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Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee

Report to Scottish Council - January 2003

ILGA-EUROPE CONFERENCE

Lisbon 23 October - 27 October 2002

Recognising Diversity, Promoting Equality

Introduction

UNISON Scotland agreed the following motion in 2002 to send 4 delegates to the ILGA Europe Conference in Lisbon 2002 and to participate in the ILGA Europe 2003 Conference to be held in Glasgow.

"The International Lesbian and Gay Association is a world-wide federation of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people everywhere. 

Founded in 1978, it now has more than 350 member organisations. Every continent and around 80 countries are represented. ILGA member groups range from small collectives to national groups and entire cities.

ILGA Europe is the European Region of the Association. ILGA Europe recently decided that its 25th Regional Conference would be held in Glasgow Scotland in 2003. Several branches sent delegates to the 23rd Conference held in Rotterdam and have reported on the invaluable experience of meeting other lesbian and gay trade unionists from across the Europe. This type of networking is particularly relevant for us following on from the creation of the Scottish Parliament. In light of the implications from the Human Rights Act, the experiences learned from the victorious campaign to "Scrap the Clause" and the initial discussions with Northern Ireland on various campaign issues surrounding the Equalities Agenda, UNISON Scotland has much to learn from our European colleagues and also much to share.

Scottish Council welcomes the fact that UNISON Scotland will have to opportunity to participate in the 2003 Conference being held in our country. In order to move this forward and to allow the Scottish Lesbian and Gay Group to become more involved with the workings of ILGA Europe and to ensure that the Scottish Voice is heard, Scottish Council agrees to:

  1. Write to ILGA Europe, congratulating them for choosing Scotland as a Conference Venue, and advising them that we are looking forward to having the opportunity to meeting colleagues from across the continent involved in the campaign and struggle to fight discrimination.
  2. Send 4 delegates to the 2002 ILGA Europe Conference to be held in Lisbon. This will allow UNISON Scotland raise its profile with fellow trade unionists within Europe and to become involved in discussion for the 2003 Glasgow Conference"
  3. Four delegates from UNISON Scotland, Neil MacInnes, Jim Mearns, Maggie Murphy and Linda Jackson joined colleagues from other Scottish Branches and National delegates represented UNISON in Lisbon in October 2002.

    The attached report details the workshops attended during the Conference and also highlights some of the main experiences gained from participating in such a worthwhile and rewarding conference. It is difficult to sum up the information and knowledge shared and learned from such a rewarding conference. We have tried to give those interested a flavour of the items discussed and we certainly have as a group have returned with a better knowledge of some mighty issues out there which could do and will do impact on our members, particularly in relation to some of the new European protocols and directives and allow us to begin to discuss how we can feed this into the organisation and our members.

    The variety of the material covered is shown by the range of topics covered in workshops (Appendix B). The UNISON Scotland Delegates were able to cover all the workshops with the help of other UNISON members present and gained a valuable insight into the range of issues faces LGBT individuals across Europe today.

    UNISON Scotland's Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee is extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to send 4 delegates to such a rewarding and informative conference.

    In order to provide you with more information I have also attached as an appendix the very moving and powerful speech made by Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Appendix D).

     

    Recommendation

    1 UNISON Scotland participate in the 2003 ILGA Europe Conference in Glasgow by sending 4 delegates to attend on a residential basis.

    Costings have been supplied as following:

    ILGA CONFERENCE 2003

    Venue

    Glasgow, Scotland

    Delegates

    Four

    Provisional Costing

    Registration & Accommodation: 4 x 600E=2400E* £1440.00

    Subsistence: 4 x 5 nights @ £29.50 570.00

    Travel 00.00

    TOTAL £2010.00

    *Based on the cost for 2002 (plus 2%).

     

  4. UNISON Scotland makes initial investigations into sponsoring a delegate from a trade union in one of the eastern European states to attend the conference.

Neil MacInnes
Secretary - Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee

 

Appendix A

Official Report - ILGA Europe

For the first time in its 24-year history, ILGA has held a conference in Portugal. The 24th European Conference (at the same time ILGA-Europe's sixth) took place in Lisbon from 23 till 27 October and was hosted by its member organisation Opus Gay which had to make several attempts before it finally succeeded, thanks to António Serzedelo's persistence, to bring the conference to Lisbon. Although the Portuguese LGBT movement has undergone a remarkable development with major achievements in the last years, the presence of the conference in Portugal was an important statement, which, indeed, was also reflected by the large media interest, and coverage it provoked.

