On the past 10th of May, the worldwide LGBT organization ILGA released its 2015 Annual Review on the recent accomplishments in LGBT human rights in Europe. Thus, this month I want to share with you some of the positive developments that were witnessed in 2014 and in 2015 so far, across Europe.
In 2014, Denmark adopted one of the most progressive laws in the world in relation to its gender recognition law. Denmark is now the first and only European country allowing the recognition of trans’ new gender without any medical statement or judicial order. This is truly a great accomplishment, given the fact that in many European countries trans still have to face great challenges in order to be able to have their true gender recognized and assigned. Some of the requirements may even be considered a human rights violation, such as the compulsory sterilization surgery or the mandatory divorce in the case of the person being married.
Malta, for instance, is to be congratulated for being the first country in the world to have approved a law last April, aimed to protect the human rights of its intersex citizens . The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act will enable the end of non-medically justified surgeries on intersex children solely for the purpose of meeting the social expectations imposed by an exclusive gender binary model. Furthermore, with this law, each person will be granted self-determination in relation to his gender and any unnecessary surgery for gender reassignment without consent will be prohibited.
Additionally, in 2014, more European countries took positive steps in relation to equal marriage rights. In the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) same sex couples can now get married, as well as in Luxembourg, making a total of 11 European countries where homosexuals share the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. Finland also made provisions for marriage equality, however the law will only be enacted in 2017. Moreover, in Croatia, Estonia, Andorra and Malta civil partnerships between same sex persons are now possible.
Last January, Portugal was the 21st country to make the discrimination of trans people related to employment illegal, by including provision to gender identity in the Labor Code.
In relation to parenting rights some positive facts were also registered. In three countries, namely France, Belgium and the Netherlands it is now easier for lesbian non-biological mothers to have their children recognised.
Another great fact from last year was the contribution of many public figures to give more visibility to LGBT issues just by openly be who they were. For instance, in Poland and Turkey, gay candidates were elected. In Latvia, the Prime Minister came out about his sexuality on Twitter and the winner of Eurovision contest was the drag queen Conchita Wust. Furthermore, just a few days ago, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg got married with his boyfriend in a ceremony attended by some European leaders.
More European countries are now filing claims for asylum requests from LGBTI people. Last year, Portugal, Montenegro and Slovenia accepted claims for the first time. This is a particular important advancement, given the fact that in eighty countries worldwide being gay is still illegal.
Some countries, such as Serbia, Georgia, Sweden and Slovakia embraced national plans aimed to reaching LGBTQI equality that include human rights and non-discrimination programs focused on sexual orientation and gender identity.
2014 must be remembered also because more pride events were organized, marking an advancement in the acceptance and tolerance towards LGBTI population. Albania and Cyprus, for instance, held their first pride parades.
These are only some examples of progresses made in European countries. However this article only covers a small geographic area of a big world and thus it is important to acknowledge the fact that billions of people worldwide are now facing serious life threats due to their gender identity and sexual orientation and much work still has to be done until everyone can say they have the full enjoyment of their rights. But seeing positive developments always brings a bulk of hope and energy to keep fighting for equality. And hopefully, one day, every single person will be able to live a life without a drop of prejudice and discrimination.