Strong political support needed: Eastern European LGBT communities gain visibility

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender (transsexual and transves­tite) people today claim a right to visibility, freedom of assembly and equality in the workplace in all European countries. Remarkable changes have occurred in the position of LGBT movements during recent years in many European countries. For instance in Moldova, Latvia, Turkey and Croatia LGBT organizations have gained more confidence partly with the support of international NGOs and other human rights actors monitoring LGBT rights in Eastern Europe.

International organizations such as the European Union and the Council of Europe have, sometimes unwillingly, provided civil society – including the LGBT communities – with new forums for raising controversial issues and for making requests for the protection of human rights. The enlargement of the EU, the stabilization and association process as well as the neighbourhood policy give opportunities to NGOs to come forward with lacking documen­tation on human rights violations or straightforward hate speech by au­thorities towards LGBT people in the accession countries as well as in other neighbours of the EU and of course within both old and new membercountries. Whilst Ukrainian women’s movements organize to improve the reproductive health and rights of lesbian and bisexual women, Az­eri gays step by step gain more vis­ibility and acceptance in their soci­ety and local authorities in Riga and Warsaw decided to protect Pride marches instead of banning them this year, harsh human rights violations against LGBT people still continue all over Europe, West and East more or less alike. Gay men get beaten up, trans gender people face unemploy­ment, rainbow families can hardly dream of recognition in some states.

So what should we do about it? Solidarity matters.

Greens in all countries should make an explicit commitment for LGBT rights and form alliances with LGBT organi­zations. Parties and NGOs can join Pride parades, invite national and re­gional parliamentarians and MEPs to speak on LGBT issues, sign petitions and publish statements to condemn hate speech, harassment, violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexu­al orientation, gender identity or gen­der expression. We can ask trade un­ions to join campaigns for proper leg­islation against discrimination and for endorsing diversity in the workplace. We should also take a look at our own party structures and ask our­selves: is there a genuinely safe space for openly lesbian, bisexual, gay or trans gender people in my party or organization? If not, how should we change the party culture or policies to create a more open atmosphere?

LGBT issues of course in­terlink with other human rights issues and other aspects of diver­sity. Questions of legitimate parent­hood, access to work and freedom of movement concern the Roma and Sinti communities, sex workers, disabled people and asylum seekers just as well as they concern same-sex couples or trans gender people. This reality has to show in a consequent political agenda to pro­mote real social inclusion and to fight the Neo-Conservatives who dress their children up in intimidating t-shirts during Pride marches, who vote for people like the Kaczynskis and who don’t care if people get beaten up as long as they are homosexuals. The process has to continue on all levels of the political system. We all share a re­sponsibility not to marginalize LGBT issues but to raise them promptly on the European human rights agenda.

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