Less interest was shown by Portuguese politics. Used in the past to gain the honorary patronage of at least one high-ranking national politician for our conference and to be invited to an official reception by the lord mayor of the host city, we were disappointed, in this respect, by the conservative governments of Portugal and Lisbon respectively. They did not send representatives to our opening plenary either which, however, was addressed by Members of Parliament and Lisbon City Council from the Left Bloc (Bloco Esquerda), the Socialist Party and the Greens. Other speakers in the opening session were António Serzedelo, who welcomed all participants on behalf of the host organisation, Teresa Nogueira, president of the Portuguese section of Amnesty International, and ILGA-World secretary-general Kürsad Kahramanoglu. Messages of support were received from Mario Soares, former Prime Minister and President of Portugal, now Member of the European Parliament, and João Soares, MP, former lord mayor of Lisbon.

130 participants from 31 countries were offered two plenary panel sessions and could choose among 21 workshops to discuss ILGA-Europe's campaigns and development and exchange information and experiences in a variety of fields. Thanks to financial support received by the European Community, the Open Society Institute (Budapest), the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Berlin), Pink Cross (Switzerland) and COC Haaglanden (Netherlands), scholarships to a number of delegates from Eastern European countries could be granted and expert speakers could be invited. The Conference was also supported by several local sponsors.

The full Conference report will soon be posted at our web-site. In this Newsletter, we do not have the space to give a detailed report and therefore just would like to highlight the two panel sessions and the two workshops dedicated to Islam and LGBT Muslims, which were one of the thematic focuses of the conference. A detailed report on the plenary session on "promoting the rights of LGBT people using the human rights policies and mechanisms of the Council of Europe and the European Union", in which the conference patron Peter Schieder was speaking, is given in another article.

The role of trade unions

The other panel session was addressing the "role of trade unions in implementing EU laws which prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the work-place".

Cécile Le Clercq of the European Commission's Employment and Social Affairs Directorate-General, explained the Commission's priority, which is the efficient and full transposition of the two Article 13 directives into national legislation, and after this its enforcement. In both phases NGOs and trade unions have an important role to play and should build alliances. She gave recent examples of collective agreements both at European and international level. Cécile Le Clercq stressed again that the Commission has no plans to propose further legal measures to combat discrimination outside employment, not even for the ground of disability. People had expected that the 2003 European Year of Persons with Disabilities could be an opportunity for such a proposal.

Maria Gigliola Toniollo of the largest Italian trade union CGIL explained how they began ten years ago to combat discrimination against LGBT people, and to cater especially for transgender people. The statutes of CGIL were amended accordingly. And recently, an office for "new rights" (Ufficio Nuovi Diritti) was established within CGIL to address these issues. Her office does not only support LGB and in particular transgender people but also focuses on awareness raising among trade unionists who are not free from cultural biases.

Carola Towle of UNISON, the largest trade union in the UK, recalled key principles of trade unionism, i.e. solidarity, justice and equality, collective action and effective organisation. However, trade unions also tend to be bureaucratic and slow to change. They reflect a cross section of society and are thus not immune to prejudice. As their work for equality is sometimes limited to gender and race issues, the EC Employment Directive is an important step forward since it deals with other grounds of discrimination and also calls for collective agreements.

Barry Fitzpatrick of the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland elaborated on external and internal factors relevant for collective bargaining and equal opportunities.

Empowering LGBT Muslim communities in Europe

The objectives of the two workshops dealing with the LGBT Muslim communities in Europe were: to raise understanding of non-Muslim participants as to what it is like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and Muslim in a West European environment; and to look at ways in which these communities can be empowered by the wider LGBT community both at national and European level.

Suhraiya Jivraj, joint co-ordinator of the Safra Project in the UK, gave a presentation on Islam, Islamic law, law and customs of Muslim countries and about her project. Adnan Ali of Al-Fatiha UK spoke about his experiences as a gay Muslim from Pakistan living in the UK, both within the Muslim environment and the wider LGBT community. Extensive background material was distributed in the workshop and will be made available in the (electronic) conference report at our web-site. Everybody interested in this subject is recommended to read this very interesting material.

General assembly

The annual conference also serves as ILGA-Europe's general assembly at which the Board presents its activity report for the past twelve months for debate and adoption. The printed version of this 28-page report can be ordered from our office. Also were presented and adopted: the audited accounts for the calendar year 2001, the budget for the coming year and a detailed work programme for the twelve months until the next annual conference in October 2003. Treasurer Nigel Warner also gave an overview of the current financial situation of ILGA-Europe.

