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Minister Van Bijsterveldt supports European strategy against homophobic violence
Minister of Education, Culture and Science Marja van Bijsterveldt is earmarking one million euros to improve cooperation between gays, transgenders and European police forces in the coming years.
She announced her plans on 9 December at the opening of an international conference in The Hague. Representatives of the police and criminal justice authorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organisations from all over Europe met at the conference to exchange experiences on preventing homophobic violence. The conference was organised by the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Europe), an umbrella organisation of LGBT rights organisations. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science hosted the conference, at which Fred Teeven, State Secretary for Security and Justice, also delivered a speech.
New grant for project
Violence against LGBTs is still widespread in Europe, as the Council of Europe report ‘Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’ (23 June 2011) shows. Interest groups, the police and the criminal justice authorities in various European countries are working together to take more effective action against this kind of violence. The conference in The Hague formed the conclusion of an ILGA Europe project which has stepped up this cooperation over the past four years. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science helped to fund the project. The new grant pledged by the Minister will enable the project to run for another four years.
A reputation to keep up
‘This country has a reputation to keep up’, said Ms Van Bijsterveld, at the conference. ‘Defending freedom, tolerance and the equal rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders is one of the Netherlands’ main export products. Hate crime against LGBTs is still a major problem in Europe. Even in the Netherlands, rarely a month passes without gays being hounded out of their neighbourhoods or transgenders being harassed on the street. Apart from prevention and promoting social acceptance, a tough response is needed. Gays and transgenders needed to be protected by law in all member states.’
Police officers, policy advisers and representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Gay Police Association and many LGBT organisations attended the conference. They exchanged examples of strategies for preventing homophobic violence. They also worked on a toolkit for cooperation between LGBT organisations and the police, and discussed scope for policy and legislation.
The Netherlands is improving its own strategies to prevent violence against LGBTs by following examples from other countries. It launched a project based on the British Hate Crime Projects, which enables people to report incidents online. Other countries are following with interest the system of gay police contact people introduced in Amsterdam. Through this project LGBTs can phone a particular police officer at any time of the day or night to report abuse or discrimination. The Ministers of the Interior & Kingdom Relations and Security & Justice have announced their intention of introducing the same system in every police force in the country in 2012.