LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

EU must focus on what works – the wellbeing of the LGBTI population depends on it

The latest report from the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is being published at a very opportune moment.

Today’s (Wednesday, 16 March 2016) report launch comes only days after 27 of 28 Member States pledged strong support for LGBTI equality in Europe during the EPSCO meeting of EU employment and social affairs ministers

ILGA-Europe welcome the results of the FRA survey, which asked public officials, doctors, teachers and police forces about the laws and policies they felt were most effective at promoting the rights of LGBT people. Their responses mirror the answers given by LGBT people themselves during the FRA’s previous EU-wide study, conducted in 2012. 

Professionally Speaking: challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people highlights the challenges that LGBT people in the EU still face when interacting with public officials. The FRA report reveals that many health care professionals, law enforcement officials and teachers are operating with minimal, out-dated or prejudiced information. This makes combating discrimination even more difficult.

The report also clearly shows what activities work best at increasing understanding. Comprehensive training programmes for employees, awareness-raising campaigns and EU laws and policies were all mentioned as factors that helped improve the daily lives of LGBT people.

ILGA-Europe urge European policy makers to be proactive on matters of LGBTI equality and diversity. The FRA’s findings show that delegating responsibility for anti-discrimination work to national governments simply isn’t practical or fair. Additionally, the report points out that the existence of legislation is not the end of the story. Laws must be effectively and consistently enforced so that LGBTI people feel protected and secure in their everyday lives. 

The European Union must follow the clear instructions contained in the FRA report. The institutions need to heed the words of the public officials from 19 Member States interviewed as part of the study. If EU-driven legislation is helping at national level, why stop now? Unblock the Equal Treatment Directive. Fill the gap that currently exists in European hate crime legislation by extending it to people on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Make the Commission’s List of Actions the minimum our Union achieves, as opposed to viewing it as an aspirational end-goal. 

“In life, we are all faced with choices. The EU is now faced with a choice between focusing on its own strengths or choosing to be hampered by its own limitations. Competences exist and the EU cannot do everything on its own. But it does have the ability to help make LGBTI children and teachers safer at schools. It can protect people against hate crime and hate speech. It can ensure that LGBTI people receive quality services from informed public officials.” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis, before her appearance at the FRA report launch in Brussels.