Each year on 17 May, the international community celebrates the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). While it is a day of celebration of the vast diversity of people’s sexualities, gender identities and sex characteristics, and of the legal and social advances concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in the past two decades, it is also a day to raise awareness on existing widespread discrimination and violence in many countries. As in previous years, this article explains the importance of IDAHOT, the highlights of this day and the contribution of equality bodies to the advancement of equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity to date.
What is IDAHOT?
17 May marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). The Day represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.
The date was chosen in commemoration of the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1990. Since then, progress has been made in the advancement of equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, however, discrimination, homophobia and intolerance still remains throughout Europe.
The prohibition of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation was written into the Lisbon Treaty which entered into force in 2009.
Equinet and Equality Bodies’ work on LGBTI+
This year on 14 May, Equinet took part at the 6th annual European IDAHOT 2018 Forum, the commemorations of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. The IDAHOT Forum is one of the major European annual events that brings together member countries of the Council of Europe, government representatives, policy makers, experts and academics, as well as representatives from national and international organizations. Our Portuguese member, Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, was one of the organizers and active contributers to the ongoing discussion on LGBTIQ equality in Europe and internationally during the Forum.
34 Equinet members have a mandate to address discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and 30 have a mandate to address discrimination on the ground of gender identity in employment or beyond (education, housing, social protection and goods and services).
Building on a survey of the work of equality bodies on trans person’s issues and written contributions from the equality bodies participating in the Equinet Policy Formation working group, in 2010 Equinet produced the Perspective “Making Equality Legislation work for Trans People”. In 2018, the Gender Equality Working Group will update the information contained therein with a fact sheet on Trans Rights.
The Perspective provides insight into the work of equality bodies in promoting equality for and combating discrimination against trans people at national-level. It also sets out recommendations to equality bodies and European institutions on the prioritisation of issues concerning trans person’s rights and more effective protection of those rights. As noted, the perspective was significantly informed by the work of equality bodies on the ground. Among these were:
- Interpretation of the Equality Act in Finland Guidelines by the Finnish Ombudsman for Equality;
- Guidelines by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain, including on guiding public officials and service providers to provide inclusive and respectful services to trans people no matter the field that they operate in;
- Report on the situation of trans people from Belgium’s Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, entitled “Being transgender in Belgium: Mapping the social and legal situation of transgender people in Belgium”;
- National initiatives from Germany, Estonia, Poland, Estonia, Austria, Croatia and Serbia were also highlighted.
In 2013 Equinet produced the Perspective Equality Bodies Promoting Equality & Non-Discrimination for LGBTI People, which was the result of a workshop on the work of equality bodies on LGBTI issues held as part of a meeting of Equinet’s working group on Policy Formation. This perspective was based on a survey of Equinet members to explore the work being done by individual equality bodies in promoting equality for and combating discrimination against LGBTI people. Based on the perspective, in June 2014, a training event was organized by Equinet, hosted by the Swedish Equality Ombudsman, to provide equality body staff members with space for peer learning and for discussing key challenges and good practices of combating discrimination against and promoting equality of LGBTI people.
The 2015 Equinet Perspective The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequalities for Women highlights the work of equality bodies informing the European Commission Strategy on Gender Equality and includes a chapter on the work done by national equality bodies on discrimination against trans people.
In September 2017, Equinet, in response to the European Commission’s initiative on advancing LGBTI equality, produced a factsheet, highlighting some of the ways in which the work of national equality bodies in Europe contributes to the implementation of the List of Actions. It focuses on action n°4 “Supporting key actors responsible to promote and advance equal rights for LGBTI people in the EU” and provides insights and good practices with regards to bullying and harassment of LGBTI people, support to education actors and businesses to advance LGBTI equality, as well as support to key actors in relation to equal access to healthcare for LGBTI people.
Highlights of IDAHOT 2018
- Council of Europe Human Rights Channel – IDAHOT focus
- IDAHOT website
- ILGA-Europe – the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – created a rainbow map, annual review with country-specific information on LGBTI human rights to be published soon.
- TGEU published their Trans Rights Europe Map & Index 2018
- IGLYO published a report on ‘Expression Abridged: Legal Analysis of Anti-LGBT Propaganda Laws‘
- The European Commission posted an article on LBGTI equality as well as a videos about personal stories of LGBTI people