Together with LGBTI persons: paces, challenges and dialogues

Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović  

The 17th of May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It has been celebrated since 2004, and it is created to draw the attention to the discrimination and violence to whom the most of the members of LGBTI community are exposed on daily basis. The date has its historical weight, because on the 17th of May 1990 World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, probably the main statement which led to misunderstanding of LGBTI people.  

On 12th of May The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union organized online event "Together with LGBTI persons: paces, challenges and dialogues”, to create an opportunity for debate and focus on the needs and the rights of LGBTI persons, revealing the importance of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) and reaffirming the commitment to combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was an online event which was realized on YouTube channel and Facebook page of CIG (Comissão para a Cidadania e a Igualdade de Género/The Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality), Portugese organization that promotes human rights, gender equality and non-discrimination. Complete webinar program can be found here.

Make equality a reality 

Host of the webinar was prof. dr. Paulo Corte – Real, who presented himself with words: “I’m gay man, activist, LGBT rights activist, woman’s rights activist and therefore a human rights activist. I am a Portuguese person, a European person, and I live in a country where people got together to make equality happen under the law, and to keep trying to make equality a reality in our daily lives.” He opened this session with promoting IDAHOT video #LGBTIRightAreHumanRights. During this webinar we could hear diverse speakers, from Helena Dali EU Commissioner for Equality, to representatives from European Parliament intergroup, to governmental and non-governmental organizations from Portugal, France and Germany, and also representatives of Center for Research and Social Interventions and Centre for Social Studies. All of them are promoting equality and human rights, the rights that are also LGBTIQ rights. All of them were emphasizing that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights regardless of their race and sexuality. Lots of civil organizations in EU are giving protection to LGBTI people, providing shelter and advocacy to help them to integrate in the society. It is difficult to understand that Europe is celebrating 76 years of Victory against fascism, and that we still taken from many people on daily basis.

Discrimination still exists in the EU

Discrimination against LGBTI people persists throughout the EU. For several LGBTI people in the EU, it is still unsafe to show affection publicly, to be open about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, to simply be themselves without feeling threatened. An important number of LGBTI people is also at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Not all feel safe to report verbal abuse and physical violence to the police. As the host of the webinar, Paulo Corte Real, said that European dream should be, not the dream of individual success, but the union of equality. He emphasized that all of us together need to get across all of types of discrimination. In fact, on 11th of March 2021 European Parliament declared the European Union an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone. It is still unclear how it will work. Main reason is that even on communities that respect LGBTI rights periodic attacks occur. 

 In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is by the way not a part of the EU, high police forces needed to provide security on First BH Pride Parade which was held in 2019. Regardless of the fact that organizers of First BH Pride Parade were pointing out on every available media for months that they were trying to get theirs rights – those rights that belong to them, they were in danger. Different extremists are still neglecting LGBTI basic human rights. Not understanding the others and those who are different is a global problem of all societies on earth and that will not be changed until all of them understand and start applying basic human rights, those rights that we gained and have been celebrating for 76 years.