EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT president Jerzy Buzek has urged the European Union to speak out “with one voice” against prejudice towards gays and lesbians.
The president was opening an exhibition of photographs of European gay pride marches to mark International Day against Homophobia, which takes place tomorrow.
Mr Buzek reminded all 27 EU member states that, as signatories to various EU treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, they were committed to “rooting out homophobia”.
He got a round of applause. But some of those present were less cheerful. A Hungarian woman at the exhibition pointed out that tomorrow is actually International Day Against Homophobia “and Transphobia”. “People seldom refer to transphobia which leaves ‘trans’ people wondering if they are really covered by the Charter [of Fundamental Rights]”.
She also said people from eastern Europe using the dating website Gaydar were conspicuously reluctant to post face pictures for fear of being widely identified. “In the week Europe goes wild about the Eurovision, people are still afraid,” she said.
The exhibition too spoke of the difficulties of matching high ideals with reality. A picture of Baltic pride in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius showed a neo-Nazi leader with two large swastikas shouting what the caption said were menacing slogans in a megaphone from beside a police cordon.
In Bucharest, printed flyers handed out by a child read: “Keep your distance! You have HIV! You gay loser queer charged corpses on a bed of worms. Spirit and the soul in eternal fire”.
In EU candidate countries such as Croatia the photos depicted younger protesters giving the Nazi salute as they reportedly chanted slogans about death camps.
The European Parliament’s intergroup on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (LGBT) was pleased with the attitude expressed by Mr Buzek, a centre-right politician from Poland. Attitudes in Poland have been transformed in recent years and the big euro pride march was held there last year. Mr Buzek has been unstinting in condemnation of homophobia, a spokesman said.
Indeed things are worse outside the EU. The exhibition included images of a woman beaten black and blue before a pride march in Turkey, while in Belarus, activist Sergey Yenin was quoted as saying: “Here, we hope the police detain us before the homophobes come.”
Michael Cashman MEP, co-president of the LGBT intergroup, said the exhibition was a reminder that all member states are signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights and that they must abide by their obligations. “The human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are of equal importance, and should be fully respected,” he said.
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