During the summer months, people around the world come together to celebrate Pride in their respective countries, cities and towns. Pride offers us an opportunity to reflect on LGBTIQ persons’ equality status in our respective environments and how we can make the situation better. Pride events promote societal change and understanding of LGBTIQ issues through visibility and awareness-raising.
Today marks the end of EuroPride, the culmination of Pride celebrations in Europe, which, this year, took place in Valletta. As European Commissioner for Equality, I have taken it as my responsibility to attend all EuroPride and World Pride celebrations that happen during my mandate – including online during the pandemic – to reaffirm that LGBTIQ rights are human rights and stand with LGBTIQ people around the world.
The reason for this is that discrimination and hatred against LGBTIQ people remain all too real and Pride continues to be one of the tools to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.
During this Commission’s mandate, we adopted the first ever LGBTIQ equality strategy to make progress as European societies to significantly reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTIQ people. In the latest Eurobarometer survey, almost 70 per cent of EU citizens believed that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons should have the same rights as anyone else.
This gives us hope but it also highlights recurrent challenges among the significant percentage who remain unconvinced that equal rights on paper and in practice should be our collective destination.
In recent years, hate speech and hate crime targeting LGBTIQ persons, and the organisations that support them, increased globally. Europe is no exception, with the latest LGBTIQ Survey III finding 40 per cent of respondents experiencing harassment in the year prior to their participation to the survey.
As anti-LGBTIQ violence, discrimination and hate speech are a European problem, my mission is to bring about a European solution. Transformation almost never happens by itself and requires a coordinated effort. We need to initiate it, promote it and sustain our efforts through action.
Therefore, the EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy was construed to address European equality concerns on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.
It guides us to take action to strengthen legal protections and the enforcement of EU rules against discrimination, ensure LGBTIQ citizens are protected from hate speech and violence, including online, and to empower civil society to lead the change from the ground up. Most of all, European leadership helps empower national and municipal initiatives for equality.
Pride continues to be one of the tools to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions- Helena Dalli
Over the last three years, we proposed common binding standards for equality bodies to reinforce their powers and independence, which will enable them to be more adequately equipped to act against discrimination.
We proposed harmonising national rules relating to parenthood to ensure that the fundamental rights of all children are respected and protected in cross-border situations throughout the EU. While these rules are not LGBTIQ specific, they would surely have a positive impact on children of same-sex couples as they experience a disproportionate number of issues in cross-border situations.
Furthermore, we proposed to add hate speech and hate crimes, including against LGBTIQ people, to the list of EU crimes. We also funded over 100 projects implemented by civil society organisations to promote LGBTIQ equality.
One thing is clear: combating inequality in the EU is a shared responsibility requiring joint efforts and action at every level. EU institutions and agencies, member States, including regional and local authorities, equality bodies, civil society and businesses must strengthen their engagement to achieve the strategy’s objectives.
I appreciate that, during this mandate, several of these partners have stepped up their work for diversity in general and for LGBTIQ equality. This includes member States’ adoption of national LGBTIQ strategies and action plans, with several deliverables. I now call on them to approve the proposed Equal Treatment Directive to prevent discrimination in social protection, education and access to goods and services.
Helena Dalli is European Commissioner for Equality.