European Commission warns of lgbt rights deficiencies in nations seeking EU admission

by on October 25, 2009  •  In Employment law, Transgender

The European Commission has published its 2009 "Progress Reports" on the countries now or potentially seeking EU membership: Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

According to ILGA-Europe:

LGBT issues are covered in all reports and stronger language is used by the Commission when referring to the human rights violations of LGBT people and to the non-compliance of the states to their human rights obligations under European/Accession partnerships. It is also positive to notice that the reports give specific recommendations to the states to introduce anti-discrimination laws and policies that are in line with the EU requirements. The Reports also emphasise the need to level up ‘the protection against discrimination in practice’ in the countries where the laws were adopted (Croatia, Serbia). In particular, the Commission has criticised the governments for failing to provide adequate protection to Belgrade Pride participants which led to cancellation of the event, and for the violation of freedom of expression and association in the infamous case of Lambda Istanbul in Turkey.

ILGA-Europe's compilation of specific references to lgbt issues follows the jump –>

References to LGBT rights in the European Commission’s Progress Reports 2009 

The report on Turkey refers to discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, in the hands of medical professionals and law enforcement authorities. It also speaks of violent attacks and killings of LGBT people with particular reference to transgender people. The report reads ‘There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanours is often used to impose fines against transgender persons. Homophobia has resulted in cases of physical and sexual violence. The killing of several transsexuals and transvestites is a worrying development. Courts have applied the principle of ‘unjust provocation’ in favour of perpetrators of crimes against transsexuals and transvestites. The Turkish armed forces have a health regulation which defines homosexuality as a ‘psychosexual’ illness and identifies homosexuals as unfit for military service. Conscripts who declare their homosexuality have to provide photographic proof. A small number have had to undergo humiliating medical examinations’.

The report also refers to the ruling of the Court of Cassation against the closure of the Lambda Istanbul Solidarity Association in April.  The European Commission maintains that ruling which makes the legality of the association conditional on not ‘encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual behaviour with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations’   is not compatible with the EU's rejection of homophobia and its anti-discrimination standards.

Also there are several explicit references to the fact that the existing national legislation does not provide for specific protection on the grounds of sexual orientation.

While giving credit to the government of Serbia for the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination law this year the Commission points to the existing gap between the laws and their actual implementation.  The report states ‘New anti-discrimination legislation introduced a rule prohibiting hate speech. A similar prohibition also exists in the Public Information Law and amendments to the Penal Code in August 2009 have further elaborated provisions against hate speech. However, in spite of the legal framework, incidents involving hate speech, threats and physical attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population have not been properly investigated and perpetrators have not been brought to justice.’  The Commission also spells out the inability of the Serbian authorities to guarantee the safety of the participant of this year’s Belgrade Pride Parade which was cancelled at the last minute.

The report on Bosnia and Herzegovina urges the authorities to take actions to ensure the freedom of assembly and association for LGBT people and to respond promptly and bring to justice those responsible for  threats and violence against human rights defender, including LGBT human rights defenders.  The report further states that ‘Social discrimination and exclusion of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people remain widespread. Physical attacks, ill-treatment and acts of intimidation against these groups have continued. There has been no official condemnation of such acts by government authorities. Effective investigation and prosecution need to be ensured.’

The report on Croatia states that ‘More needs to be done to tackle discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are subjected to threats and attacks. Many cases are not followed-up adequately by the police and prosecutors, or remain unreported’. While giving credit for the progress in the field of anti-discrimination, the Commission maintains that ‘The level of protection against discrimination in practice and the judicial prosecution of acts of discrimination is not in line with EU standards.

The report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia points to the fact that ‘The Framework Law on Non-Discrimination has not yet been enacted and the existing legal provisions are not fully aligned with the acquis.’ It furthers states that ‘Neither the Constitution nor the existing legislation identifies sexual orientation as a basis of discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are not protected against direct or indirect discrimination and are stigmatised, particularly in rural areas.’

The reports on Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo speak about the discrimination and marginalisation of LGBT people and urge the governments to take actions to promote respect for the LGBT community.


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