Europe takes a joint stand against homophobia

The EU member states are following the European Commission’s lead and taking steps to ensure equal rights for men and women, advance gender equality and strengthen legal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the European Union. Today, under the Netherlands’ Presidency, the EU achieved a unique breakthrough. For the first time in its history, all 28 member states reached political consensus on increasing awareness across the EU of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTIs) and guaranteeing their legal protection.

The Council of the European Union today adopted Council Conclusions on EU policy regarding women’s rights, gender equality and the protection of LGBTIs in the EU. The 28 member states have sent a clear political signal in both policy fields. For some time now Jet Bussemaker, the Dutch minister responsible for equal rights, has been urging the EU to take a stand on equal rights for men and women and for LGBTIs. At the first edition of the International Day against Homophobia Conference (IDAHO) in The Hague in 2013 she called on her EU counterparts to introduce a European strategy on LGBTI rights. In the following year she made agreements with a number of her counterparts to improve LGBTI rights.

Ms Bussemaker was delighted with the outcome, saying, ‘European cooperation is essential to efforts to fight global homophobia and strengthen women’s rights. With the dreadful attack in Orlando still fresh in our memories, I don’t need to explain why it’s so important for the EU to take a clear stand. LGBTI rights and women’s rights are human rights that transcend borders. Everyone has the right to be who they want to be, regardless of their background or origin. It’s very important that we act together against countries and organisations that violate the rights of women, gay men, lesbian women and bisexual, transgender and intersex people.’

Under the terms of the agreements reached today, the European Commission will prepare an annual progress report on the position of LGBTIs in every European country, highlighting the most pressing problems. This will strengthen the position of LGBTIs throughout Europe. The first results are expected at the end of 2016. Malta, which will assume the Presidency on 1 January 2017, has already said it will prioritise LGBTI rights. The issue will remain a prominent item on the EU agenda for a long time to come.