One quarter of LGBT Europeans surveyed in a major EU poll have stated that they had been subjected to attacks or violent threats over the last five years. Those who were poorer or younger were more likely to face discrimination due to their sexuality, according to the survey.
The poll of EU and Croatia covered some 93,000 people. LGBT rights campaigners welcomed the survey, but want stronger legal action from Brussels in order to tackle the issue. According to Ilga-Europe, a comprehensive EU Anti-Discrimination Directive drafted in 2008 by the European Commission has yet to be approved.
Their own report found “little legislative progress towards protecting LGBTI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual and Intersexed people] from discrimination in accessing goods and services”.
The report found that:
East European states recorded the highest levels of homophobic behaviour
Some 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 attacks reported took place in public and were perpetrated by more than one person, with the attackers predominantly being male
More than half of those who said they had been attacked did not report the incident to the authorities, believing no action would be taken
Half of respondents said they had felt personally discriminated against in the year before the survey, although 90% did not report the discrimination
Some 20% of gay or bisexual respondents and 29% of transgender respondents said they had suffered discrimination at work or when looking for a job
Two-thirds of respondents said they had tried to hide or disguise their sexuality at school
Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), told the BBC that it was unclear if the reported level of homophobic crime was actually on the rise or if it was apparently on the rise due to a lack of past data. The survey was commissioned in 2007.
Still, Dimitrakopoulos believes that there appears to be a “pattern across Europe whereby things seem to be improving for the younger generation”. He went on to say “From circumstantial evidence, it is possible to say that the situation has improved, both in legal terms and in people’s perceptions.”
Ilga’s communications manager Juris Lavrikovs stated that economic crisis had lead to increased radicalization, which complicated the lives of LGBT people. He stated “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. 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.”
Lithuania was one of the nations that showed the worst record regarding homophobic behavior. Thomas Vytautas Raskevicius of the Lithuanian Gay League stated “Lithuania has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. We have this real feeling that a lot of suicides are connected to homophobic bullying. The authorities don’t talk about it out loud, and the daily harassment and remarks in the streets and public places is very widespread.”