LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

From 1957 to 2017: the European and LGBTI communities growing together

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, ILGA-Europe are joining forces with over 200 civil society partners to call for a Europe that is just, sustainable, democratic and inclusive.

We strongly support the joint statement because we firmly believe that the European project was instrumental in bringing about change for LGBTI people. But it’s not just about past achievements, we also believe that a lot more can be achieved by governments, civil society and citizens when they act together in the framework of the European Union.

A lot has changed since 1957. Economically, technologically, culturally. When you consider the strides made in terms of LGBTI equality in particular, the societal shift that has taken place has been remarkable. 

The EU has been a main driver in the extraordinary changes for LGBT equality. At a time when other international organisations still struggle to name LGBT people in their work, we need to recognise just how much the EU has done to advance LGBTI equality.

  • It was the 1st international organisation to recognise sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in its law.
  • LGBT people are protected against discrimination in employment in all 28 EU Member States because of EU law.
  • LGBT people who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity can now claim asylum everywhere in Europe because of the EU.
  • It is also because of the EU that victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes are now guaranteed better protection.
  • Not to mention the leadership role taken by the EU in making LGBTI equality an official part of its foreign policy…

The work that the EU institutions have put in since 1957, along with complementary efforts at national level, have combined to produce the layer of legal protection enjoyed by LGBT people in Europe today.

This being said, ILGA-Europe realise that it is easy to fall into a sentimental tone when reminiscing about the Rome Treaties and the modern European Union. Those documents, some of the foundations on which the EU we know today was built, were borne out of a time of war and division that few of us can comprehend. It’s also clear to those of us who believe in the benefits of the European project that the EU could (and should) be more functional, sustainable and inclusive. 

But this 60th anniversary isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. The core values that the Union was founded on are just as relevant today. Democracy, equality, solidarity, the rule of law and human rights are just some of the fundamental ideals that LGBTI activists all over Europe hold dear.

These are the ideas that activists from all walks of life, not only the LGBTI movement, focus on in their daily work. We must tap in to these values if we want to reengage the European project, to build the Europe we want. As the common appeal that ILGA-Europe signed up to clearly states: “Solidarity brought us together and solidarity is the only way forward”.