Sunday, 15 March 2015

Good news from the European Union

Heya everybody,

On the 12th of March 2015, the European Parliament voted on the EU’s report on human rights and democracy in 2013. With 390 votes in favour, 151 votes against and 97 abstentions, the parliament called for binding human rights clauses in all EU international agreements.

In its own section on LGBTI rights, the approved Motion for a European Parliament Resolution called for several issues relevant to transgender individuals. I quote this section in full, since I believe it’s a very commendable and exemplary piece of work for advancing equality and human rights.

[The European Parliament …]
  1. Considers it regrettable that 78 countries still criminalise homosexuality, including 7 which provide for the death penalty (Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, the Maldives and Brunei), and that 20 countries still criminalise transgender identities; firmly condemns the recent increase in discriminatory laws and believes that practices and acts of violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity should not go unpunished; encourages close monitoring of the situation in Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, India and Russia, where new laws or recent legal developments seriously threaten the freedom of sexual minorities; reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to combat these discriminatory laws and practices and for the UN’s work more generally on this issue;
  2. Supports the idea that the EEAS should prioritise its actions in this area and put particular emphasis on situations where the death penalty is in force and/or where LGBTI people are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, by condemning these practices in accordance with the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty and the EU Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  3. Welcomes the adoption in 2013 of the EU Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons; calls on the EEAS and the Commission to raise the issue of LGBTI rights in political and human rights dialogues with third countries and multilateral forums; emphasises the importance of the Commission and the EEAS continuing to raise the issue of LGBTI rights in political and human rights dialogues and of using the EIDHR to support organisations defending LGBTI rights by empowering them to challenge homophobic and transphobic laws and discrimination against LGBTI people, raising awareness among the general public of the discrimination and violence experienced by people of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and ensuring the provision of emergency assistance (including psychosocial and medical help, mediation and reintegration assistance) to those in need of such support;
  4. Takes note of the legalisation of same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions in an increasing number of countries – 17 to date – around the world; encourages the EU institutions and the Member States to further contribute to reflection on the recognition of same-sex marriage or same-sex civil union as a political, social and human and civil rights issue;
  5. Calls on the Commission and the WHO to withdraw gender identity disorders from the list of mental and behavioural disorders; calls on the Commission to reinforce its efforts to end the pathologisation of trans identities; encourages states to ensure quick, accessible and transparent gender recognition procedures that respect the right to self-determination;
  6. Welcomes the growing political support for outlawing sterilisation as a requirement for legal gender recognition, as expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, and supports the view that such requirements should be treated and persecuted as a breach of the right to bodily integrity and of sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  7. Welcomes the annulment in October 2013 of the Moldovan law prohibiting the ‘propagation of any other relations than those related to marriage or family’, and calls on Lithuania and Russia to follow the Moldovan example; considers regrettable the outcome of the Croatian referendum of December 2013, which endorsed a constitutional ban on equal marriage; points out that a similar referendum will take place in Slovakia in February 2015; considers it regrettable that in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a bill constitutionally banning same-sex marriage is currently being considered in parliament; stresses that such developments contribute to a climate of homophobia and discrimination; stresses that there is a strong need for improved protection of basic rights and freedoms for LGBTI people, including through legislation on hate crimes and anti-discrimination legislation, and asks national authorities to denounce hatred and violence on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; considers that LGBTI people’s fundamental rights are more likely to be safeguarded if they have access to legal institutions such as cohabitation, registered partnership or marriage;

So, what is there to say … except for hurray, yay, well done 👏!
I especially love the excellent and well thought-through wording of paragraph 163. It calls on the WHO, which is currently working on a new edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), to remove gender identity disorder from the list of mental disorders. This motion is based on a vast body of scientific evidence showing that transsexualism is not a psychological disorder. Transsexuality is a condition created by a conflict between the areas of anatomical gender, gender role and gender identity. However, it is a condition that can reduce quality of life for the affected individuals to such a degree that medical care is necessary. This means the continued inclusion of transsexualism in the ICD, under a different category than today, is warranted and required.
In addition, the de-pathologisation of gender-queer behaviour is called for. This is a humanistic and much-needed step: gender-queer behaviour causes no harm, and it’s just weird and sick and bizarre and oppressive to classify behaviour that falls outside some cultural or social norms as sick.

So, thanks for that! It’s great what the EU has done over decades in terms of human rights, environmental protection, worker’s and consumer rights, and freedom of the individual – and all that in the face of a very diverse political and cultural landscape in Europe.

Oh, and I plan to put on some new studies later!