A new Executive Board and the two representatives of the European Region on the ILGA world board were also elected.

The Conference venue for 2004 was also decided. Delegates welcomed the proposal of Háttér Társaság a Melegekért to host the conference in Budapest. However, it was emphasised that by 2004, the funding base of ILGA-Europe might not yet be as diversified as we want to be it. Should ILGA-Europe, in 2004, still depend upon the annual Conference being counted as the main contribution to its co-financing requirement under the EU core funding, Budapest can only be a viable option if Hungary is an EU member by then. Or if we can otherwise obtain permission to use our EU funding outside the EU for this specific purpose. For the unlikely event that we cannot have the Conference in Budapest for these reasons, our Austrian member organisation HOSI Wien has kindly offered to host, together with Háttér, the conference in nearby Vienna. Since EU Enlargement seems to go ahead as planned, we are optimistic that there will not be any problems to hold the 2004 conference in Budapest.

Lisbon was a very successful conference that could strike an extremely positive balance for the activity year 2001/02. Next year's conference will be held, as already decided in Rotterdam last year, in Glasgow, and hosted by Stonewall Scotland.

 

Appendix B

Workshops and Plenary Sessions

Plenary Sessions

The role of trades unions in implementing EU laws which prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are

prohibited respectively by the Employment Directive and the Equal Treatment Directive

for Women and Men. The Employment Directive must be implemented at national

level by December 2003, while an Amended Equal Treatment Directive is also due for

implementation at national level.

The panel session looked at the role of trades unions at the different stages of

implementation. The Employment Directive requires governments to take measures to

promote social dialogue between the two sides of industry (ie employers and unions) to

encourage equal treatment. Some unions are already experienced in addressing LGBT

rights; others have no history of this and have a steep learning curve. The role of

unions is crucial:

    • In bringing groups of LGBT workers together to identify key discrimination issues
    • In lobbying government from the perspective of LGBT members to achieve the strongest transposition of the Directive into national law
    • In raising the awareness of employers and employees of the new rights in this legislation, for protection from sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination and for promotion of equality in the workplace
    • In making use of the legislation, once in place, to renegotiate agreements to take proper account of LGBT workers, to promote good workplace policies and practices and - where these fail - to fight individual cases of discrimination.

Panel participants: Carola Towle (UNISON , UK), Cecile Le Clercq (European Commission, Employment and Social Affairs DG), Dr Maria Gigliola Toniollo (CGIL, Italy), Dr Barry Fitzpatrick (Equality Commission for Northern Ireland). Representatives of Portuguese trade unions will also be invited to the session.

Promoting the rights of LGBT people using the human rights policies and mechanisms of the Council of Europe and European Union.

The speakers gave their views on the ways in which the Council of Europe and European Union can promote LGBT rights, and the actions, which the LGBT community can take to make the most of the opportunities presented by these institutions.

Speakers: Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Joke Swiebel, Rapporteur for the European Parliament on Human Rights in the European Union; Dr Robert Wintemute, Reader in Law, School of Law, King's College, London.

 

Workshops

Implementing protection from workplace discrimination at the national level*

The EU's Employment Directive is perhaps the most important single piece of legislation in the history of our movement, requiring more than 20 countries to bring in laws banning sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace. ILGA-Europe is working to ensure its effective implementation at national level. The workshop will review progress in both the Member States and accession countries since the Rotterdam conference, and discuss plans for further activity on this front.

This workshop was given by Dr Mark Bell (Leicester University) and Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive Director.

Supporting the capacity development of the LGBT movements in Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus

In recent years there have been a number of successful co-operation programmes between member organisations in Western and Eastern Europe, supported by government funding. The workshop:

    • Looked at the recent experience in one such co-operation programme (COC/Netherlands, and Genderdoc/Moldova).
    • Looked at developing a strategy for involving more West European LGBT organisations and their governments in providing support for LGBT organisations in CEE and the Caucasuses

It reviewed West European government funded programmes for Human Rights development with Non-Governmental organisations that could do the work (channel the funds) to East European groups. There is a UK Human Rights Development fund. The work involves project development and critical items are learning to do things the way the locals do them (don't import foreign values); remembering there are significant cultural differences (e.g Trade Unions are not generally thought of as progressive organisations in Eastern Europe) and noting that change will take time.

