Don’t move backwards on LGBT rights, Europe told

Discrimination and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continues to blight the lives of millions of Europeans, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has warned.

The problem cannot be left unanswered, he said.

“LGBT people still face intolerant attitudes and social barriers across most, if not all, Council of Europe member states. Recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights point at unjustified bans or administrative obstacles imposed on gay pride parades. They underline problems related to discrimination in granting social rights such as the right to employment,” Mr. Jagland said.

He observed that many applications pending before the Court concern the incrimination of “propaganda of homosexuality” and could lead to violations of freedom of expression.

The September 2011 report of the Commissioner for Human Rights on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in the 47 Council of Europe member states highlights a range of additional issues, such as access to health care and education, gender recognition, and recognition of family life. The report also pinpoints homophobic statements by politicians.

Mr. Jagland said that in recent years many member states have taken important steps forward to secure equality before the law for LGBT people. The steps include outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and in recognising same-sex civil partnerships.

He reminded national authorities of their responsibility to ensure that their countries meet international commitments, including responding to negative steps taken at local or regional level.

“Political leaders also bear the responsibility to speak out immediately and strongly against any demonstrations or statements of intolerance or homophobia, especially those made by other politicians,” Mr. Jagland said.

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