LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

March 2020

COVID-19, LGR reform delayed in the UK, how to support the LGBTI community in Poland, and much more...


No. 294. March 2020. In this issue...





Equality and non-discrimination


Freedom of assembly

Freedom of expression

Human rights defenders

Legal gender recognition

Notice board


We continue to be committed to our members and to the movement

“We are living through a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty. We know that everyone is grappling with how best to respond to this rapidly changing reality, wondering how to navigate these unsettling times. There are many unknowns and concerns about our communities, especially the most vulnerable, will be impacted. This is why ILGA-Europe is committed to making sure our vital work carries on. We continue to be committed to our members, to the LGBTI movement across Europe and Central Asia, and to our core purpose. We are adapting and finding new ways to do our work and will be in communication with you as we go along. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves, your organisations and each other, and remember, we are stronger together!”
Message from Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe

Our staff is striving forward while working from home

The management team of ILGA-Europe staff share their personal stories and top tips for working from home. As with many, the ILGA-Europe staff will be teleworking for the foreseeable future, finding new ways of doing so. We continue to work for LGBTI rights and communities in solidarity with our member organisations across 54 countries in Europe and Central Asia.
Read more from ILGA-Europe’s blog on Medium.

Questionnaire: How are LGBTI organisations set up?

In this time of global crisis, the way your organisation is set up to work at best capacity is more important than ever. Are you a founder, board member, staff member or volunteer with an LGBTI organisation? Can you take just 20 minutes to tell us about how your organisation functions? By filling in our quick questionnaire, you will help form the basis for workshops, which will in turn help organisations across Europe and Central Asia streamline their organisational capacity, so that they can truly advance the mission of LGBTI equality.
Click here for the questionnaire in English.
Click here for the questionnaire in Russian.

Voices of ILGA-Europe: Daniel Martinovic and the battle for rainbow families in Croatia


Voices of ILGA-Europe: Cherine Mathot says being bisexual is a challenge

Adopted from Sri Lanka to a family in the Netherlands when she was just ten days old, Cherine Mathot survived childhood cancer which left her with a disability, and she came out as bisexual at the age of 15. To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we launched our interview with Cherine who works for the LGBTI organisation COC Nederlands.
Watch the full video on YouTube.
Suscribe on our YouTube channel for more videos.

Coming in April: Webinar on the European Commission's complaints procedure

As part of our advocacy to ensure that Coman judgment is properly implemented in all EU Member States, in April ILGA-Europe will hold a webinar on bringing cases to the European Commission where States fail to comply with the ruling. The complaints will serve as a basis for initiating a formal infringement procedure against a State and ensure compliance with EU law. Watch out on our social media for further updates and registration info.
Read more about the Coman judgment and the complaints procedure in our blog.


‘Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions’

On 26 March, UN human rights experts, including Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity), said that the COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be adrdessed too. “People with disabilities, older persons, minority communities, indigenous peoples, internally displaced people, people affected by extreme poverty and living in overcrowded settings, people who live in residential institutions, people in detention, homeless people, migrants and refugees, people who use drugs, LGBT and gender diverse persons – these and other groups need to receive support from governments,” the experts said.

'COVID-19 responses must reach everyone – including marginalised people'

On 26 March, the Nobody Left Outside (NLO) coalition - which consists of the NGOs AAF, ISGlobal, Correlation European Harm Reduction Network, EATG, FEANTSA, ICRSE, ILGA-Europe, NPS Italia Onlus, HCT, and PICUM - published a call on national governments to act urgently to protect communities facing high levels of marginalisation, social exclusion and vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic. EU and national government COVID-19 responses must reach everyone – including marginalised people, they asserted. “Let us support those who have no chance to stay home – providing support to those people in hostels, in charities and in shelters helping them survive in time of COVID-19 pandemic,” added Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis, NLO Goodwill Ambassador and former European Union Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
Read the full statement here.

Over 100 Prides affected by coronavirus crisis

So far, more than 120 LGBTI events and Prides have been cancelled or postponed around the world due to the coronavirus crisis. The latest Prides affected include London, Madrid and Baltic Pride. The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) and InterPride have created a coordination group to follow up on the situation. ILGA-Europe is looking at how it can support activists, including Pride organisers, to continue their work in bringing together communities, celebrating and upholding fundamental freedoms.
Read more on EPOA’s resource page on the confirmed changes to Pride events.

‘Sex workers need immediate financial support and protection’

On 18 March, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) published a statement calling for national governments to urgently act to ensure that sex workers, along with their families and communities, can access social protections during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As more countries impose lock downs, self-isolation and travel restrictions many sex workers will lose most, or all, of their income and face financial hardship, increased vulnerability, destitution or homelessness” indicated IRCSE in the statement.
Read the full statement.