Speakers: Dennis van der Veur (COC) and Maxim Anmeghichean (Genderdoc)

Lesbian organising in the Ibeian Peninsula

Lesbian organising is at very different stages in Portugal and Spain: in the latter, there are many years of experience, while in the former it is a relatively new development. The workshop looked at the experiences in the two countries, and shared learning points with workshop participants.

The workshop was given by Fabiola Netoe (Clube Safo, Portugal) and Beatriz Gimeno, General Secretary of FELG, the Spanish Federation of Lesbians and Gays.

Working to ensure maximum benefit for transgendered people from EU laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender*

Following a judgment of the European Court of Justice, gender identity discrimination counts as gender discrimination for the purposes of EU law.

Gender discrimination in employment is illegal under the EU's Equal Treatment Directive (sex discrimination). A recently revised version of this Directive (the "Amended Equal Treatment Directive (sex discrimination)") must now be implemented at national level, giving the opportunity to campaign for specific reference to gender identity discrimination in national legislation. Gender discrimination in areas outside employment, such as goods and services, health, housing etc, is also to be prohibited under a draft Directive put forward by the Commission. The legislative process around the Directive gives the opportunity to campaign for the inclusion of a specific reference to gender identity discrimination in this Directive - if successful, a "first" in international law.

The workshop:

    • Summarised the European Court of Justice case referred to above.
    • Looked at the important opportunities offered by these directives for enhancing the rights of transgendered persons throughout the European Union and the accession countries, and at ILGA-Europe's plans for making the most of these opportunities.

This workshop was given by Dr Mark Bell (Leicester University).

EU Enlargement*

ILGA-Europe and its member organisations in the accession countries have, for several years, been working to use the process of Enlargement to fight against sexual orientation discrimination in the accession countries. A key part of this work has been documentation of discrimination. The workshop:

    • Summarised developments so far, including initiatives taken by MEP's and the European Commission.
    • Reviewed the findings of discrimination surveys carried out in a number of countries, including the Baltic States, Poland, Malta and Slovakia during the last year.
    • Considered lessons learnt so far, and looked at future plans.

This involved a report back on a series of attitudinal surveys into LGBT rights and activities in EU Accession countries: Czech Republic; Malta; Latvia; Lithuania and Estonia. These surveys are being used to bring pressure on these governments because Non-Discrimination in terms of Sexual Orientation is a key issue for accession. The surveys generally show a reduction in legal discrimination but a high level of day-to-day public harassment with multiple discrimination common. Information was also presented from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. The International Gay & Lesbian Youth Organisation circulated a report which covered a number of Eastern European countries and focussed on the particular needs of young LGBT people.

The workshop was given by (Ivo Prochazka (Czech Republic), Christian Attard (Malta), Eduardas Platovas (Lithuania), and Nigel Warner.

Organising within trades unions to work for LGBT rights

This workshop looked at the ways in which trades unions can and should support their LGBT members:

    • By adopting policies opposing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and promoting equality, both within the union and the workplace.
    • By encouraging LGBT people to join and become active in their unions.
    • By supporting the development of LGBT groups within trade unions.
    • By negotiating for LGBT equality with employers.
    • By monitoring both best and worst practice.
    • By supporting and representing members' where their rights are breached.

The workshop was aimed primarily at those who are already union members, although others were welcome. It was a practical workshop that took at participants through the following stages:

    • How would our ideal trade union be organised, to effectively tackle LGBT issues?
    • Where are we now? Mapping the current policies, organisation and practices of the unions we belong to, in terms of work for LGBT equality.
    • Identifying targets for change - short, medium and long-term.
    • Identifying allies and opportunities.
    • Planning a strategy.

This workshop was given by Carola Towle, National Officer, UNISON and Antonio Poveda (CGT, Spain).

Parenting rights under the European Convention on Human Rights

Since 1999, the European Court of Human Rights has given important judgments on two key issues, custody and adoption rights. The applicants in these two cases, Joao Mouta (Portugal), and Philippe Frettè (France), were joined by Dr Robert Wintemute (School of Law, King's College, London), who helped with the legal preparation of Philippe

Frettè's case, in a discussion of the legal implications of the two cases, and of their personal experiences of fighting discrimination in the courts. Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was present for the workshop.

From the Convention on the Future of Europe to the Inter-governmental Conference 2004*

The Intergovernmental Conference 2004 is likely to result in profound changes to the Treaties of the European Union. Issues which may be addressed include new goals for the EU's future, ensuring fundamental rights for all citizens, finding a new balance between national and EU politics, and increasing democracy and openness in the EU. The process leading up to the adoption of the new Treaties will provide important opportunities for pressing for LGBT rights. The first stage of this process, the Convention on the Future of Europe, is already well underway.

