17 May: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) 2011

The 17 May has been marked as the International Day Against Homophobia because the same day in 1990, the World Health Organisation finally removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. With regard this day, all European authorities made a statement.

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, stated with regard to the International Day Against Homophobia that the European Union can take some pride in being at the vanguard of combating this issue. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights became binding on the European institutions and mandatory in the field of EU law. This Charter prohibits discrimination based on a number of grounds, specifically including sexual orientation among them. He also added that the Europeans have a collective responsibility to stand against discrimination, to defend fellow human beings and fundamental principles.

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is deplorable, as it aims to denigrate people and deprive them of their rights on the basis of their sexual orientation, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek stressed at the inauguration of a photo exhibition on European gay pride marches at the EP in Strasbourg. Same-sex marriage or registered civil union are still not recognised in most EU countries, and same-sex couples face serious problems when trying to get their rights recognised in other MS.

At the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly 21st session, his Co-President, Louis Michel stated in Budapest that human rights must not suffer because of so-called "cultural" exceptions for homosexuality, and development aid should take the form of budgetary support. Recognizing that for some countries in Africa the issue of homosexuality is very sensitive, Louis Michel stated that we will not accept that governments or politicians use the 'cultural' argument to justify hunting down and demonizing homosexuality. This message was received with mixed reactions by the plenary Assembly.

Vice President and EU's Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, explained that the EU is going to great lengths to combat homophobia and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. EU legislation is one of our most powerful tools to this end. She also added that at the same time, legislation on its own is not sufficient. According to Ms. Reding, this is why the European Commission supports actions across Europe to raise awareness of discrimination and promote diversity and equality as well as the exchange of good practices in public policy that combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity at various levels. She also welcomed the Court of Justice of the European Union's judgment last week in the Römer case in which the court confirms that a registered partner in a German life partnership is entitled to receive a supplementary retirement pension under an occupational pension scheme in the same way a married partner is. This applies if the life partner is in a situation that is legally and factually comparable to that of a married person as regards pensions.

The High Representative Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the EU, highlighted the strong commitment of the European Union to the entitlement of all persons to enjoy the full range of human rights without discrimination. Around the world, gender identity and sexual orientation continue to be used wrongly as the pretext for serious human rights violations. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons continue to be subjected to persecution, discrimination and gross ill-treatment, often involving extreme forms of violence. The EU calls on all States to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As part of its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, in June 2010 the EU adopted a “Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People”. Also, through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the EU supports several organisations defending the rights of LGBTI persons or protecting LGBTI human rights defenders. In this context, the European Union has warmly welcomed the Joint Statement entitled “Ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity” on behalf of 85 countries from every continent, at the UN Human Rights Council on 22 March 2011. Fifteen EU Member States were part of the group that worked to prepare this statement, and all EU Member States gave their full support to this initiative.