The first week of October has seen a succession of worrying news for LGBT rights in Europe. AEGEE is very much concerned about the rights of LGBT people, because it is often youth who is the target of this violation of rights, it is students who are bullied at schools and universities, it is young gay people who are facing rejection when looking for a job. We want to show our concern for these violations, and we demand the European Institutions to take a more active role in spreading our values of tolerance and respect for diversity inside the EU and the neighbouring countries, using all the resources that are available.
Troublesome news are coming from Ukraine. In spite of the international pressure, some conservative members of the Ukrainan parliament have finally passed the bill #8711 for a first read. In case this bill is approved, it will lead to effective censorship, through the criminalisation of all references to homosexuality in the media (punished with fines or prison sentences of up to 5 years). This will create impunity for all discrimination of gay people, as denouncing the violations of the recently approved anti-discrimination law would be considered a crime. The bill will have to continue its legal steps in the Parliament, to be voted upon after the elections that will take place later this month. The UN has raised its voice against the law, and the EP considers this proposal to be a pre-elections populistic strategy of some conservative politicians. Sophie in ‘t Veld, Vice-President of the LGBT EP Intergroup, added: “Rather than moving closer to Europe, Ukraine is taking a giant step away from Europe and its values”. Some member states stated that this type of decisions may imply that Ukraine’s visa-free travel agreement with the EU would be put on hold indefinitely. On the positive side, we can see some positive reactions in Ukrainian politicians: the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, has shown concerns about this law, although he has not stopped the procedures yet. President Viktor Yanukovych has also refused to say whether he will sign the bill into law.
Serbia, another country who aspires to join the EU, has again failedto guarantee the rights of the LGBT community. For the second year in a row, the Gay Parade has been banned; it was to be celebrated on Saturday Oct 6th. Three MEPs had confirmed their attendance to this year’s Belgrade Pride: Marije Cornelissen, Jelko Kacin and Keith Taylor. The European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström made a very true statement on her blog regarding the Gay Parade in Belgrade: “Love, Faith and Hope is the motto, but when I think of the organizers and the LGBT people living in Belgrade, I also think of courage”. The organizers had been working for months, with little support from the institutions, and they received notification that it was banned less than a week before the event. The government alleged “safety concerns” due to high risk of violent acts. According to Jelko Kacin, European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, this decision is merely political, as Serbian police are professional and capable enough of ensuring public law and order. This has been shown every time Serbia hosts high risk sport events like football matches. Navi Pillay,UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urges the Serbian government to reschedule the Pride celebration and to make sure that the freedom of expression and assembly are protected.
Inside the EU, there is sometimes the false feeling that the battle for gay rights is already won. It then requires the decision of a judge, the declaration of a politician, or the behaviour of a single person to wake us up from this dream. This week the victim is Olalekan M. Ayelokun, a young Nigerian nurse living in the UK for ten years. He fears death upon arrival, as he is being sent back to his country. His demand for asylum based on sexual orientation has been rejected by the British Home Office, using the traditional argument that his claims to be gay are not genuine. He was supposed to be deported last week, and just some technical problems allowed him to stay some more days, gaining extra time for the civil society to stop the process. The gay community of the United Kingdom has launched a campaign to demand that the UK fulfills its compromise with Human Rights, no excuses. The UK Prime Minister Cameron stated in 2010 ‘those Africans seeking asylum on the basis of sexual orientation and at real risk of persecution in their home countries should be allowed to stay in the UK’; it is time to stand behind his words, and make sure that no gay person is sent back to countries where he or she would be prosecuted for the mere fact of his sexual orientation. When talking about LGBT rights, we should not forget that only twelve countries worldwide recognise and perform same-sex marriage and only fourteen countries worldwide recognise LGBT-parents the right for adoption. Even if most of these countries are in Europe, we should not forget that they are still exceptions in our continent, and that in the large majority of the world, traditions, religious conceptions and state law prevents citizens from living the life they want and deserve. There is still a lot to fight for when it comes to LGBT rights, but we cannot do this alone. Therefore we the members of AEGEE call upon you, active citizens and European institutions, to join us in this fight for justice.
Written by Eline de Graaf & Miguel Gallardo Albajar