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Council of Europe meet in landmark discussion on gay rights

Russia attends gay equality conference after enacting hate law
Council of Europe meets to discuss gay rights for the first time.
Photo by Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe dedicated an entire day for the first time to discuss gay rights at the Palais de l’Europe on Tuesday (27 March).

Ministers came together in Strasbourg, France to discuss their recommendations on how gay equality can be achieved in all 47 member states.

It coincides with the United Nations debate held in early March, as representatives from countries around the globe met to discuss gender identity and sexual orientation.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: ‘Prejudice, discrimination and discriminatory laws towards LGBT persons constitute a violation of basic human rights and have no place in today’s Europe.

‘Progress is still needed throughout our continent for the promotion and protection of the human rights and dignity of LGBT persons.

‘This is not a minor question: discrimination faced by LGBT persons is still widespread, often considered to be justified; and frequently involves physical as well as psychological harm for those targeted. There is no excuse and no room for complacency.’

At the conference, UK Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone announced the UK will be joining the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Finland in financing the new LGBT Unit within the Council of Europe.

David Chalmers, director of gay international human rights charity, Kaleidoscope Trust, said: ‘We have a lot of work to do here in Europe to achieve equality for our LGBT citizens and ensure that everyone’s human rights are respected and protected equally.’

The event was also attended by representatives from Russia, where gay hate laws have been introduced, famously in St Petersburg. The laws make it an administrative offence to engage in any ‘propaganda’ that gives minors the idea ‘traditional and non-traditional relationships are socially equal’.

The law has faced criticism from many rights activists, including pop star Madonna who said she would speak up for the gay community at her concert in St Petersburg this August.

The new LGBT Unit will monitor how member states are implementing the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to combat discrimination.  

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