EU inaction on gay hate crime is ‘unacceptable’, says Amnesty



Amnesty International has urged the European Union and its member states to take immediate action to enforce laws which combat anti-gay, lesbian and transexual hate crimes.

In a newly-published study, the human rights organisation reveals the huge legislative gaps that need to be bridged in many EU countries where national legislation fails to explicitly protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities (LGBTI) from violent attacks on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report, Because of who I am: Homophobia, transphobia and hate crime in Europe, emphasises that this type of discrimination is prohibited in international law, so EU member states are bound to comply with it.

In particular, the revision of the Framework Decision 913 on hate crimes, foreseen for this autumn, provides European institutions with the opportunity to include safeguards specifically tailored to protect the LGBTI community.

However, because of the current omission in this respect, homophobic and transphobic motives are rarely taken into consideration in the investigation, prosecution or sentencing of such hate crimes.

Speaking to Equal Times, Marco Perolini who specialises on discrimination in Europe and central Asia for Amnesty International, said the fact that “thousands and thousands of people are continuously being discriminated simply for what they are” is intolerable.

“The existing double standards convey the idea that some forms of violence deserve less attention and less protection than others. That’s unacceptable for a European Union that prides itself on promoting equality and inclusion.”

In a recent survey, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), found out that over 80 per cent of cases concerning homophobic and transphobic violence go unreported, because victims are afraid of institutionalised prejudice or because they cannot openly say that they are gay.

The FRA survey also revealed that 70 per cent of LGBTI people feel uncomfortable with their gender identity, and that more than one in four has been attacked or threatened with violence in the last five years.

And, despite the adoption of legislation to prevent discrimination in the field of employment over the years, 19 per cent of interviewees felt they hadn’t received fair treatment in the workplace or when looking for a job because of their sexual orientation.

President Vladimir Putin’s laws against ’gay propaganda’ in Russia recently put the issue of homophobia in Europe in the spotlight but moving westwards, things aren’t that much better.

Countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Latvia lack law provisions that cover homophobic hate crimes, while other countries such as Greece and Croatia have the legislation – but only on paper.

Furthermore, in Europe more than 70 transgender people have been murdered in the past five years, the overwhelming majority in Turkey (30 deaths) and Italy (20 deaths).

Amnesty International suggests a series of measures by the EU and its member states to improve the situation.

As well as passing ad hoc legislation to combat homophobia and transphobia, governments and local authorities should discourage politicians from using any kind of homophobic rhetoric, the report suggests.

It also sets out that police should be trained to identify and deal with anti-gay hate crimes, and be able to take into account gender identity and sexual orientation as motives during investigations.

“As the European Court of Human Rights ruled,” says Perolini, “the opinion of a majority on certain issues does not entitle them to adopt discriminatory behaviours towards a minority, and this is to be properly taken into account in all cases of discrimination towards LGBTIs.”