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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 24, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 21
Europe not so Gay-friendly, EU poll shows
Section One
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Europe not so Gay-friendly, EU poll shows

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has released a new survey documenting anti-Gay discrimination in Europe.

Based on data collected form 93,000 people in EU member states, plus Croatia, which is about to join the EU, the report was released at FRA's annual conference at The Hague, Netherlands.

According to the survey, an astonishing 26% of respondents - and 35% of Transgender respondents - said they had been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years.

Most of the hate crimes documented in the FRA report took place in public and involved more than one attacker. Most attackers were male, victims said. More than half of the victims did not report the incident to the police because they did not believe any action would be taken.

Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the FRA's equality and citizens' rights department, told BBC News that he could not be sure whether the reported level of anti-Gay crime had increased because of a lack of past data.

BIAS STILL RAMPANT
Physical assaults were not the only problem, the survey's respondents said.

Half the respondents reported that they felt they had been targets of discrimination during the previous year, but 90% of them said they did not report the discrimination. Twenty percent of Gay or Bi respondents and 29% of Transgender respondents said they had suffered discrimination in their workplaces or when looking for work.

Poorer and younger respondents were more likely to face discrimination due to their sexual orientation, the survey found. Two-thirds of the survey's respondents said they had tried to hide their sexual orientation in school.

The survey was commissioned in 2007, the same year the FRA was created, after EU member states granted the Union new powers to tackle discrimination.

Despite the findings of the survey, Dimitrakopoulos said there seems to be a 'pattern across Europe whereby things seem to be improving for the younger generation.'

'From circumstantial evidence, it is possible to say that the situation has improved, both in legal terms and in people's perceptions,' he argued.

MORE ACTION DEMANDED
LGBT rights activists welcomed the report but called for stronger legal action by the EU to address the issue.

ILGA-Europe, which released its own annual evaluation of LGBT rights in Europe on May 16, told the BBC that a comprehensive EU Anti-Discrimination Directive drafted by the European Commission in 2008 had yet to be approved by EU leaders.

'It has been a huge disappointment, like we're not part of society,' Swiss activist Marloes Schoonheim said.

ILGA's report found 'little legislative progress towards protecting LGBTI people from discrimination in accessing goods and services.'

ILGA communications manager Juris Lavrikovs noted that homophobic political rhetoric is increasing across Europe.

'Look how easily political opinion is being manipulated in Europe, how certain rhetoric can provoke violence, and it is very easy for people to go back into the closet,' he said.

'Look at France, which used to be considered a very liberal, very open country. Now it is scary for a Gay couple to walk hand-in-hand in Paris because of the increase in violence.'

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