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Saturday, 17 May 2008

Open letter from Michael Cashman re International Day against Homophobia

17 May is important, on this day in 1990 the World Health Organization [WHO] dropped homosexuality from its list of diseases. To mark this, International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) is celebrated all over the World. This day aims to highlight the rights of LGBT people worldwide, who are still deprived of their basic rights solely on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender expression.

There are still 7 countries in the world where homosexual or bisexual people are sentenced to death by the state. In Saudi-Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Mauritania, Nigeria and Sudan consenting same sex adults, who engage in sexual relationships, face the death penalty. In these countries LGBT people are deprived of their fundamental right to life.

But we do not have to look so far, even within the borders of Europe homophobia harms our fellow citizens. Pride and Equality marches which are meant to be peaceful celebrations, invoking the core European principles of tolerance and appreciation of diversity, are not recognised as a celebration of love and happiness, but are sadly seen in many countries as a threat. These marches are often a call by LGBT people to recognize their human rights. Yet too often these marches are banned by governments or local politicians. The European Court of Human Rights and other European Institutions have confirmed the rights of LGBT people to peaceful assembly, but the governments and local authorities of countries like Latvia, Poland and Lithuania, amongst others, fail to respect these rights.

In areas like housing, education, access to other goods and services LGBT people are also often experiencing discrimination on basis of sexual orientation. Taking also into account the recent rise of homophobia in Europe, there is a clear need for a horizontal Anti-discrimination Directive to protect European citizens. The [European] Commission already has the tools to do this. Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty states that the European Commission can take measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as on age, gender, religion or belief, ethnicity and disability. The European Parliament has already called upon the Commission to deliver such a directive at least six times in the past four years. Now we call for political courage from the President of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso to act accordingly.

On this day 17 May – International Day Against Homophobia – we want to express our solidarity with homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people suffering discrimination all over the world, and we want to call upon every human being of this planet "to act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood" as written in the honourable document The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On behalf of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian RightsMichael Cashman, Member of the European Parliament

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