LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

February 2021

Annual Review 2021 was published, Turkey stepped up its attacks, activists created a Twitter storm, and much more...

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No. 305. February 2021. In this issue...




Equality and non-discrimination


Freedom of association

Human rights defenders

Notice board


Annual Review 2021 finds that LGBTI people and communities have been pushed to the brink

On 16 February, ILGA-Europe published their 2021 edition of the ‘Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People’ report. Reporting from every country in Europe and Central Asia, it is a glaring clarification that progress which has been taken for granted is not only increasingly fragile, but particularly vulnerable to exploitation by anti-human rights forces. We see a stark rise in abuse and hate speech against LGBTI people; many of whom became vulnerable to homelessness have been forced to move back into hostile family and community situations.
Read more about the report on our press release.
Download your free copy of the report.

LGBTI Enlargement Review published

On 22 February, ILGA-Europe alongside the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA), published their documentation of developments in the recognition and respect for the human rights of LGBTI people in each EU accession country during 2020. ILGA-Europe and ERA, have worked with our member organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, to compile the annual LGBTI Enlargement Review.
Read more about the report.
Download your free copy of the report.



Finland violated rights of a lesbian mothers’ child by rejecting his asylum application, UN finds

On 5 February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found that Finland failed to consider the best interests of the child of a lesbian couple when rejecting his asylum request, and to protect him against a real risk of irreparable harm when the family had no other choice but to return to Russia. It is the first asylum-related case from the UN system involving a child who is facing specific risks on the grounds of his mother’s sexual orientation. The Committee’s decision was informed by a third-party intervention submitted jointly by ILGA World, ILGA-Europe, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Child Rights International Network (CRIN) and NELFA.



Turkmenistan has announced plans to decriminalise same-sex relations

In February the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released Turkmenistan’s State Report within the 3rd cycle of reporting under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For the first time in Turkmenistan’s history the report included LGBTI related language. In their report the Turkmen Government noted about “plans to revise their Criminal Code and intent to reconsider the reasoning of the article criminalising consensual same-sex relations” and “study the option of introducing anti-discrimination legislation”. Independent experts and media do not believe there is real intent behind the claims.

Equality and non-discrimination

European Parliament supports measures to combat inequalities on in-work poverty

On 11 February, the European Parliament adopted a report on reducing inequalities with a special focus on in-work poverty. The COVID-19 has exposed LGBTI people to high socioeconomic vulnerability, in particular LBTI women, trans and intersex people. The EP report on in-work poverty recognizes this, and calls for more research on it and policy responses.

LGBTI activists create a Twitter storm for EU infringement procedures against Poland

ILGA-Europe launched an-hour long Twitter Storm demonstration on February 11, calling on the European Commission to take infringement procedures against Poland, making the Polish-based hashtag #infringementNOW trend. An online action, created by ILGA-Europe in association with the Polish LGBTI rights organisation Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), has been supported by many politicians, MEPs, diplomats, political party groups, NGOs and human rights defenders from all around the EU and the world.

European Parliament calls on Kazakhstan to guarantee the human rights of LGBTI people

On 11 February, the European Parliament issued a resolution on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan. Over the last year LGBTI people in Kazakhstan have continued experiencing discrimination, including attacks on LGBTI human rights defenders. The European Parliament noted about the discriminatory norms that were adopted last year, limiting trans persons’ right to legal gender recognition. The Resolution insists respecting the rights of LGBTI people, calls to guarantee the principle of anti-discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, recommends to train law enforcement and service providers so to ensure that LGBTI people are given appropriate care and protection.



The shocking state of LGBTI children’s rights in Europe

Children should be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. However, LGBTI children and young people still face widespread discrimination and exclusion all across Europe. The COVID-19 crisis is making them more vulnerable to abuse and marginalisation. ILGA-Europe sumarrised the reasons behind this shocking state of LGBTI children’s rights in a blog post.

