On May 17, we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Thirty years ago, on May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization, in a long-awaited decision, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
This year we mark IDAHOT in difficult circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has turned our lives upside down. This has exacerbated the inequalities already faced by disadvantaged groups in society, including LGBTI people. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, in his statement before IDAHOT, highlighted that young LGBTI people, traditionally stigmatized and marginalized, are now at even greater risk of hate speech and violence, at home and in public. Social distancing and confinement can be particularly difficult for young people who have been rejected by their families or who have not come out, or who are suffering from physical or psychological abuse.
The sad fact that not all LGBTI people feel safe at home is confirmed by the findings of the new major investigation by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency this also covered Serbia. In Serbia, to the question “Where do you avoid speaking openly about your LGBTI identity, for fear of being attacked, threatened or harassed”, 34% of respondents in Serbia answered “my house” and 49% “around my family “. These indicators demonstrate the existence of the problem and the urgent need to step up efforts to further protect and promote the rights of LGBTI people – changing attitudes and sending the message that LGBTI rights are human rights, not rights special.
This year we celebrate 70 yearsth anniversary of the European convention of human rights, the key Council of Europe document which serves to promote and ensure respect for the human rights and dignity of every individual, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Yet putting these principles into practice is still a work in progress. Ten years ago, in 2010, the The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a series of recommendations help its Member States combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These recommendations constitute the first international standard to advance the human rights and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Today, these Council of Europe standards are more important than ever and we are ready to help our member states implement them.
In the Western Balkans, the Council of Europe and the European Union work together for diversity, equality and against discrimination. THE Council of Europe Office in Belgrade cooperates closely with Serbian authorities and civil society organizations to identify best practices, strengthen the protection of their civil and human rights, and thus improve the situation of LGBTI people in Serbia. Based on the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s anti-racist commission, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and as part of our efforts to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, we have put in place emergency grants to support local civil society organizations in their actions against discrimination. This is another tangible contribution of the Council of Europe to improving the situation of LGBTI people in Serbia and other Western Balkan countries and part of our consolidated effort to “Declare human rights “.