‘Staying home not an option for people experiencing homelessness’

“People experiencing homelessness are an especially vulnerable group in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FEANTSA (the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) in a statement on 18 March. They have also listed several key priorities for governments, public health agencies and service providers are emerging, including: Targeted, pro-active outreach and testing, ensuring access to hygiene and food, providing access to safe accommodation, keeping people housed, avoiding stigmatisation and promoting solidarity, providing access to advice and support, protecting the workforce of the homeless sector, and protecting homeless people from punitive enforcement measures.
Read more on FEANTSA’s website.

GATE collects data on irregularities that trans, gender diverse and intersex people face

GATE will be documenting any violations that trans, gender diverse and intersex people face during the COVID-19 pandemic, with your contributions. GATE will follow up on the contributions and report them to the relevant organisations, such as WHO, UNAIDS, and Global Fund. The data will be analysed and made available (with all personal details removed) to communities to inform collective responses to COVID-19.

ILGA World collects positive messages for a postcard campaign

“We will continue to support our global family even during these difficult days,” said ILGA World in their campaign article on 25 March. With the campaign #InThisTogether, ILGA World will spread positive messages for our communities across the globe. Share your positive message with them and they will make a postcard out of it and publish it on social media.

All Out's top 'working at home' tips for LGBTI organisations

Amid the global outbreak of COVID-19, the fight for the human rights of LGBTI people continues, but how can activists and organisations connect and do their best work from their kitchen tables? Working remotely might be a sudden new norm for many of us, but for others, it's business as usual. The staff of All Out, a member organisation of ILGA-Europe that fights for LGBT+ rights around the world, are used to operating virtually every day. Based in home-offices in London, New York, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Milan and more, they share their top tips for working together virtually and productively across timezones.


74.2% of LGBTQI+ students in Greece heard homophobic slurs at school

This month, the Colour Youth launched the English version of the results report of the first Greek National School Climate Survey, which was conducted in 2017, in order to highlight the experiences of LGBTQI+ students in secondary schools in Greece. According to the report, homophobic remarks are heard by students at a rate of 74.2%, while more than half of the children (58.1%) also hear such remarks from teachers.



European Commission amends decision on leave for its workers

On 18 March, the European Commission adopted an amendment to Decision C(2013) 9051 of 16 December 2013 on leave, thereby expanding it to include leave for "Arrival in a household of the new-born child", which is intended for the staff whose situation does not fit into the existing leave categories relating to the advent of a child (maternity and adoption leave) and mainly applies to LGBTI+ staff who become parents (although this is not explicitly stated) and also to single parents. (Image: European Commission/Etienne Ansotte)


Equality and non-discrimination

‘States should not use religious beliefs to justify women and LGBT+ rights violations’

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed presented his report on freedom of religion or belief to the Human Rights Council on 2 March. “I firmly reject any claim that religious beliefs can be invoked as a legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against women, girls or LGBT+ people. The right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such,” he said in the report. (Image: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

European Union Gender Equality Strategy has been launched

On 5 March, the European Commission presented the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2024. ILGA-Europe welcomes the Strategy, which is strongly inclusive of women in all their diversity, and clearly recognises LBTI women. We look forward to working together with the European Commission on setting out specific measures and initiatives that will ensure the realities of LBTI women are fully taken into account and intersectional discrimination addressed.

Commissioner for Human Rights urges Moldova to ratify the Istanbul Convention

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, recently completed a country visit to the Republic of Moldova, and is urging ratification of the Istanbul Convention and calling for LGBTI-inclusive prohibitions of hate speech. In her press release on 16 March, Mijatović said: “Politicians and community leaders should not perpetuate existing stereotypes concerning different groups in society and should abstain from using homophobic and sexist rhetoric, including in their political campaigns. Instead, they should promote respect for diversity.”

ECRI’s new reports on Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland

In March, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its country reports on Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Citing inputs from ILGA-Europe member organisation InterAction, ECRI calls on Switzerland to move to implement protections for intersex people, including against surgery and other treatment. For Germany, ECRI notes “The draft act on gender recognition severely restricts the right to self-determination of transgender persons. Intersex babies and infants continue being subject to medically unnecessary and deferrable surgery and therapies.” ECRI commends Luxembourg on implementation of a human rights-based legal gender recognition system.


New draft bill at the Andorra Parliament to introduce marriage equality

According to Openly’s article on 23 March, a bill presented by the ruling coalition of Andorra will remove the legal distinction between same-sex civil unions and heterosexual weddings. It is expected to take effect in coming months. Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director at ILGA-Europe, stressed that human rights must not be overlooked as the world suffers under the effects of the coronavirus. "(Andorra's decision is) also a message to all of Europe that human rights are not to be forgotten, or to be exploited for political gain, at this time of global turbulence," Hugendubel told Openly.

Sarajevo Open Centre joins new working group on same-sex partnership in Bosnia & Herzegovina

ILGA-Europe congratulates the Sarajevo Open Centre, who have long fought to be included in the policy making processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and have recently been asked by the Federal Government to participate in the first Intersectoral Working Group on same-sex rights and partnership. We look forward to seeing how this cooperation will improve the lives of same-sex couples in Bosnia and Herzegovina and lead to effective protection of their rights in all areas of life.