The workshop outlined the complete process up to the finalisation of the Treaties, and described the key objectives which ILGA-Europe has already set out in its submission to the Convention, followed by a discussion on how we can campaign for the achievement of these objectives.

The workshop was given by Dr Mark Bell (Leicester University).

Presentation of proposals on specific discrimination faced by bisexuals and discussion of IE policy initiatives on behalf of bisexuals*

ILGA-Europe has commissioned a policy paper, which will:

    • Identify the specific ways that bisexuals may face sexual orientation discrimination in the context of the EC's programme to fight discrimination.
    • Highlight those that are not already being addressed through ILGA-Europe's work on sexual orientation discrimination.
    • Include recommendations to ILGA-Europe regarding its own procedures as well as possible future actions.

The workshop received a presentation of the findings, which were discussed, particularly with regard to the development of future actions by ILGA-Europe.

This workshop was given by Dr Katrina Roen, author of the policy paper.

Working within political parties for LGBT rights

This workshop looked at recent experiences of working for LGBT rights within political parties in Portugal and Spain, and shared learning points from these experiences for others interested in this field.

The workshop was given by Sergio Vitorino (Grupo de Trabalho Homosexual, Portugal) and Miquel A Fern`andez Garcia (PSOE LGBT group, Spain).

ILGA-Europe's finances, the development of ILGA-Europe, and plans for fundraising*

This workshop looked at ILGA-Europe's finances and development as an organisation, and plans for fund-raising.

The workshop was presented by ILGA-Europe's Treasurer, Nigel Warner.

Transnational Exchange Projects*

The EU's Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination funds some

£4-5million of transnational anti-discrimination projects each year. The workshop:

    • Explained the background to Transnational Exchange Projects.
    • Shared the experiences of participants in the first round of projects.
    • Discussed participation in second round of transnational projects (which will be launched in early 2003).
    • Collected feedback on the overall workings of the programme, for passing to the Commission.

The workshop provided information about other EU funding Programmes, such as the Daphne Programme. The EQUAL programme was dealt with in workshop 14 below.

This reviewed EU Funding available for specific projects under the Action Programme to Combat Discrimination. It set out the aims of the programme and there was some detailed discussion of specific projects. One key problem is that only 85% of the project will be centrally funded, the balance must be raised locally. A reasonable cross-section of partners is needed (i.e from various anti-discrimination groups) but this increases the difficulties of project management. The application process is complex and the timescale for submitting applications is very short; anyone thinking of applying for the next round needs to research the application process thoroughly and select and quickly gain a good working rapport with potential partners.

This workshop was given by Mette Vadstrup (ILGA-Europe) and representatives of member organisations involved in transnational exchange projects.

Working for transgender rights at the European level*

This workshop invited all trans activists and everybody interested in IE's work on transgender to come and discuss future directions of the transgender work already undertaken by ILGA-Europe. The workshop fulfilled two aims: firstly, a skills workshop in identifying transgender issues and on LGBT joint work. Secondly, an introduction to what IE can potentially do in relation to transgender rights and the development of a plan to form a European transgender network under the umbrella of ILGA-Europe.

The workshop was given by Nico Beger (ILGA-Europe) and Armand Hotimsky (Caritig-France).

EQUAL Sexualities at Work

In the European Community funded EQUAL programme there are just four projects out of 1,510 dealing exclusively with sexual minorities in the labour market. These four (one Finnish, two Swedish and one Dutch) have created a transnational partnership "Equal Sexualities at Work", to co-operate together against discrimination in the workplace.

The workshop:

    • Outlined the European Community's EQUAL programme.
    • Described the objectives of the Equal Sexualities at Work partnership and of its four constituent projects.
    • Considered plans for a mainstreaming conference aimed at setting goals for lobbying at the EU level around combating sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
    • Encouraged other LGBT rights organisations to become active in the field of employment rights.

This workshop was given by Anette Sjödin (Homosexuals and Bisexuals in the Care System/RFSL-Sweden), Rolf Tengbratt (Normgiving Diversity/Swedish police) and Arjos Vendrig (Enabling Safety for LesBiGay Teachers/COC Netherlands).

Improving your fund-raising skills

Fund-raising skills are of vital importance to the success of LGBT organisations. Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe's'Executive Director shared her experience as a professional fundraiser, with conference participants.

