LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

March 2021

No. 306. March 2021. In this issue...





Equality and non-discrimination


Foreign policy

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of expression

Hate crime


Legal gender recognition

Notice board


We mark International Women’s Day 2021 with a statement on gender

On 8 March International Women's Day, ILGA-Europe shared its vision of gender, which is one affirming space for everyone. With this statement, we are re-affirming our profound belief that the LGBTI movement and the women’s movement have shared and common objectives, and that we need to work together against the social norms and power structures that underpin ongoing discrimination, violence and oppression affecting us all. We are reaffirming our commitment to women’s rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights. We are making it clear that ILGA-Europe has always been and will always be firmly committed to working together across different movements to build an equal future for all who are currently marginalised and oppressed on the basis of their sex or gender.
Read more.

LGBTI activists are invited to the launch of ‘Communicating for Change’ report

Are you curious about how your communications work compares to that of other LGBTI activists across Europe and Central Asia? You are invited to register for the activist launch of ‘Communicating for Change: a communications needs assessment of the LGBTI movement in Europe and Central Asia’. LGBTI activists from Europe and Central Asia who register will receive the summary report of our communications needs assessment, available in English and Russian.
Register for the event 12:00-13:00 CEST Thursday 15 April.
Find out more about our work on strategic communications.

Listen to the new podcast episode “LGBTI communities in Europe pushed to the brink”

In the latest episode of the ILGA-Europe podcast, The Frontline, we discuss findings from our Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI people in Europe and Central Asia. In this episode, we get an overview of the stark situation from ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel. Executive Director of Transgender Europe (TGEU) talks to us about the significant growth of opposition towards trans rights across Europe; and Executive Director of ILGA-Portugal, and Marta Ramos tells us about the rise of the anti-gender movement in her country, and the ways in which LGBTI organisations have had to skew their work during the COVID-19 pandemic towards provision of basic necessities like food and shelter as many governments left LGBTI people out of their relief packages.
Listen to the episode and subscribe to The Frontline on your favourite podcast platform.
Find out previous episodes.


Uzbekistan continues to criminalise consensual same-sex conduct in the new Criminal Code

On 5 March, ILGA-Europe and 44 other human rights organisations released a call upon the President and Government of Uzbekistan, Member of UN Human Rights Council, to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct. Hopes of LGBTI people in Uzbekistan, and that of the international community, were shattered when the Prosecutor General’s Office published the final draft of the new Criminal Code on its website for public discussion. The bill retained the article penalising for consensual same-sex conduct between men without changing its substance. Moreover the article was moved under the newly created chapter on ‘Crimes against family, youth and morality’.


EU adopts new strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities

On 3 March, the European Commission presented the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 to ensure their full participation in society, on an equal basis with others in the EU and beyond. ILGA-Europe joined the European Disability Forum to welcome the EU Disablity Rights Strategy, noting the particular recognition of the specific situation of persons with disabilities experiencing multiple forms of discrimination including LGBTI people.

How the EU can create lasting change for racialised people

On 18 March, the Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice published their new paper: “Towards Racial Justice: How the EU can create lasting change for racialised people”, outlining the main institutional changes that need to take place for the EU to implement structural change for racialised communities in the EU. The report focuses on specific recommendations for change within EU institutions.

New EU Strategy on the rights of the child complements the EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy

On 24 March, the European Commission published the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child. Protecting and promoting the rights of the child is a core objective of the EU and therefore, the strategy aims to “build the best possible life for children in the EU and across the globe.” It strongly complements the EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025, committing to clear actions to end intersex genital mutilation, tackle online bullying of LGBTI youth, and improve free movement for rainbow families.


EU publishes annual reports on Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia

On 25 March, the European Parliament adopted its Annual Reports on Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia with articles relating to LGBTI rights. The report on Albania is calling for the adoption of the new LGBTI Action Plan, action to tackle hate crime and hate speech, and welcoming the ban on conversion therapy. The report on Kosovo is calling for the inclusion of same-sex partnerships in the Civil Code and proper investigation of hate crimes against LGBTI people. The report on North Macedonia is calling for action to tackle hate crime and hate speech against LGBTI people, and encouraging the adoption of LGR based on self-determination. The report on Serbia is welcoming progress on drafting a same-sex partnership law, calling for better response to hate crime/speech, and for institutional support for EuroPride 2022 in Belgrade, among others.

Equality and non-discrimination

Tajikistan to draft first anti-discrimination bill

The drafting of an anti-discriminaiton bill in Tajikistan has been recently finalised by a group of Tajik experts. According to our partner organisations in Dushanbe, the bill has been passed to Parliament for hearing. The initial draft included sexual orientation and gender identity as non-discrimination categories. Local LGBT activists reported they had allied experts in the working group who would stand by for SOGI to remain in the bill. Nevertheless, if adopted Tajikistan would be the first country in Central Asia to adopt a stand-alone anti-discrimination law.

