Bil Browning

Europe Isn't Paradise

Filed By Bil Browning | June 24, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Council of Europe, European Union, LGBT discrimination, Thomas Hammarberg

When rightwing fundies get into a froth over LGBT rights, they like to point to Europe as the queer paradise that makes San Francisco look like the deep south. "Gays can get married!", paradise-place-sign.jpg"A minister was charged with hate speech!", and "Transvestites wear skirts on the street!" the nutjobs gasp while conveniently forgetting we live on the other side of the world.

The European Union's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, however, says differently. The Commissioner instituted a two year study examining LGBT life in the 47 Council of Europe member states [pdf] and found that our tribe is still getting shafted quite often.

The commissioner told reporters, "Significant, although uneven, progress has been made over the past decades concerning the attitudes and practices towards LGBT people. The pathologisation and criminalisation of homosexuality in Europe clearly belong to the past. Equal treatment legislation is beginning to demonstrate its effects in addressing discrimination. However, serious gaps remain, especially in relation to transgender persons."

"In some member states, LGBT organisations have been denied registration or are banned from organising peaceful meetings and demonstrations. Those who have fled to Council of Europe member states from countries where they risk being tortured or executed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity face serious obstacles in the process of being granted asylum. Inflammatory and aggressive discourse, held by opinion shapers, religious leaders, politicians and state authorities are frequent. It is also of particular concern that such discourse rarely receives official condemnation and that only very few member states recognise homophobic or transphobic violence in their hate crime legislation."


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This new study, I think, shows the importance of the global LGBT rights movement. Members of one country (or, in the US, one state) can't stop asserting the importance of equality once their local movement progresses.

A distinction needs to be made between 'western' Europe which is massively more advanced than the US in terms of LGBT rights and 'eastern' Europe where the struggle for acceptance continues.

I'm very hopeful though.

Eastern Europe is currently in the same position as western Europe was 30 years ago in terms of LGBT acceptance.

Which is perfectly understandable, considering how the eastern European countries are only now coming to terms with actual democratic freedoms - freedom of expression, assembly etc.

Europe as a whole remains far more accepting of LGBT people simply because religion is far less important here than in the US.

Religion is the greatest enemy of LGBT equality.

And the US is a massively religious country.

Oh. And a big shout out to France where homosexuality was decriminalised in 1791. The 1st country in the world ever, where the state took the decision to stay out of its citizens bedrooms.