European Parliament against Homophobia

By | February 23, 2014 at 6:12 pm | European Bodies | Tags: , , ,

On the 4th of February the European Parliament adopted (with a clear majority of 394 in favour versus 176 against) a recommendation for a future road-map against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. This seems to be a step in the direction AEGEE is pushing with the Policy Paper on Homophobia. But what does this road-map really mean? And how big can this ‘step’ be called? The AEGEEan decided to look at this subject with E.G. (AEGEE-Leiden) the previous Policy Officer on Homophobia. 

The recommendation is a non-binding way for the Parliament (which does not have the ability to initiate regulations) to push the European Commission to start developing regulations on a subject. This initiative was based on the fact that the European Union already stated that it disapproves of discrimination based on sexual orientation, becomes clear from international treaties[1] condemning discrimination as well as recommendations, resolutions and guidelines the European Commission and parliament previously developed on the matter.

Ulrike lunacek © EU

However as the recommendation stated, the 2013 EU LGBT survey showed that across the EU “one in two LGBT respondents felt discriminated against or harassed on grounds of sexual orientation, one in three were discriminated against when accessing goods or services, one in four were physically attacked, and one in five were discriminated against in employment or occupation”.

As Ulrike Lunacek (Austrian Member of the EP, author of the recommendation and Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup) states: “LGBTI people face serious problems in Europe today. Despite progress made in some countries, discrimination, violence and harassment continue to occur in all 28 Member States.”

Based on these numbers the European Parliament stated that it “believes that the European Union currently lacks a comprehensive policy to protect the fundamental rights of LGBTI people”.  So they decided to call upon the European Commission and Member states  “to work jointly on a comprehensive multi-annual policy to protect the fundamental rights of LGBTI people, i.e. a road-map”. Such strategies already exist in the field of Roma integrationdiscrimination on the basis of disability and gender equality.

Gay Pride Brussels 2011

The recommendation specifically looks at several specific places of discimination like employment, education (sharing of good practice throughout Member States’ youth), citizenship, families (all forms of families should be legally recognised), freedom of movement and freedom of assembly and expression (like pride events). So this recommendation is meant to get the European Commission to act.

E.G. (AEGEE-Leiden)

Something also E.G. (AEGEE-Leiden) would like to see: “The EU needs to do more than simply state that discrimination against LGBTI persons is unacceptable and must be addressed. It should, instead, come up with specific and practical solutions to overcome this practice.”

But the question remains whether this ‘road-map’ is a real practical solution. According to Eline “The proposed EU road-map is one more political step in the right direction when it comes to making an end to homophobia and discrimination based on one’s sexual preference. It is questionable, however, to what extent this ‘initiative from above’ will make an actual difference within EU societies.”

So although the Parliament is pushing the European Commission and Member States in the right direction with this road-map, a very long road remains ahead of us before we reach a European society free of discrimination based upon sexual orientation. The problem of discrimination calls for a more bottom-up approach from society. This also means that we as AEGEEans have a chance and maybe even an obligation to try and positively influence society around us, so it becomes more tolerant towards people with all sexual orientations.

Written by Wieke van der Kroef (AEGEE-Amsterdam/ AEGEE-Leuven)

[1] like the ‘Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’(art. 21), ‘Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’, and the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’ (art. 8, 10).

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