Some perspectives on Islam and the experience of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and Muslim in a West European environment

The objective of the workshop was to raise the understanding of non-Muslim participants as to what it is like to be lesbian/gay/bisexual and Muslim in a West European environment. There were two presentations:

    • By Suhraiya Jivraj, the Joint Co-ordinator of the Safra Project (UK), on the key findings of the Safra Project Social Policy Report on the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women who identify as Muslim culturally or religiously.
    • By Adnan Ali of Al Fatiha UK on his experience as a gay man within the Muslim environment and as a Muslim within the LGBT/wider community.

Developing legal protection in areas other than employment and training*

An important long-term objective for ILGA-Europe is to persuade the European Union to adopt legislation prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in areas outside employment such as the provision of goods and services, health, housing etc. In 2001 ILGA-Europe published a policy paper on this issue.

The workshop:

    • Outlined the findings of the policy paper.
    • Discussed ILGA-Europe's plans for the campaigning for such a directive.

The workshop was given by Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive Director.

The situation in selected Central and East European countries

Speakers from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia and the Russian Federation gave information on the situation in their countries, their work for LGBT rights, and the ways in which the European LGBT movement can support the development of their communities.

Presentations were given by delegates from several countries and a stunning video of the first ever Pride March in Croatia was shown. The main group in Belarus has little funding and is not allowed to register as a voluntary LGBT group but has managed to produce some literature. A key issue amongst groups is the decision to register. In Belarus those who stand out as LGBT are refused, whilst in Macedonia the decision was taken to register as a Human Rights Group in order that they could at least do some work. It's very difficult to make progress in these countries due to powerful anti-LGBT popular feeling and discrimination is rife, especially in the workplace and with police forces.

Empowering LGBT Muslim communities in Europe

This workshop looked at ways in which LGBT Muslim communities in Europe could be empowered by the wider LGBT community both at national and European level.

The speakers were Suhraiya Jivraj, the Joint Co-ordinator of the Safra Project, Adnan Ali of Al Fatiha UK, Kenneth McRooy, COC (Netherlands) and Nigel Warner (ILGA-Europe).

 

Asylum and Immigration*

The EU's plans to harmonise its asylum and immigration laws, through a whole series of new Directives, present numerous opportunities to try to achieve equal rights for LGBT people in these fields. Particularly important are two directives, one governing the free movement of EU citizens, and the second proposing a common definition of refugee status. Both provide opportunities to work for the recognition of same-sex partners and their families in European asylum and immigration law, while the latter opens up the possibility of gaining specific recognition as refugees of people persecuted on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The workshop:

    • Summarised the EU's plans for harmonisation of asylum and immigration laws, and the current state of play.
    • Reviewed ILGA-Europe's and its member organisations' campaigns in this field so far.
    • Looked at the continuing campaigns, which are still needed if we are to make the most of the immense opportunities presented.

A presentation was given on the legal aspects of Asylum and Immigration Law as it affects LGBT people. Sexual orientation is included as a reason for asylum in the Refugee Status Proposal (2001) but not gender identity or health status. The Free Movement proposal (2001) relates to EU citizens only and ILGA-Europe lobbied hard on this with most of its suggestions being accepted except for the definition of LGBT couples as family units. The new Commission Rapporteur on the Free Movement proposal is a member of Forza-Italia and is deeply anti-gay, so care will have to be taken as to the material that reaches the relevant Committees. There was a summary of the way different member states dealt with refugees and immigrants from non-EU countries.

This workshop was given by Dr Mark Bell (Leicester University) and Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive Director.

The ILGA-Europe Work Programme*

An important piece of conference business was the review and agreement of the Work Programme put forward by the board. This workshop reviewed elements of the Work Programme not covered in other workshops, and discussed any amendments proposed to the draft Work Programme.

This workshop was presented by ILGA-Europe co-chair, Jackie Lewis.

*Workshops dealing with aspects of ILGA-Europe's work programme, or other formal business, were able to make recommendations to the final plenary session.

NEIL MACINNES
Secretary, Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee
14 January 2003

UNISON Scotland Delegation:

Neil MacInnes, Linda Jackson, Maggie Murphy and Jim Mearns

Appendix C

‘Recognising diversity, promoting equality'
ILGA-Europe's 24th Annual Conference concludes in Lisbon
28 October 2002

Yesterday ILGA-Europe members from 31 countries concluded a successful conference in Lisbon, Portugal. 130 participants were addressed by leading politicians from the host country and further afield.

