By Iulia Valentina-Iliut
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Every year, gay communities around the world brighten up their cities with gay pride marches that emphasize their right to express their sexuality openly. However, there are still many countries within the European Union where they suffer ongoing discrimination and stigma. These countries are in blatant contempt of European Union and international law. Public information campaigns could help tackle this persistent homophobia, says Iulia-Valentina Iliut.
When the Austrian television channel ORF decided to feature its moderator, Alfons Haider, in a dancing couple with another man in the television show Dancing Stars, it did not take long for critics to appear. With the typical phrase I have nothing against homosexuals, but public figures in Austria started voicing their concerns that ORF is just carrying out a PR stunt, and it should be forbidden. This is just another typical example of homophobia and proves that the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are still breached in many cases.
With the Treaty of Lisbon, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union started having full legal effects in the EU Member States. This did not mean that the rights of the LGBT are respected and implemented in a uniform manner in all 27 states. Large disparities remain, and discrimination is still widespread.
Even the organization of so-called gay pride marches has been made very difficult by the authorities in a number of member states. In Lithuania, the 2010 Baltic pride march was threatened with cancellation. In Latvia, the right to organize these marches is constantly disputed by officials claiming that they cannot guarantee the safety of the participants. Although several court rulings annulled the attempted bans because they were in clear breach of EU legislation and international human rights conventions, organizing these marches remains extremely difficult. Furthermore, Lithuania has implemented legislation in clear breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality and same-sex relations to minors or in public.
Another matter of concern is that in a number of EU member states, these marches are followed by protests by the far-right movements against homosexuality. In Romania, on the same day as the Diversity March a normality march is organized by the right wing party and members of the Orthodox Church. This march is a protest against homosexuality and intends to promote the normal family values. There have been numerous cases in which members of the LGBT community in Romania have been harassed and attacked by the right wing community.
In Romania, on the same day as the Diversity March a normality march is organized by the right wing and members of the Orthodox Church, aiming to promote normal family values.
Although the xenophobic and homophobic nature of the normality march is in clear breach of national legislation, as well as the international obligations under the ICCPR, ECHR and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, they have never had any problems in receiving the authorization from the authorities. On the contrary, they have not only been allowed to assemble every year, but they have also never been fined.
In contrast, in the Netherlands Gay parades have been happening for decades and take place several times a year. No anti-gay marches have been organized. In Romania a survey performed in 2008 showed that 68% of respondents perceive homosexuality to be a bad thing. Public displays of homosexuality remain uncommon, and only occur in the major cities. However, this is not just the case in the most recent members of the European Union. Even in Western Europe, public displays of homosexuality remain taboo, especially in smaller communities.
Even so, hope remains. Public education campaigns by human rights NGOs such as the Stonewall campaign in the United Kingdom, with the slogan Some people are gay, get over it have led to major shifts in the mentality of the population. Great progress has been made, especially by the new EU member states, in eliminating discriminatory legislation, and therefore aligning themselves with EU guidelines.
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