LGBTI rights are human rights – 2015 European IDAHO Forum

LGBTI rights are human rights – 2015 European IDAHO Forum

Now more than ever, Europe needs political leaders to work with and for LGBTI people in Europe

(Joyce Hamilton, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board).

What is the state of play as to LGBTI equality in Europe? The 2015 European IDAHOT Forum “Ending hate crime and violence” was organised in Budva, Montenegro, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia celebrated on 17 May.

Hate crime and violence against LGBTI people are among the most persistent human rights challenges: homophobic and transphobic incidents, physical and emotional violence, family and community rejection, bullying and discrimination are still a reality in Europe. A sound legal and policy framework to effectively counter these crimes as well as committed leadership and visible equality advocates are recognized as the necessary ingredients for advancing LGBTI equality.

Below is an overview of important publications and tools launched at the 2015 IDAHOT Forum by the Council of Europe, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union and ILGA-Europe.

Case law of the European Court of Human Rights

Perceived as different from the majority, the LGBTI community is particularly vulnerable to social and legal discrimination. What protection is offered to this community by the European Convention on Human Rights?

The Council of Europe‘s new publication “Case law of the European Court of Human Rights relating to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity” explores the articles of the Convention under which violations of LGBT rights may fall, and analyzes solutions applicable at the European level, and those which are decided largely by the states, e.g. related to adoptions and marriages.

The publication, meant for human rights professionals, researchers and students, is also available in French: Jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’homme relative aux discriminations fondées sur l’orientation sexuelle ou l’identité de genre 

The fundamental rights situation of intersex people

The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA) published a focus paper on the legal situation of intersex people from a fundamental rights perspective.  Most European societies recognise people as either male or female. However, this does not account for all variations in sex characteristics. As a result, intersex people experience fundamental rights violations ranging from discrimination to medical interventions without their consent

Key facts

  • Many Member States legally require births to be certified and registered as either male or female.
  • In at least 21 Member States, sex ‘normalising’ surgery is carried out on intersex children.
  • In 8 Member States, a legal representative can consent to sex ‘normalising’ medical interventions independently of the child’s ability to decide.
  • 18 Member States require patient consent provided the child has the ability to decide.
  • Intersex discrimination is better covered by sex discrimination rather than discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity as it concerns physical (sex) characteristics.

Key conclusions

  • Legal and medical professionals should be better informed of the fundamental rights of intersex people, particularly children.
  • Gender markers in identity documents and birth registries should be reviewed to better protect intersex people.
  • Member States should avoid nonconsensual ‘sex-normalising’ medical treatments on intersex people.

The Rainbow Europe package 2015

ILGA-Europe released the 2015 Rainbow Europe package, composed of the 2015 Rainbow Map, Annual Review and its brand new Rainbow Europe web module, that highlights the complexity of the current situation for LGBTI people in Europe.

The Rainbow map


ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map

The Rainbow Map 2015 shows the current legal and policy situation for LGBTI people in Europe. It ranks 49 countries according to the ultimate benchmark of 100% equality. The three top countries are the United Kingdom (86%), Belgium (83%) and Malta (79%), whereas the  European average is just 42%.  At the other end of the spectrum we find Armenia (9%), Russia (8%) and Azerbaijan (5%). Malta’s impressive improvement to 3rd place (from 11th and a score of 57% in 2014)  is related to the substantial legislative and constitutional progress over the past 12 months.

The Annual Review 

The Map is complemented by a detailed country-by-country analysis, looking at both the positive advances and negative trends, that happened at national level in 2014.

Several themes have emerged:

  • The recognition of the human rights of trans and intersex people: important steps forward were made by Denmark, with its progressive legal gender recognition law and Malta, that gave gender identity constitutional protection from discrimination. The Spanish region of Andalucía adopted similar provisions to the Danish model and The Netherlands removed previous legal gender recognition requirements for a court order, surgery, and permanent sterilisation.
  • The visibility of LGBTI advocates in public life: from the openly gay mayoral candidates elected in Poland and Turkey to Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs coming out on Twitter and Conchita Wurst’s success at Eurovision 2014 – all have become symbols of the growing prominence of LGBTI people and their allies across Europe.
  • Family and marriage equality rights : marriage equality was approved in Finland, enacted in England, Wales and Scotland, and is to be decided in an Irish referendum. Estonia became the first former USSR country to officially recognise same sex unions by passing a cohabitation act.  However, campaigns for restrictive marriage definitions emerged in Slovakia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Opposition to LGBTI rights consolidated in 2014, in the form of anti-equality rhetoric – from anti-‘gender theory’ campaigns or in anti-‘Western messaging’ by Eurasian Union leaders which spread beyond those countries’ borders.

Leadership is the key to unlocking LGBTI equality in Europe.

“We witnessed several countries making historic strides, while others have stalled in terms of their equality development.” commented Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “The vital ingredient, present in so many of the countries who have climbed in our Rainbow Map rankings, was unshakable leadership from political figures and activist leaders, often in challenging contexts.”

(Photo: European IDAHOT Forum, Opening plenary)

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