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8th May 2021

Pandemic exposes LGBTI rights' fragilty, report says

  • Last September, MEPs stood in solidarity in front of the European Parliament against continued attacks on the LGBTI community in Poland (Photo: Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament)

The Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences have highlighted the fragility of the human rights of LGBTI people, according to the annual report by a leading rights NGO, published on Tuesday (15 February).

"Progress which has been taken for granted is not only increasingly fragile, but particularly vulnerable to exploitation by anti-human rights forces," concluded the 10th annual review of the human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe and Central Asia.

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The review was put together by ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation of over 600 LGBTI advocacy groups.

The unprecedented events of 2020 pushed the LGBTI communities in Europe "to the brink", ILGA-Europe said. The report brings together data from 54 countries.

Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe said there has been a "stark rise" in abuse and hate speech against LGBTI people.

Many in the LGBTI community "who have became vulnerable to homelessness have been forced to move back in to hostile family and community situations," she added.

"There has been a resurgence of authorities and officials using LGBT people as scapegoats, while authoritarian regimes are empowered to isolate and legislate without due process", Paradis said.

The trend of politicians verbally attacking LGBTI people has grown sizeably and spread in EU-27 countries including Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia.

Hate speech on social media has risen in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, and Malta, and in the general media in Slovenia and Ukraine, the report showed, adding that hate speech is an ongoing issue in Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.

Many courts and governmental institutions are beginning to have a larger awareness of this growing trend, and beginning to talk about regulating online hate speech, including on the EU level, ILGA-Europe added.

With regards to rights of trans people, there has been regression in Austria, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The report shows a "significant growth of opposition towards trans rights across Europe", leading to a wide and negative impact on legal gender recognition. There is regression and stagnation in 19 countries, the report said.

Hungary made headlines last May, when its parliament voted to end legal recognition of trans people.

In Poland, the number of local governments that declared themselves "LGBTI-free zones" increased to 94, and anti-LGBTI and anti-abortion rallies were frequent.

But in the EU, it is only about those two countries.

The report said that there are several other EU countries, particularly the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where there are fears the governments might wish to follow in the footsteps of Warsaw and Budapest.

On the other hand, in 2020 Montenegro became the first Western Balkan country to introduce civil partnership, and Serbia, the government promised steps towards introducing civil partnership this year.

Also, a growing number of countries are moving on parenthood rights, and more attentive to the protection of children's rights.

The EU Commission's LGBTI equality strategy 2020-2025, published last November was the first strategy to protect LGBTI rights in Europe.

In it, the EU executive said it wanted to push for mutual recognition of family relations.

ILGA-Europe said the strategy is a step in the right direction, but added that it needs to be followed by similar actions at national level, and it needs to be "meaningfully implemented".

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

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'.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

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