A long way to go for LGBTI equality in Europe

14 May 2020 - Even though in today’s Europe, more LGBTI people are out and visible, compared to 2012 discrimination, harassment and violence has also increased. Being LGBTI in the EU as well as accession countries like Serbia and North Macedonia comes with risks of safety, exclusion, discrimination and harassment.

The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), launched today the findings of the second Europe-wide LGBTI survey which was filled in by 140.000 LGBTI respondents. For the first time the report looks not only at the living experiences of LGBTI people in the European Union, but also EU accession countries North Macedonia and Serbia.

The survey has a few additional characteristics that distinguish it from the first one in 2012:It the largest in the world on hate crime and discrimination against LGBTI people. For the first time it includes experiences of intersex people and young LGBTI people aged 15 to 17.

Comparing the two surveys, reveals little overall progress over the seven years, and the EU averages mask important differences between countries. In some, over 70% LGBTI respondents say society is more tolerant, while in others, up to 68% say it is less. 

Key findings: 

Additionally:

·     LGBTI people are now more out than in 2012 (36% in 2012 and 52% in 2019); 

·     Little to no progress has been made since the first survey in 2012 and in some areas the situation is even worse;

·     The EU average masks huge differences between countries. In some, over 70% LGBT people say society is more tolerant while in others, up to 68% say it is less;

·     Discrimination has increased across Europe, in some more than in others such as in the workplace; Harassment and violence has increased as well;

·     Reporting rates remain low, only 14% went to the police compared to 17% in 2012;

·     Only 1 in 3 people believe their government effectively combats prejudice and intolerance;

·     With regards to youngsters between 15-17 years old, the survey gives reasons both for concern and cautious optimism. LGBTI people in this age group experience more harassment than their older peers, however, almost half of them said someone supported, defended or protected them and their rights as LGBTI people at schools;

·     Lesbian women are the less likely to report harassment or physical attacks to any authority and they have less confidence in their government when it comes to effectively combating prejudice and intolerance against LGBTI people than gay men;

·     Gay men as well as lesbian women are the most likely to be out about their sexual orientation. Gay men are the most likely to avoid holding hands in public and frequenting certain places for fear of being attacked;

·     The report reveals that trans and intersex people face and even more uphill struggle reporting bigger challenges in all areas of the survey. 

Politicians and political parties, media, public figures and civil society responsible for either progress or regress:

The findings provide national and European policy makers with much needed evidence on progress made in the EU as well as in the United Kingdom and in the candidate countries of North Macedonia and Serbia. It gives them evidence-based information so that they can put in place measures to effectively protect and promote the rights of LGBTI people. 

Across Europe, just as much as in the ERA region, the findings show that discrimination is lower in places where LGBTI equality is more publicly discussed. Prejudice, intolerance and violence towards LGBTI people can also drop as they become more visible in daily life. 

LGBTI people also think that ‘positive changes in law and policy’ and ‘support by public figures and civil society’ lower discrimination. Countries which openly debate single-sex marriage or LGBTI equality tend to have less discrimination. 

The situation deteriorates when society is negative towards the LGBTI community, when public figures, politicians and political parties have negative stance and public discourse, community leaders and civil society are unsupportive, and existing laws are not enforced.

Based on the findings of the survey the FRA’s main recommendations are the following:

-       Build a culture of zero tolerance towards violence and harassment of the LGBTI community; Inform and sensitize police officers about hate crimes against LGBTI people and make it easier to report hate crime, let people report online or through another person;

-      Ensure that nobody needs to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity; Help local authorities promote respect for LGBTI rights. Focus on trans and intersex people as well as young people as these groups suffer the most;

-      Create a safe and supportive environment at school, work with teachers to stop bullying and ensure educational materials at all levels;

-      Tackle discrimination in all areas not only in employment; Empower equality bodies and give them the necessary authority to inform everyone on LGBTI rights and help those who suffer discrimination or abuse; 

-      Confront multiple and intersectional discrimination, keeping in mind that many people suffer discrimination not only because they are LGBTI but also because they belong to more than one community such as an ethnic minority, a disability group etc.;

-      Require full informed consent of intersex people for medical interventions and work with healthcare professionals to stop this and ensure that full information is provided before any medical treatment. Work on better informing professionals about the rights of intersex people;

While ERA fully supports the recommendations made by FRA to national and international stakeholders, in addition, based also on the findings of the report we recommend the following: 

-       All countries of the Western Balkans need to provide accessible legal gender recognition based on the principles of self-determination and in accordance with the best international legal standards;

-      Ensure that LGBTI people can enjoy the right to family like their heterosexual and cis peers; 

#LGBTISurvey #PrideNoPrejudice

To read the FRA Press Release click here.

To explore survey data click here.

To watch findings video click here.

For press release in Macedonian click here and for press release in Serbian click here.