Addressing intolerance and discrimination against LGBTI people: new publication by ECRI

On 1 March Zero Discrimination Day, the Council of Europe’s anti-racism commission (ECRI) launched a factsheet focusing on the human rights of LGBTI persons. The brand-new publication summarises their recommendations to the Council of Europe’s 47 member states since 2013. ECRI started examining discrimination and intolerance towards LGBT persons in its fifth cycle of country monitoring, which ran from 2013 to 2018 and covered all 47 member states, and towards Intersex persons in its sixth monitoring cycle, which started in 2019. (Photo by Angyalosi Beata/ through ECRI)

Turkey withdraws from the Istanbul Convention by a Presidential decree

On 20 March, Turkey announced its withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention by a Presidential decree, without debates in Parliament and society at large. The country had been the first Member State to ratify the Convention, in 2012, followed by 33 others. “It is a huge step back in protecting women and girls against violence and domestic violence,” ILGA-Europe said. “The government's blaming of the LGBTI+ community is dangerous and fuels hatred and violence against them” said ILGA-Europe on social media. We are in solidarity with the LGBTI+ community, women and girls in Turkey, and call on the Turkish government to reverse its decision to withdraw from the Convention.” (Photo by Evrensel Newspaper)


European Court will consider lack of implementation of EU law to enable freedom of movement for same-sex spouses

Almost three years after the European Court ruled that Romania must recognise a same-sex couple under EU freedom of movement legislation, its government is yet to implement the judgement. Together with Romanian LGBTI organisation ACCEPT, the couple has now taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights to address this failure of implementation of the CJEU judgement and finally get their rights recognised. In the ground-breaking Coman judgment, delivered on 5 June 2018, the CJEU clarified that the term ‘spouse’ in the EU Freedom of Movement Directive includes same-sex spouses, and that Romanian authorities must ensure that EU law is implemented equally and duly, without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation.

New report on trans parenthood and freedom of movement in the EU

On 22 March, TGEU published their report: “Stuck on the swing: experiences of trans parents with freedom of movement in the EU”. TGEU spoke with 18 trans parents from across Europe, finding that trans parents and their families face serious barriers when it comes to moving safely and freely across the European Union. The report includes messages from trans parents and a set of key recommendations to support the European Commission in fulfilling the commitments laid out in the EU LGBTQI Equality Strategy (2020-2025).

United Kingdom diverge from long-held principles on inclusive language

The UK’s Maternity Bill has been the focus of an ongoing debate in the unelected chamber this month. ILGA-Europe reacted on 1 March saying that it was “disappointed to see the United Kingdom diverge from long-held principles on inclusive language, particularly in a context of transphobic rhetoric in public/political spaces”. ILGA-Europe urged the UK government to stick to its principles and continue to ensure inclusion for all.


Foreign policy

Germany adopts LGBTI inclusion strategy in foreign policy and development cooperation

On 3 March, the Federal Government of Germany adopted its LGBTI Inclusion Strategy to promote the inclusion of LGBTI rights in foreign policy and development cooperation. ILGA-Europe welcomed this commitment to human rights of LGBTI people and applauded the activists who have worked for it. “An internal national Action Plan should be the next step,” said ILGA-Europe.


Freedom of assembly

Record number of participants at the Women’s March in Almaty

On 8 March International Women’s Day, Kazakhstan saw a record number of participants in a women's march in the centre of Almaty city. For the first time Women’s march was sanctioned by local authorities unlike previous years. Kazakhstan still retains a discriminatory provision containing a list of nearly 230 professions prohibited for women. ILGA-Europe member organisation, Feminita has been advocating to lift this ban and ensure equal rights for women to choose their own career. Lesbian, bisexual, and queer women also joined the march openly displaying LGBTI symbols, which is a breakthrough in a very patriarchal and conservative Kazakhstani society. Over the years feminist groups have fought and fallen victims of police brutality and LGBTI-phobic attacks for their initiatives to hold peaceful marches in Almaty. Hence this year’s Women’s march is a success story. (Photo: informburo/Almaz Toleke)

Freedom of expression

LGBTI rights defenders were acquitted from the charge of “offending religious beliefs” in Poland

On 2 March, three activists Elzbieta, Anna and Joanna were acquitted from the charge of “offending religious beliefs” for posting posters depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo in Poland. The verdict is not final and the prosecutor's office has already announced an appeal. The authorities arrested and detained Elżbieta in 2019 after she took a trip abroad with Amnesty International. The authorities opened an initial investigation against her in May 2019, and in July 2020 they officially charged the three activists. (Photo by KPH)

The EU an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone? The ambition is right, but the reality is very different

On 11 March, in response to the proliferation of over 100 so-called ‘LGBT-Free zones’ in Poland, the European Parliament voted and declared the EU an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone”. In our press release, ILGA-Europe said much work needs to be done to align the resolution with the truth of LGBTI people’s lives in Europe. According to Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe: “Now that the EU is an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone, we need to see all actors using the full range of tools at their disposal to ensure that respect of LGBTIQ rights is guaranteed. Otherwise there is a big risk of losing credibility”.

