Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee
Report to Scottish Council - January
Lisbon 23 October - 27 October 2002
Recognising Diversity, Promoting Equality
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
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:
- 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
- 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"
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
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).
1 UNISON Scotland participate in the 2003 ILGA Europe Conference
in Glasgow by sending 4 delegates to attend on a residential
Costings have been supplied as following:
ILGA CONFERENCE 2003
Registration & Accommodation: 4 x 600E=2400E* £1440.00
Subsistence: 4 x 5 nights @ £29.50 570.00
*Based on the cost for 2002 (plus 2%).
- UNISON Scotland makes initial investigations into sponsoring
a delegate from a trade union in one of the eastern European
states to attend the conference.
Secretary - Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Workshops and 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
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
- 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
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.
Implementing protection from workplace discrimination at the
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
- Summarised the European Court of Justice case referred to
- 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).
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
- By supporting the development of LGBT groups within trade
- By negotiating for LGBT equality with employers.
- By monitoring both best and worst practice.
- By supporting and representing members' where their rights
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
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
From the Convention on the Future of Europe to the Inter-governmental
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
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
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
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
Transnational Exchange Projects*
The EU's Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination
£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
- 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
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.
- 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
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
Developing legal protection in areas other than employment
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.
- Outlined the findings of the policy paper.
- Discussed ILGA-Europe's plans for the campaigning for such
The workshop was given by Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive
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.
- 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.
Secretary, Scottish Lesbian and Gay Committee
14 January 2003
UNISON Scotland Delegation:
Neil MacInnes, Linda Jackson, Maggie Murphy and Jim Mearns
‘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
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'
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
In the world today, some are lucky to find new parents, many
do not. They become victims of prejudice and hypocrisy paraded
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
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.