LGBTI still suffer from widespread human rights violations in Europe

Lesbian, gay, bi, trans- and intersex persons (LGBTI) still suffer from human rights violations and lack protection in countries all over Europe. Worst of all is the situation in Azerbaijan, followed by Russia and Armenia, Turkey, Monaco, Ukraine and Belarus, according to ILGA Europe's Annual report launched on occasion of the International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia 17 May.

– The International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia (IDAHOT) remains as important as ever considering the human right violations LGBTI persons face on a daily basis, says advisor on LGBTI issues in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Mina Skouen. – Reports of murder, beatings, rape, outing and extortion, as well as systematic crackdowns on organizations and public events calls for immediate action from national and international institutions.

In Azerbaijan there have been several murders on LGBTI persons in 2016, and violent attacks and threats are frequent. Following a resolution on Azerbaijan issued by the European Parliament 10 September, in which the situation for sexual and gender minorities was criticized, President Ilham Aliyev’s response was that it was a ”political provocation based on lies, slander and prejudice».

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has continuously expressed concern about attacks on Armenian LGBTI activists, and we sent a letter to the General Prosecutor’s Office asking that the difficult situation for LGBTI will be addressed. Victims of hate crimes have been met with laughter and spite when seeking medical attention, and the police do not investigate cases even when provided with concrete evidence. Outing of activists has left them exposed to persecution, and without any protection mechanism it has become more and more dangerous to fight for LGBTI rights.

The so-called «propaganda legislation» as well as the ”foreign agents” law has been used extensively to prosecute Russian LGBTI organizations, forcing several groups to close. Public events are attacked, individuals are beaten on the street and even the possibility to cooperate with international organizations has been limited after the government introduced a bill to ban so-called foreign ”un-desirable organizations”.

– The vulnerable position of LGBTI persons becomes increasingly difficult when on the one hand they have no legal protection, and on the other hand organizations that support the community are hindered or forced to close down, says Skouen. – In Russia this is particularly evident, but the working conditions for LGBTI organizations are challenging in all countries where homophobia and transphobia prevails.

Ukraine has also found its place at the bottom of ILGAs list due to attacks on individuals, events and venues, discriminatory practices towards gender minorities and several cases where authorities have banned rather than expressed support for public events. The most recent example was the Equality Festival in Lviv 19 to 20 March that was attacked by right wing extremists and eventually cancelled as a result of a bomb threat. Several people were beaten, and the organizers had to leave Lviv. The festival was supported by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

An overall finding in most of the countries reviewed by ILGA is that gender minorities remain particularly vulnerable. Compulsory sterilization to achieve legal documents after gender affirmative procedures is still common practice, as is forced hospitalization and dissolution of marriages. At least 271 trans* persons were reported murdered world wide in the course of last year, and in Europe Turkey has by far the largest number of killings.

– There are, however, numerous positive steps taken all over Europe every year. We see clearly that the tireless efforts made by human rights activist lead to positive changes, concludes Skouen. – IDAHOT is an important occasion to pay tribute to people who work with these issues every day, and authorities and civil society should use the day to re-commit to fighting homophobia and transphobia.

ILGAs annual report 2016 can be read here.