Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex (LGBTI) persons still face everyday discrimination, hatred and violence despite a number of positive developments in recent years, FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty told a conference on LGBTIQ equality in Malta today (23 February).
The Director was speaking at the opening of the High Level Ministerial Conference on LGBTIQ Equality Mainstreaming in Malta, organised under the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU jointly with the Agency and Norway Grants/EEA.
On the positive side, he recalled the drafting of the Yogyakarta Principles – an initially modest initiative which had become something remarkable in framing LGBTI equality issues as human rights issues. He also referred to developments on a global level, including the UN OHCHR report Living Free and Equal, which maps hundreds of good practices in tackling violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ persons and the recent appoint of an Independent Expert on LGBTI issues.
However, he added, a sombre reminder on what remains to be done is clear when one looks at the large number of countries where being gay or lesbian carries the death penalty. In that context he announced that the issue of LGBTIQ asylum seekers will be the topic of a short report by the FRA in March.
In the EU context, he drew attention to three orientation papers by the FRA on the issues of LGBTIQ equality mainstreaming in education, healthcare and public safety, which are the topics of panel discussions at the event, based on extensive FRA research. In order to meaningfully address these issues in the EU, the FRA Director proposed nine framing items:
1. Avoid geographic bias – LGBTIQ issues are everywhere, and no country gets it completely right.
2. It’s not just about being nice or fair, it’s about the law.
3. The principle of equality for all must be respected.
4. Avoid making LGBTIQ people a problem, but instead acknowledge that it is society and population that may in fact bring the obstacles to equality.
5. The attitude of the public towards LGBTIQ people is still an issue - FRA’s LGBT survey showed there is not one EU Member State where more than half the LGBTIQ community are willing to hold hands in public.
6. The rights of LGBTIQ people must be respected – e.g. when accessing healthcare, they should not have to avoid asking for the help they need.
7. More attention should be paid to the situation of trans- and intersex persons.
8. There is a need to better identify and learn from good practices.
9. LGBTIQ hate crimes should be prosecuted and apologies demanded for historic abuses.
In conclusion, the FRA Director noted that the event’s location in Malta – a European leader in LGBTIQ issues – could serve as an inspiration to help find ways to show global leadership.