Wed, Apr 01, 2009 - Page 6 News List

European gays feel widespread discrimination: EU


Homosexuals living in the EU are subject to widespread discrimination and often have to make their sexual orientation “invisible,” a report released by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency said yesterday.

The report, which was presented at the European Parliament in Brussels, called on EU countries to improve equality, and provide for better training to officials as well as better reporting of hate crimes and other incidents.

Morten Kjaerum, the director of the Vienna-based agency, said that there had been physical violence and deadly assaults against gays, lesbians and transgender persons in some countries.

“These are alarming signals in an EU that prides itself on its principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination,” Kjaerum said in remarks released beforehand.

The study was issued before the backdrop of a European Commission proposal from last July to grant legal protection against discrimination not only based on gender and race or ethnic origin, but also on age, sexual orientation, religion and disablement.

Homosexuals are ostracized and bullied from the time they enter school, as education authorities across the EU pay little attention to the problem, the Vienna-based human rights watchdog found.

It said discrimination continued in the work environment, health sector and other areas, often forcing gays and lesbians to hide their sexual orientation and to not report incidents of discrimination.

However, the Fundamental Rights Agency found a wide range of attitudes across the EU. While gay events have been banned or attacked in several Central and Eastern European countries, the agency also cited positive examples.

The UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Slovenia have introduced anonymous mechanisms for reporting hate crimes, where a complaint can be made on the Internet or to independent bodies.

Only very few hate crimes are reported to authorities, Kjaerum said.

“This means that crimes go unpunished, victims do not obtain justice and authorities are not able to take the necessary action to respond to such crimes or prevent them from recurring,” he said.

Teachers, police, officials dealing with asylum seekers, health services officers and others should receive special training, the agency recommended.

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