ILGA-Europe applauds the inclusion of gender identity in Eurobarometer 2012
A special edition of the Eurobarometer on Discrimination in the EU in 2012 was released yesterday during the Equality Summit in Cyprus by the European Commission. For the first time gender identity was included in the EU wide major survey.
The Eurobarometer on discrimination examines perceptions, experiences and attitudes surrounding discrimination in the EU on the grounds of ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, gender, and for the first time gender identity. Several special Eurobarometer surveys on discrimination have been conducted since 2006, the latest in 2009, and the 2012 survey repeats many other questions asked in 2009 in order to provide insight into the evolution of perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and awareness of discrimination in the European Union. The Eurobarometer is an important tool as the findings will guide the European Commission in its future policy and activities.
Gender identity – the hidden grounds of discrimination
The 2012 edition of the Eurobarometer on discrimination includes for the first time gender identity, which gives an overview on awareness towards trans people in the 27 EU member states. The main findings on discrimination on gender identity paint an image of a EU where trans people are invisible: 45% of the respondents are aware of trans people are a target of discrimination, which should be seen in a context where there are a low general awareness of trans people. The survey showed that only 7% of the respondents in EU know a trans person personally. The low general awareness of trans people in general also shows in the limited percentage of perceived, experienced and witnessed discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. The survey points out that respondents having a trans person as a friend or acquaintance are much more likely to be aware of discrimination on grounds of gender identity. While the report shows diversity in the public sphere is more accepted, the respondents reported that they would be very uncomfortable with a trans person in the highest political office. Only a person over 75 years of age (5,4) would meet more aversion than a trans person elected official (5,7) on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 “totally uncomfortable” and 10 “totally comfortable”) on EU average.
Sexual orientation still the second most perceived grounds of discrimination
Ethnic origin remains to be the most perceive grounds of discrimination in the European Union (56%), and sexual orientation is still the second most perceive grounds of discrimination together with disability (46%). Close to half of Europeans believe that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is widespread in their country. It is notable that views have not evolved in a single direction throughout Europe since the last survey in 2009. However in some countries, there have been clear improvements (for example difference from 2009: Sweden +11, Romania +11 and Latvia +10), whereas in others there is a heightened public perception that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is widespread (for example difference from 2009: Cyprus -10 and Slovakia -9).
Holding this together with the experienced discrimination, then sexual orientation is on the top with the grounds of disability (28%), and then ethnic origin (27%) out of the respondents who reported that they have been discriminated against. The results reveal that personal experience of discrimination impacts the likelihood that discrimination is perceived as widespread: the number of occasions on which people have been discriminated against plays a role. For all grounds of discrimination, the survey shows that Europeans who have experienced discrimination on multiple grounds are far more likely to view discrimination as widespread than those with no such experience. It is also notable that witnessing or hearing of someone experiencing discrimination or harassment is an important factor in explaining the extent to which Europeans believe discrimination is widespread. In total, just above a third (34%) of Europeans have witnessed discrimination or harassment, or have heard of this happening to someone. The ranking of grounds for personal experience of discrimination and having witnessed or heard of it is different. For third-party witnesses, ethnic origin is the most common grounds: 15% of respondents have witnessed or heard of this type of discrimination or harassment. Being over 55 years old and sexual orientation come second with 9% having witnessed or heard of each type. The survey points out the huge difference between countries when it comes to the percentage of respondents with gay, lesbian or bisexual friends. The EU average is 41%, but just 2% of respondents in Romania report that they have gay, lesbian or bisexual friends, and on the contrary to 79% in the Netherlands. The report show that having such friends tends to make people more aware of discrimination.
Discrimination and the economic crisis
The two last editions of the Eurobarometer included several questions that measure the extent to which the economic crisis is effecting the implementation of anti-discrimination policies and efforts. In light of the continuing economic situation, the questions on the impact of the crisis were asked again in this latest survey. The belief that policies promoting equality and diversity are regarded as less important and are receiving less funding due to the economic crisis is slightly more widespread than it was in 2009. In the 2012 survey it was reported that more than half of Europeans (54%) think that the economic crisis has adversely affected the importance and funding of policies promoting equality and diversity. In comparison then in 2009 this number was 49%, and viewing this country-by-country then it shows that public opinion has deteriorated most sharply on this issue in the Member States where the economic crisis is having the greatest impact.
In regards to sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, then the survey shows that 41% of the respondents believe the crisis is contributing to increased discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and 36% on the grounds of sexual orientation.