Since 2010, when both the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers adopted far-reaching texts on how to tackle discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, important positive developments have occurred in some Council of Europe member States, including the introduction of specific legislative measures, action plans and strategies.
Despite this progress, however, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBTs) is widespread in society. Discrimination against LGBTs remains a serious problem, as indicated by repeated infringements of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the authorities’ failure to provide protection against homophobic and transphobic violence. The introduction of legislation or draft legislation on the prohibition of so-called homosexual propaganda in countries such as Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine is at variance with these countries’ legal obligations. It would also legitimise the prejudice against LGBTs which all too often is fuelled by inconsiderate discourse by politicians and other authoritative figures.
Council of Europe member States should take measures to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, promote equality and tackle homophobia and transphobia. The Republic of Moldova, Poland and the Russian Federation should give full execution to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Committee of Ministers should continue to strengthen its activities in this area with a view to ensuring the full implementation of its Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5.
Lesbian, bisexual and transgender (“LBT”) women experience gender-based violence both on account of their gender and because of the way their sexual orientation or gender identity challenges patriarchal concepts of gender and gender roles. This double exposure to causes of gender-based violence puts them at particular risk. A recent survey by London’s Metropolitan Police of more than 1100 LBT women found that approximately twice as many had experienced violence or abuse on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity as on all other grounds, despite the fact that nearly half of respondents changed their behaviour or appearance to avoid homophobic or transphobic abuse. This double exposure also means that violence against them can only be addressed effectively by the Convention if the part played by homophobia and transphobia is acknowledged and specific counter-measures identified. However, there is a further reason to acknowledge explicitly violence against LBT women. Regrettably, as the Committee of Ministers has stressed, homophobia and transphobia are widespread in Europe.2 Without specific references in the Convention it remains all too possible that its measures will not be used to combat violence against LBT women. Inclusion of such references would be an effective response to the invitation of the Committee of Ministers to all intergovernmental committees to make proposals to strengthen, in law and in practice, the equal rights and dignity of LGBT persons and to combat discriminatory attitudes against them. This submission therefore recommends that the Convention identify groups of women who are especially vulnerable to violence, including specifically LBT women, and suggests areas where particular measures are required to address violence against them, such as awareness-raising, education, improving confidence by LBT women in law enforcement agencies, increasing the level of incidents reported to the police, and specific training for agencies involved in victim support. It also recommends that the non-discrimination clause of the Convention makes explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.