jourová told reporters on Thursday.

"This belongs to the authoritarian playbook and it does not have a place in the EU," she added.

The commission plans to include homophobic hate crimes on its list of "Eurocrimes" - a register of selected offences, such as terrorism and human trafficking, for which the EU can set minimum rules.

It also pledged to assess existing anti-discrimination laws in member states, to see if they were being fully respected.

Family affair

The EU executive will also push for mutual recognition of family relations.

It plans a proposal to ensure recognition of child-parent relations in cross-border family structures, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Jourová said "it is not acceptable" that "all of a sudden your child stops being your child once you crossed the border" within the EU, as a result of more conservative LGBTIQ laws.

Family law is predominantly a member-state competency, and any legislation on mutual recognition among EU countries will require unanimity, making it possible that countries which already oppose parental rights for gays will not agree.

But Jourová said the commission will propose a bill that will be acceptable to all capitals.

She added that 21 EU countries already recognise some form of same-sex marriage or partnership.

Jourová rejected the idea that the strategy was imposing "Western ideology" on anyone.

"This is about protecting the rights of the citizens," she said.

"This strategy is not against anyone, this does not put anyone on the pedestal, but it is about guaranteeing safety and non-discrimination for everyone, this is about Europe in the 21st century," she said.

"It's 2020 and hate and discrimination of people from sexual minorities do not belong to Europe of these days," Jourová added.

The EU commissioner for equality Helena Dalli, as well as Jourová, both pledged the EU would not fund any projects that did not respect LGBTIQ rights.

And the commission has, in the past, already cut EU funding to some Polish towns that had declared themselves "LGBTI-free zones".

ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation for over 600 LGBTIQ organisations, said Thursday's EU strategy marked the beginning of a "new approach" in the commission.

"For the first time, the strategy sets out a clear work programme for a wide range of services in the European Commission in relation to LGBTI rights," Katrin Hugendubel, ILGA-Europe's advocacy director, said.

"With its understanding that LGBTI rights are not niche issues but touch on all areas of life, the strategy clearly acknowledges the structural discrimination and marginalisation of LGBTI people," Hugendubel added.

Six 'LGBTI-free' Polish cities left out of EU funding

Six Polish cities that declared themselves as "LGBTI-free zones" have been denied funding under the EU's Town Twinning programme for failing to meet the standards of "equal access and non-discrimination".

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not OK, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

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