Hate crime

LGBT-phobic mob and violence in Uzbekistan

On 28 March, nearly 100 men took to the main square in Uzbekistan’s capital city of Tashkent chanting religious slogans, following violent attacks against perceived LGBT people. This happened in response to a public gathering of anime and K-Pop fans the day before, which was initiated by a famous blogger Miraziz Bazarov who has been actively speaking up on LGBT rights and decriminalisation of same-sex conduct. The protesters on Sunday claimed that Bazarov's gathering was an “LGBT event”. Police intervened the protest and detained 12 people accusing them of violent attacks. Miraziz Bazarov was severely beaten and hospitalised on the same day. Police victim-blamed Bazarov, stating that he provoked the disturbances in Tashkent with his blogs. Amid these events, MP Alisher Kadirov made a statement that Article 120 should be further expanded to allow “stripping LGBT people of their citizenship and their deportation from Uzbekistan”.

Key guiding principles on encouraging reporting of hate crime in the EU

On 29 March, the European Commission published key guiding principles on encouraging reporting of hate crime. The key guiding principles aim to help Member States build the capacity of relevant authorities to ensure the implementation of legislation related to hate crime and to the protection of victims of hate crime. The principles aim to provide a framework that can guide Member States to remove barriers to reporting, and put in place enabling structures and processes that support the effective reporting of hate crimes.


Portugal ends the exclusion of LGBTI people from donating blood

On 19 March, Portugal’s Directorate-General for Health updated rules on blood donation, based specifically on behaviours, not on sexual orientation or gender identity. Previously, the forms and practices centered a concept of “risk group”, which excluded LGBTI people from donating blood. There is more work to do, to ensure non-discrimination against sex workers and people who use drugs.

Legal gender recognition

The Hungarian Constitutional Court partially annulled rules prohibiting legal gender recognition

On 12 March, the Hungarian Constitutional Court annulled the provision of the Registry Procedure Act introduced by Section 33, which contained that the new rules prohibiting legal gender recognition shall also be applied to ongoing proceedings. The decision only applies to the ongoing proceedings, so whoever has not previously applied for legal gender recognition, still has no right to do so. ILGA-Europe member organisation Háttér Society will pursue litigation in order for the Constitutional Court to declare the entire Section 33 unconstitutional.

“We are deeply concerned by opposition to draft legislation in Spain which allows LGR based on self-determination”

The debate regarding reform of legal gender recognition in Spain has been vigorous this past month. On 10 March, the Federación Plataforma Trans launched a hunger strike to call for movement toward reform. Following calls from members and the trans community, on 18 March, ILGA-Europe wrote to the Spanish government to say we are deeply concerned by opposition by one of its coalition parties to draft legislation, which allows legal gender recognition on the basis of self-determination, and the anti-trans discourse that is arising from it.

“We urge the German government to take action on the legal gender recognition reform”

On 19 March, together with TGEU and IGLYO, ILGA-Europe sent a joint letter to the German ministers working on the legal gender recognition reform. In our letter, we urge the German government to take action before the end of the legislative period and to bring forward a proposal based on human rights, self-determination, depathologisation and compliant with children’s rights standards.

Scottish court ruling re-affirms a fundamental point: trans women are women

On 23 March, trans equality charity Scottish Trans Alliance welcomed a court decision ruling that Scottish Government acted lawfully in including trans women in an equal opportunities measure to improve women’s representation on public boards. Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans manager said, “This is an important decision: clearly stating that this equal opportunities measure for women that explicitly includes trans women in line with how they live their lives did not breach the law." (Photo by The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service)

Notice board

ILGA World seeks a Conference Support Intern

This internship is a great opportunity for somebody who has an interest in human rights and LGBTI issues and wants to gain experience in working for an international human rights organisation that represents LGBTI organisations, communities and movements on a global stage. It is aimed at LGBTI human rights activists who are at an early stage of their career. The intern will receive a compensation of CHF 750 per month for the duration of the internship and no relocation to Geneva or Los Angeles is expected.
Read more and apply by 8 April.

IGLYO is looking for a Programmes Officer

The Secretariat of IGLYO is looking for a Programmes Officer with duties including designing and facilitating a series of capacity building events, addressing learning needs of young LGBTQI activists, organising and coordinating events. IGLYO particularly welcomes applications from women, trans, and non-binary people, individuals from black communities, other communities of colour and ethnic minorities, and those who are under 30 years old.
Read more and apply by 5 April.

Astraea seeks a Program Officer to sustain their Intersex Human Rights Fund

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice seeks a Program Officer to sustain their Intersex Human Rights Fund (IHRF) and join their Program Team. Astraea offers a competitive salary and benefits for this position, including resources for professional development. The annual compensation range is $65,000 – $70,000. This is a remote position and candidates can be based in any part of the world. US work authorisation is not required.

Survey on how to help people cope with terrorist attack

Victim Support Europe (VSE), the European umbrella organisation advocating on behalf of all victims of crime, invites you to take their online questionnaire about raising awareness on what to do in a terrorist attack. With your help, VSE will develop materials that can be used around Europe and globally, to increase awareness – to help keep people safe and help people to cope. This survey is anonymous and takes 10-15 minutes to complete. It is open to citizens worldwide who are 18 or over.