Isabel de Castro, Leader of the Portuguese Green Party, and Jamila Madeira, Leader of the Socialist Youth Party, joined Professor Miguel Vale de Almeida (Bloco Esquerda) and Teresa Nogueira (President, Amnesty International Portugal) to deliver opening keynote speeches. A later plenary session was addressed by Joke Swiebel, the Dutch socialist MEP, Rapporteur on Human Rights and Chair of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Intergroup at the European Parliament, and by Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mr Schieder, who was also Patron of the conference, presented certificates of appreciation to four campaigners who had taken landmark cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Jeff Dudgeon, Alecos Modinos, Joao Mouta and Philippe Fretté were applauded by the conference for their courage in pursuing legal actions against discrimination by their respective governments on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

The conference theme of 'Recognising Diversity, Promoting Equality' was reflected in a broad range of workshops. As well as developing ILGA-Europe's plans for the years ahead, conference participants took a special look at issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Muslims. Other workshops explored LGBT issues in the Iberian Peninsula, Eastern Europe and in the trades' union movement.

Speaking after the conference, ILGA-Europe's Executive Director Ailsa Spindler said "The success of this conference is a tribute to the commitment of the participants, the expertise of the speakers, and the support of the Portuguese LGBT community. The fight for equality throughout Europe has never been more important, as the European Union enlargement process moves on. Both existing Member States and candidate countries must realise that LGBT rights are fundamental human rights."

The conference received financial support from the European Community, the Open Society Institute, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Berlin), Pink Cross (Switzerland) and COC Haaglanden. Local support and sponsorship from Saga Travel, MuitaFruta.com and other local businesses, together with assistance from host organisation Opus Gay, helped to make the conference a great success. Next year's ILGA-Europe conference will be in Glasgow in October.

© ILGA-Europe, 2002. Webmaster: Olivier Collet.

Appendix D

 Speech by Peter Schieder,
President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

at the ILGA Conference
"Recognising Diversity, Promoting Equality"

(Lisbon, 25 October 2002)

When I was elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nine months ago, I declared that the protection of lesbian and gay rights would be one of my priorities in office. There were two simple reasons for such a decision.

Firstly, while Europe as a whole has seen some improvement in the treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people in recent years, progress has been uneven and in some countries it is still practically non-existent. It is a sad truth that, even today in Europe, people continue to be discriminated against on the ground of their sexual orientation.

Secondly, in their struggle to defend and expand their rights, lesbians and gays have had to rely almost exclusively on themselves. There has been a persistent, and almost generalised, lack of commitment, to recognise and defend their rights as an integral part of human rights. I believe it is high time that Europe's lesbians and gays receive greater support from institutions mandated to protect equality and human rights at national and European level. I certainly intend to do my utmost to make sure that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe as a whole meet their responsibilities in this regard.

This being said, one must not forget that rhetoric alone is not enough - it is long on the feel-good factor, but short on any practical effect. I came here to Lisbon with a simple and clear objective: to express my strong support for the protection of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, to inform you of the recent work of the Assembly and the Council in this regard, but also, and most importantly, to discuss with you concrete proposals for the future - who shall do what, and when.

The record of the Council of Europe in the past two decades is a mixed one. On one hand, it was the first international body to speak up and act to protect the rights of lesbians and gays. On the other hand, this progress - crucially important though it is - was built through a succession of small and timid steps, which did not always apply principles to the full, and which often sought to placate persistent homophobic attitudes within some member states.

In spite of this, the progress made has been considerable, and it should largely be attributed to the European Court of Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly.

The Court and, in the past, also the European Commission for Human Rights, handed down a series of ground-breaking judgments, recognising that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was a violation of fundamental rights, and gradually expanding this general principle to areas such as employment and child custody.

The decisions of the Court are of the greatest importance because they oblige changes in national legislation which is found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the Parliamentary Assembly we do not only aim to change laws, we also try to change attitudes. The Assembly brings together parliamentarians from different backgrounds and of different political persuasions. Their views reflect the predominant opinions within their part of the electorate, be they progressive or conservative, tolerant or marred with prejudice. In the debating chamber in Strasbourg they express themselves freely, but they do so against the background of the principles that our Organisation was set up to defend. This is our best chance to move things forward, but one should not expect miracles. It is always difficult to change people's views, and it takes time.

Yet the Assembly has made steady progress. In 1981 it adopted its ground-breaking Recommendation 924 on discrimination against homosexuals, which condemned the continuous discrimination against and oppression of homosexuals and recommended that Council of Europe of governments take a number of concrete steps, including applying the same age of consent as for heterosexuals and ensuring equal treatment with regard to custody rights for children.