Freedom of assembly

Trial for the METU Pride participants postponed for a second time

On 12 March, the second trial of the 19 participants at METU Pride took place in Ankara, once again with international monitoring and presence at the trial along with online support for the activists. This trial has been postponed again until 10 July at 09:00. For this third trial, even more international support and monitoring is needed, including attendance at the trial as ILGA-Europe expect the judgement to finally be handed out. (Image: Kaos GL/Batuhan Avakado)

Freedom of expression

‘A small victory’ for Yulia as her house arrest is lifted

On 16 March, a district court in Russia lifted the house arrest of LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova. In her own words, this is “a small victory”. She has been accused of ‘production of pornography’ in relation to her feminist drawings and under house arrest since November 2019. She can now leave her home but must comply with a travel ban and still faces up to six years imprisonment.

Human rights defenders

How can you support the Polish LGBTI community?

ILGA-Europe is working in closely with LGBTI organisations in Poland, assessing together on an on-going basis how civil society organisations, European and national policy-makers and other authorities can support the Polish LGBTI community regarding the hate stirred through the “LGBT-free zones” and the threat to bring the authors of the Atlas of Hate to trial. Together with KPH we put together a briefing detailing what support could look like in the current circumstances.

Online attacks against LGBTI organisations in Azerbaijan

After the participation in a feminist march in Baku on the 8 March International Women’s Day, one of Nafas’ members had all her e-mails, messaging and social media accounts hacked. The attack seemed technically sophisticated targeting work-related content. In the next days other Nafas members experienced similar external breach attempts to their personal accounts and the website of Nafas and Minority without success. The Facebook pages of Nafas and Minority were hacked and all contents and users were deleted. The incidents are alarming as personal liberties have been violated and the work of activists threatened. Currently the activists are safe, but wary of possible further persecution.


Legal gender recognition

UK and Scotland delay crucial legislative reforms for trans people

The British Government may no longer enact the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, according to activists, who also claim that this is not related to the coronavirus crisis, but instead reflects the volume of a relatively small number of anti-trans voices in British public discourse. The reform would make the process of changing the gender marker on a birth certificate similar to other official ID documents. Similarly in Scotland, legislation that would make it easier for people to change their gender is expected to be introduced soon following a consultation process that ended this month, but has been put on hold amid coronavirus outbreak.

Notice board

How do donors prefer to give and engage with LGBTI causes?

The 2020 Global Trends in Giving Survey aims to gain a better understanding of how donors worldwide prefer to give and engage with their favourite causes and charitable organisations. How do online and mobile technologies affect giving and what’s the impact of gender, generation, ideology and donor size on giving and volunteering? Data will help non-profits better understand if they are using technology and communicating in ways that their donors prefer and where they need to improve. Produced by Nonprofit Tech for Good, the simple survey takes just 5-10 minutes and is available in seven languages. If you’ve donated to a non-profit in the last 12 months, please take the survey. You can also help out by spreading the word to make sure the survey captures as much data as possible on donors to LGBTI causes.

Full-time internship opportunity at ILGA World

ILGA World is looking for an intern to provide assistance to the organisation’s communications efforts. This is an excellent opportunity if you have a demonstrated interest in using your communications skills to raise awareness of human rights issues, and want to gain experience working for an international human rights organisation that represents LGBTI networks, communities and movements on a global stage. The internship is for a period of six months and virtual. The intern can be based anywhere with good internet connection and will receive a financial compensation of CHF (Swiss Francs) 750 per month.
Read more and apply by 19 April.

10 different research projects on intersex people

The European project “Intersex – New Interdisciplinary Approaches” (INIA) Consortium aims to develop knowledge that will support the wellbeing and rights of intersex people and those who do not identify as intersex but have some variations of sex characteristics. The Consortium’s 10 different projects seek applicants, including ones focused on older intersex people, legislative and policy reform, lived experiences, clinical ethics, and research ethics.
Applications are due on 19 April.

ILGA Asia is looking for an independent consultant for strategic planning

ILGA Asia has published a job vacancy for an independent consultant to develop the organisation’s strategic plan for the period of 2021-2025. The consultant will be expected to have 60 working days between April 2020 and January 2021 as home-based work, with travel to Bangkok included. Deadline for submission of your application is 6 April.
Read more and send your application here.

PhD in the area of LGBTQ inclusion at Birmingham City University

Birmingham hit the headlines last year because of protests against the inclusion of same-sex relationships in sex education in schools. The newly-funded PhD project at the BCU School of Social Sciences aims to understand these debates, the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, their effects on LGBTQ people (including hate crime), as well as teachers’ confidence in incorporating LGBTQ content into their teaching.
Check out the requirements and how to apply here.