European Court must rule in favour of a child at risk of statelessness

On 9 February, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held a hearing on the case of a same-sex couple who were refused a birth certificate in Bulgaria for their newborn daughter. The authorities claimed that a same-sex couple cannot be registered as parents on the birth certificate. ILGA-Europe have been supporting Bulgarian LGBTI rights organisation, Deytsvie in bringing the case forward and is, through their campaign #parentswithoutborders, raising awareness of the lack of protection of same-sex parents and their children within the EU. The CJEU Advocate General opinion is expected on 15 April.
Read more about the case.
Support the case by joining the #ParentsWithoutBorders campaign online.


Freedom of association

Kyrgyz Parliament’s draft Constitution includes new obstacles for LGBTI people

The Kyrgyz Parliament released the draft Constitution for public discussion on 9 February, which if adopted, will include two norms that would backlash on LGBTI people. One of them states that “any public events, which might harm children, will be prohibited”. Another novice obligates CSOs to additional scrutiny by the state. The parliament in Kyrgyzstan have previously had several attempts to limit rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, but were later withdrawn due to public opposition. The newly drafted Constitution also contains vague principles of “moral and traditional values” and retains the norm that “marriage is between a man and a woman”.

Council of Europe’s Expert Council calls upon Russia not to adopt planned amendments to legislation affecting NGOs

On 19 February, the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe published an opinion examining the compatibility with European standards of the main changes in recently adopted and planned legislative provisions with respect to the functioning and activities of NGOs in Russia. “What is now at stake is whether the public space in Russia leaves room not only to [those] whose views are favourably received… but also ensures the fair and proper treatment of others and avoids abuse of a dominant position.”


Human rights defenders

Turkish government steps up its attacks on LGBTI+ citizens

On 5 February, ILGA-Europe issued a statement calling on Turkey’s President Erdoğan to guarantee the fundamental rights of all minorities without discrimination. Over the past month in Turkey, both government and government-supported has stepped up its systematic attacks on and defamation of LGBTI+ people. The step-up in governmental anti-LGBTI+ rhetoric comes as academic staff and students at Boğaziçi University have been protesting the appointment of the University’s new Rector, Melih Bulu, by President Erdoğan. (Photo: BULGBTİ+)

Free VPN for digital rights defenders

The EngageMedia has partnered with a public virtual private network (VPN) service to distribute free VPN vouchers to other human rights organisations, digital rights defenders, journalists, and activists. Each voucher can be redeemed for a one-year subscription to a VPN account that allows for unlimited data usage.


Notice board

Digital Freedom Fund is calling for proposals to support strategic litigation on digital rights

The Digital Freedom Fund launched their revised grantmaking process and will accept grant applications for the full month of March, starting Monday, 1 March, with a final deadline of 31 March. Another call for proposals will follow later in the year. The grantmaking process aims to support strategic litigation on digital rights in Europe that contributes to advancing human rights in the digital context.
Read more and apply.

The online conference ‘Workplace Equality 2021’ is taking place on 18-19 March

The ‘Workplace Equality 2021’ conference is part of the project ‘Work Equality for All!’ implemented by a coalition of organisations in Croatia and the Netherlands, aiming to contribute to creating a safe and friendly environment for LGBTIQ+ employees and employment seekers in Croatia. The programme features speakers from civil society organisations including ILGA-Europe, companies and policy-makers from across Europe and is a space to exchange good practices and network.
Register for the online conference.

ILGA World is seeking a consultant to assess on the accessibility of their communications

ILGA World is seeking a consultant to undertake an assessment on how our communications are accessible for people with disabilities, and advise on an action plan on how to improve them. LGBTI D/deaf and disabled people; lesbian and bisexual women; intersex persons; trans, gender-diverse, and non-binary persons; and persons from the Global South are especially encouraged to apply.

TGEU is searching for graphic designers to layout their new publications

Transgender Europe has a call for offers from individual graphic designers or design teams to layout the publications. The offers should include a short letter of interest, including contact details of two references; portfolio/samples of your previous layout and graphic design work; and financial offer. TGEU encourages applications from trans, gender-diverse and intersex people, Black, indigenous and Latinx people and people of colour, D/deaf and disabled people, people with a migrant background, and sex workers.



We would like to correct information from the Rainbow Digest January 2021 edition, which you received last month. The news article with the headline "BBC Persian is accused of promoting LGBTI-phobic content" had an incorrect link. Please find the correct full version of the news at We apologise for this error.