Discrimination of LGBTIQ people in the EU – let’s end it

08. 12. 2022 | 16:41
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How is it happening? Whom does it hurt? What do we all have to gain if we end this discrimination? And how do we do it? Recently I was invited to speak at public hearing on Discrimination of LGBTIQ people held by the PETI Committee of the European Parliament on 1 December 2022. Here is a draft of my speech:

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of those whose voices are not often heard. To voice issues concerning 45 million LGBTIQ people. Their parents, their children, their families and loved ones. By simple math we will arrive to the conclusion that 1/3 of EU population is being negatively affected by discrimination of LGBTIQ. That is a huge group of people.

We have a problem. LGBTIQ people are being discriminated against on a daily basis. By national laws falling within the competence of Member States. But also in areas in which EU can act, should act and promised to act.

We are being discriminated in laws, expressly. We do not yet treat discrimination of LGBTIQ people as we treat discrimination on the grounds of race or religion, for example. We simply do not have the mind set yet. We are being denied access to marriage. We are being denied, and our children are being denied, the possibility of joint parental rights. We are being denied the cross-border recognition of parental and marital status. Patchwork of national legislations create a jungle of national laws, an obstacle race for anyone who dares as much as to fall in love and found a family with a citizen of another Member State. The freedom of movement within EU is a dream, not a reality.

COVID 19 measures showed us how shockingly bluntly discriminating laws can be. Registered partners were treated worse than married couples. Social parents without legal recognition were not allowed to reunite with their children. Keeping two categories of people will always mean we are left behind.

Criminal law also discriminates. In Czech law, for example, victims of crimes motivated by their sexual orientation or gender identity have less protection than other groups of victims attacked due to their political or religious beliefs. Simply put, if someone violently attacks you for being a politician from a political party, you have more protection that if you were attacked because you were lesbian.

Health care law discriminates. We force trans* people to have their otherwise healthy bodies cut up only to achieve legal recognition of their gender. The Czech Republic is one of the last countries in Europe to put them through this.

Apart from laws themselves, recent Czech research shows that we are being discriminated most often at school or at work. ½ of Czech LGBTIQ people are not out at work. 57% of them because they fear they would be discriminated and their careers damaged. In the last 5 years, 33% of gay men, 57% of lesbians and 86% of trans* people felt discriminated or harassed in the Czech Republic. This is 3x higher than the rest of the population. Shockingly, 90% of these incidents are not reported, mostly for fear that reporting will not change anything.

We are being censored, silenced and erased: censorship bills aimed at erasing LGBTIQ people from educational system and create hostile environment for LGBTIQ children were adopted in Hungary and Poland. Polish set of rules designed to further stigmatise and censor LGBTIQ people known as “Family card” proposed by president Duda was subject of a petition filed with the European Parliament in June 2020. The Hungarian censorship law was criticised in a petition submitted to the European Parliament in June 2021. I am ashamed to say that the Czech government of then prime minister Andrej Babiš did not join the statement by other 17 EU countries condemning the law.

We are being de-humanised. They call us ideology, danger to a society. They create LGBT+ free zones. A petition was filed with EP in July 2020 drawing attention to dehumanizing effect of the so called “LGBT+ free zones” in Poland and their violation of international law. The fact that such zones where any mention of LGBT+ people is prohibited are in fact censorships and thus discriminatory were claimed by another petition submitted to the European Parliament. There were at least two other petitions concerning the LGBT+ free zones in Poland.

We are being lied about, used to create moral panic, often with the use of disinformation techniques. The constant lies and defamation spread about LGBTIQ people in Poland was subject of another petition filed with the EP in March 2020. Mentioning examples where cars are without any punishment from the court parading in Wroclaw calling us paedophiles, politicians calling us a “plague” and a threat to society. We know that words kill. We saw it in Bratislava few weeks ago when two young people were shot by a terrorist with homophobic motive. The politicians calling us a plague, ideology or a threat to a society, they did not pull the trigger. But they put thoughts into the mind of the person who did. And they bear responsibility for the killings.

All of this discrimination and stigmatization a deadly cocktail called “minority stress” by which LGBTIQ people suffer in disproportionate levels. Minority stress leads to depressions, anxieties, nutritional problems and suicides. Several years ago a young 15 year old boy called Filip committed suicide. Once he found out he was gay and how Czech society treats gay people, he hung himself in the garden of his family home. Drop in teen suicide after adopting equal marriage is well documented by several studies.

I am in daily contact with LGBTIQ people and their families. They feel tired hurt, angry, disappointed. But also hopeful. And it is with this hope that they turn to EU institutions and for example file petitions to the European Parliament.

What do we have to gain from ending discrimination of LGBTIQ people? Stability of families, protection of our children. Better mental health of our citizens by eliminating minority stress. Economic profit – a study made specially on the case of Czech Republic shows that Czech economy is losing 1,5 billion euros each year due to discrimination of LGBTIQ people. We will gain peace and understanding within our societies. Resilience towards external enemies – we will no longer allow them to exploit the weak spots in our societies. And we will literally save lives.

I therefore urge the EU bodies to implement the promises in our founding Treaties. To follow the LGBTIQ strategy, especially:
o to harmonise EU-wise discrimination framework
o to remove barriers to freedom of movement
o to protect freedom of speech in schools, media, everywhere
o to protect LGBTIQ youth and children in schools
o to protect our health, mental (minority stress) and physical (sterilizations).
o and to continue raising awareness, promote social understanding and visibility of LGBTIQ people.

There is no other way for democracy than to fulfil its promise of equality. Discrimination is not a legal question, but a moral one. You do not need to be specialised in EU law or anti-discrimination legislation to know that it is simply wrong to hurt people for who they love or who they are.

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