Wednesday, 2 July 2008

EU to tackle homophobia and discrimination

At last, EU is making real steps to tackle homophobia and LGBT related equality issues in member states. This will undoubtedly influence its relationships with candidate states too, as well as others who wish one day to become a part of the European Union, including South Caucasus countries Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan which are signatories of the 'European Neighbourhood policy'. Overall, very welcome move, indeed. Hopefully, it will get materialised soon; first steps in a right direction are made.

Media release by EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency

Equal protection by EU anti-discrimination law remains an ideal not a fact for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (LGBT) living in many parts of the European Union (EU). Greater legislative protection and wider support within the EU is required. Legal analysis covering the EU 27 released today by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) identifies differences in treatment and protection by the law and a lack of full and equal enjoyment of rights in areas of EU competence, particularly with regard to same sex partnerships. As the European Union begins its debate on non-discrimination with the publication of a new Communication by the European Commission on 2 July, the FRA believes that the equal right to equal treatment should underpin the legislative direction.

“Equal treatment is a fundamental right that all members of our society should enjoy”, said FRA’s Director Morten Kjaerum, “the fact that Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals are not treated equally in some aspects of EU legislation, particularly concerning same sex couples should be a cause of concern for us all. More comprehensive legal protection, as well as wider powers and resources for equality bodies are required, and I urge that the new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU will ensure this”.

The report finds that in 18 out of 27 EU Member States, any artificial “hierarchy” of those facing discrimination has been disregarded and members of the LGBT community enjoy legal protection and rights in the areas of employment, access to public goods and services, housing and social benefits. The report also concludes that rights and advantages of married couples should be extended to same-sex partnerships. This is equally relevant for rights and benefits for spouses and partners related to free movement and family reunification.

The principle of equal treatment, a fundamental EU value, is guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights: Article 21 prohibits any discrimination based on grounds such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation. The new measures on non-discrimination discussed by the EU should therefore, commensurate to the EU Fundamental Rights Charter, extend legal protection to all the areas covered by the EU’s racial equality legislation and in all Member States of the Union.

Homophobic hate speech and hate crime represent obstacles to the possibility for individuals to exercise their free movement and other rights in a non-discriminatory manner. This can be combated using EU wide criminal legislation. The report also documents incidents of banning LGBT demonstrations, such as “pride parades”. In addition, the continuing misunderstandings concerning the gathering and compilation of statistical data needs to be addressed to ensure that efforts to combat discrimination can make full use of the tools available and rely on solid and comprehensive statistics.

Transgender issues, often ignored or forgotten, are also treated in this report, which calls for a clarification of their treatment under anti-discrimination legislation.

The report highlights examples of good practice to overcome underreporting of LGBT discrimination, to promote inclusion and to protect transgendered persons.

FRA’s legal analysis is the first of two reports related to homophobia and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBT community. The second report detailing the social aspects will be released later in the autumn.

A summary of FRA’s report entitled “Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States Part I – Legal Analysis” is available at


artmika said...

European Commission releases details of single comprehensve anti-discrimination directive

ILGA-Europe: On 2nd July 2008, the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive which provides for protection from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief beyond the workplace. This new directive would ensure equal treatment in the areas of social protection, including social security and health care, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are commercially available to the public, including housing. Eurobarometer surveys show that a large majority of Europeans support such legislation: 77% back measures to protect people from discrimination in education and 68% in access to goods and services.

"The right to equal treatment is fundamental, but millions of people in the EU continue to face discrimination in their everyday lives. At present, there is an inequality in Community legislation itself because people are protected from discrimination outside the workplace only on grounds of gender and race or ethnic origin. We must ensure equal treatment for all grounds," said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "The measures we propose are proportionate and reasonable; they give legal certainty to businesses and to users of goods and services while respecting the specific requirements of various sectors as well as national traditions."

The law will prohibit direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation. For people with disabilities, non-discrimination will involve general accessibility as well as the principle of "reasonable accommodation" which is already used in existing European legislation. It will, however, avoid imposing a disproportionate burden on service-providers by taking account of the size and resources of the organisation, its nature, the estimated cost, the life cycle of the goods and services and the possible benefits of increased access for persons with disabilities. The directive will only apply to private persons in so far as they are performing their commercial activities or professional. Also, Member States will remain free to maintain measures ensuring the secular nature of the state or concerning the status and activities of religious organisations. The directive will have no effect on generally accepted practices such as discounts for senior citizens (e.g. bus fares and entrance to museums) or age restrictions on access to certain goods (e.g. alcohol for young people) on grounds of public health. To ensure effectiveness of the proposed measures, national equality bodies will give advice to victims of discrimination while civil society organisations will also have the possibility to help victims in judicial and administrative procedures.

Government expert group and renewed commitment for legal protection of individual rights

The Communication on Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment sets out key areas in which further progress at EU and national level is needed, such as the fight against multiple discrimination, further raising of awareness, non-discrimination mainstreaming, positive action and data collection. It also announces the setting up of a new governmental expert group to strengthen the dialogue between Member States on non-discrimination policies. Finally, the Communication acknowledges that the situation of the Roma is characterised by persisting individual and institutional discrimination and far-reaching social exclusion.


According to an EU survey published today, Europeans think that discrimination remains rife, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation (51%), disability (45%), age and religion (42% each). Around 1 in 3 Europeans report witnessing discrimination or harassment in the past year, and 48% think that not enough is being done to fight this scourge. An earlier survey conducted in February 2008 highlighted that a large majority of EU citizens (between 68% and 77%) see a need for specific legislation to protect people from discrimination in areas beyond the labour market.

Meanwhile, a new Commission report on the EU rules on equal treatment in employment has found that they have now been successfully implemented in most EU countries.

artmika said...

On the other hand...
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - New European Commission proposals to put an end to discrimination on the basis of age, disability, sexual orientation or creed have been given a lukewarm welcome by civil liberties groups, who say prejudice against same-sex couples who wish to get married is not adequately covered. More...