Roundup of developments at the Parliamentary Assembly's April session
Find here a summary of the developments at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's April session related to LGBTI issues.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Freedom of expression and assembly remained under the spotlight at the April Session of the Assembly. Following the conference on LGBT freedom of expression in the Warsaw Parliament in March, the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination reviewed a draft report by the General Rapporteur on LGBT issues, Håkon Haugli (Norway), on "Tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity". The draft report particularly addresses the spread of laws banning "propaganda for homosexuality", and problems with freedom of assembly. It will be presented in final form during the June session of the Assembly, when a resolution will be voted on.
In addition, Danish MP Mogens Jensen and a group of delegates tabled a Written Declaration drawing attention to the continuing violations of freedom of expression and assembly in Russia.
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Report on Turkey
A report on Turkey's performance in meeting its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe drew attention to the murder of gay men and transgender persons in Turkey. In the associated Resolution, the assembly called on Turkey to "take every step, educational measures included, to combat all forms of discrimination and adopt appropriate legal and constitutional provisions. The Assembly hopes that these reforms concerning sexual orientation and gender identity will be fully implemented, in accordance with Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity." (Paragraph 11.9 of Resolution)
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In a separate move, Swedish MP Jonas Gunnarsson and a group of delegates to the Assembly tabled a Written Declaration drawing attention to the discriminatory use of “undue provocation” provisions by Turkish courts when sentencing in cases of homophobic hate crime. They cited a recent case where the murderer of a gay man had his sentence reduced from life imprisonment to 10 years, on the basis that he was "trying to protect his honour following a sex offer". He had met his victim in a gay bar, and gone home with him of his own free will.
The April session of the Assembly saw an attempt to include in a Resolution on "violence against religious communities", recommendations which tried to place freedom of religion above other rights in areas unrelated to violence. Of particular concern were recommendations proposing unlimited "accommodation" of religious beliefs and of the "right to conscientious objection" in the public sphere in such areas as healthcare, education and the civil service. Also of concern was a recommendation which stressed the right of parents to have their children educated according to their religious beliefs, while ignoring the right of children to receive an objective, critical and pluralistic education. These recommendations were an attempt to get the assembly to make statements disagreeing with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to discrimination on grounds of religion in the public sphere against LGBT people, access to abortion, and the rights of the child in education. The draft resolution also ignored the violence which women experience on account of some religious and cultural traditions, and entirely excluded the violence experience by atheists on account of their beliefs. A coalition of NGOs working on the rights of women, LGBT people, and non-religious people put together a series of amendments to address these concerns. The great majority were adopted.
Coerced sterilisation of trans people
The Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly is preparing a report and resolution on "putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations". This includes significant attention to the question of coerced sterilisation of transgender persons. The draft resolution states unambiguously that: "Coerced, non-reversible sterilisations and castrations constitute grave violations of human rights and human dignity, and cannot be accepted in Council of Europe member states."
It goes on to recommend to member states that they:
- revise their laws and policies as necessary to ensure that no-one can be coerced into sterilisation or castration in any way for any reason
- ensure that adequate redress is available to victims of recent (and future) coerced sterilisation or castration, including the protection and rehabilitation of victims, the prosecution of offenders, and financial compensation which is proportionate to the seriousness of the human rights violation suffered
- issue official apologies and offer at least symbolic financial compensation to surviving victims of historic coerced sterilisation or castration
- work towards eliminating prejudice, stereotypes, ignorance and paternalistic attitudes which have a negative influence on the capacity of medical providers to provide evidence-based health-care respectful of free and informed consent to the vulnerable, including through awareness-raising and human rights education
The draft report and resolution were adopted unanimously by the Committee on 25 April. The Resolution will be debated and voted on at the June session of the Assembly. It promises to be an historic event.