While from today's point of view the language and objectives of the recommendation may seem outdated and inadequate, its importance at the time should not be underestimated.

More recently, in year 2000, the Assembly adopted two texts - the first one on the general situation of lesbians and gays in the Council of Europe and the second one on their and their partners' situation in respect of asylum and immigration in our member states.

Both recommendations are openly critical of the insufficient legal protection given to gay and lesbian rights in many Council of Europe member states, and they clearly state a number of principles revealing the extent of the change in the Assembly's thinking since 1981.

To fully appreciate the importance of this change one must recall that in 1981 the Council of Europe had twenty-one member states, all from the western part of the continent. In the year 2000, it had twenty more. Our unequivocal condemnation of any form of discrimination, our calls for an equal age of consent, for the formal recognition of homosexual partnerships, for an explicit reference to sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights - these were messages which were sent to the Europe as a whole.

The educational role of the Assembly in this field may be oriented towards the long term, but it is important.

We are consistently expanding the boundaries of human rights and paving the way for further progress achieved through the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the actions of member states' governments.

In addition, the Assembly has imposed a number of legislative changes on countries acceding to the Council of Europe. Respect for these obligations is closely scrutinised through the Assembly's monitoring procedure. Romania is an example of the concrete and positive results of the Assembly's action.

On the other hand, I personally regret the fact that in our September debate on the accession of Yugoslavia, an amendment calling to repeal from the internal legislation all provisions discriminating against homosexuals, failed to obtain the necessary majority. However, the reason for the failed vote should not be attributed to homophobia - even if some comments made in the hemicycle were absolutely unacceptable - but rather to the lack of information.

I am certain that a proper and early briefing on the situation in the country could have helped to avoid this situation. The absence of a specific reference does not mean that we shall accept the presence of discriminatory provisions in the legislation in our 45th member state. This issue will be dealt with through Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights which the Belgrade authorities are obliged to sign upon accession and ratify within a year after.

Turning to the future, there are two major issues that have not yet been covered by Assembly texts: full legal recognition of same-sex couples by the state, including the right to marry, and the right to be considered for the adoption of children.

I personally see no reason why people of the same sex should not be allowed to marry. I also believe that what children awaiting adoption really need is love, care and protection from responsible adults.

In the world today, some are lucky to find new parents, many do not. They become victims of prejudice and hypocrisy paraded as concern.

This being said, I will not conceal from you that the Assembly remains divided on the issue of same-sex marriages and adoptions by gays and lesbians. The opponents of a more liberal approach to adoption would certainly bring up the Court decision in Fretté versus France of February this year. You will recall that the Court ruled that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the access to adoption of children by unmarried individuals did not violate Article 14, combined with Article 8. The former is a general clause on non-discrimination, the latter guarantees respect for private and family life.

It must be made absolutely clear that the Assembly is free to make recommendations which go beyond the Court's decisions, but holding an Assembly debate on this issue too quickly could bring about a vote which freezes the issue at the level of the lowest common denominator, hampering future efforts to change the status quo.

What I suggest is that we proceed steadily, by disseminating information and building support. ILGA should make a particular effort to be present in Strasbourg and use its consultative status with the Council of Europe to the full. Together with other structures representing gays, lesbians and transgendered people it should provide information and advice to rapporteurs and other members of the Assembly. I am ready to offer any assistance in facilitating such contacts and co-operation.

Finally, I believe we should pursue our efforts concerning Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

I strongly regret that, against the opinion of the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers did not include sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination prohibited by the protocol. I must also admit that I was disappointed with the governments' explanation of the decision. In my view, they have, once again, shunned their responsibilities by generating a cloud of ambiguous platitudes.

In the given circumstances we need to ensure that Protocol No. 12 enters into force as soon as possible. Our objective must be its full application in all Council of Europe member states. As of today, almost two years since the opening for signature, only two countries - Cyprus and Georgia - have ratified the protocol. Eight more ratifications are necessary before the protocol can enter into force. Fifteen Council of Europe member states - Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom - have not yet even signed it!

The second task will be to ensure that the general prohibition of discrimination contained in Protocol No. 12 is applied to all forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians, be it a discriminatory age of consent, discrimination in employment, social rights, custody rights or others.

We have our work cut out. We cannot be satisfied with our governments' proclaimed support for general principles of human rights, equality, tolerance and justice. We need to ensure they translate this support into explicit, specific, comprehensive and unequivocal commitments to protect the rights of gays and lesbians in Europe.

 

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