After Northern Cyprus decriminalised homosexuality in 2014, Europe became the first region where homosexuality is legal in all countries. This does not mean that there is not still homophobia and persecution of LGBTI people in European countries. In 2012, in the case of Fedotova v Russian Federation, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Russia’s laws prohibiting gay ‘propoganda’ to minors violated the freedom of expression and non-discrimination provisions of the ICCPR. And there are regular reports of violence against LGBTI people in other parts of Europe.
Thus, the decriminalisation of homosexuality does not necessarily mean that the human rights of LGBTI people are being promoted and upheld. However, decriminalisation is the first step that needs to be taken. Only after homosexuality is no longer a crime, can work begin on other reform measures such as enacting anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and recognising same-sex relationships. Many European countries still have a long way to go to become nations where all the rights of LGBTI individuals are respected and protected.
3 responses to “Europe”
Your second paragraph is not actually correct, as New South Wales did enact LGBT Anti-discrimnation laws before the sodomy laws were repealed. Thus, quite a few gay men were (technically at least) criminals but at the same time could not legally be discriminated against. This situation arose because the sodomy laws had become de facto not enforced, but there was not a majority across the Parliamentary political parties to repeal the sodomy laws – yet there was a majority to support the enactment of the Anti-discrimination law.
I think this situation may arise in some of the 80 ‘recalcitrant’ countries, perhaps Kenya for example, and I suggest it would be best not to give the impression that nothing can be done about protective legislation until repeal of sodomy laws is achieved. Indeed, the AMSHeR (African Men for Sexual Health & Rights, the African regional network of gay/MSM organisations working in HIV in 17 Sub-Saharan countries), emphasises that the highest priority for them and their member organisations is equal access to services (esp. health services) through the enactment of protective legislation. Decriminalisation is an important issue – but, in their view, it is not the highest priority issue. In their view, many more gay men/MSM will die from HIV infection as the struggle for decriminalisation will take decades, whereas there are strong ethical, health and financial cases for the enactment of protective legislation. At this point the Kenyan Government is seems willing to consider this (though this view might change).
Co-Chair, Global Forum on MSM & HIV
Don, Thanks for this comment. Very interesting. I will have to rethink prioritising decriminalisation of homosexuality over enacting protective ant-discrimination legislation. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me.
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