LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

European convention on violence against women to include protection for lesbian, bisexual and trans women

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe announced yesterday that it adopted a new convention to protect women from violence on 6 April 2011. ILGA-Europe regards this as a major step forward in the fight against gender-based violence and towards full protection of women across Europe from both domestic violence and in other circumstances such as violence in public places, forced marriage, rape, ‘honour’ crimes and genital mutilation.

Lesbian, bisexual and trans women are at heightened risk of gender-related violence, particularly hate crimes, due to intersectional discrimination as has been recognised by authorities at the UN and Council of Europe. It is therefore especially important that the non-discrimination article of the Convention protects these women without discrimination and covers the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

ILGA-Europe used its observer status at the expert committee which drafted the Convention to argue the need to cover of sexual orientation and gender identity. We see the inclusion of these grounds as of great symbolic importance - the Convention is the first legally binding international agreement ever to cover the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, such an inclusion confirms that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people constitutes an integral part of universal human rights.

The Convention will now be opened for signature in May, and will come into force when ratified by 10 member states.

Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board, said:

“ILGA-Europe warmly welcomes the adoption of the Convention and the recognition that lesbian, bisexual and trans women are particularly vulnerable to violence and require specific measure of protection.

We urge governments of Council of Europe member states to ratify the Convention as soon as possible.

While celebrating this important advance, we are shocked that at all stages the Russian Federation and Holy See opposed specific inclusion of protection from violence for LBT women in the Convention, raising disturbing questions regarding the extent of their commitment to such fundamental rights as the right to life, and the right to protection from violence.“

Announcement by the Council of Europe

Text of the Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence