Statement by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Mr. Eamon Gilmore at the High-Level side event of the LGBTI Core Group at the 74th UN General Assembly

74th UN General Assembly, New York

24 September 2019

Ending hate speech against LGBTI people in social and traditional media

 Words can be weapons

In social media mobbing, attacks and harassment against LGBTI persons has increased because of the anonymity internet provides. When whole groups in societies are being “mobbed” it becomes dangerous and words might hurt even more – and on a larger scale.

An effective response requires far more than prohibition of the hate speech. The use of counter-narratives and the need to speak out against intolerance brings to bear the considerable power of freedom of expression to combat violence that LGBTI people face all over the world.

In the Words of the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini in April 2019 at the European Parliament: “no person should be punished for loving someone. That can never be interpreted as a crime”.

The EU is fully committed to fighting all forms of discrimination, including the ones against sexual minorities, and defending the full enjoyment of human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI) as they are challenged in too many countries worldwide. This is a priority within the human rights agenda of the EU.

To protect sexual minorities against discrimination, the Council adopted in 2013 EU guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people in order to provide EU institutions and Member States with guidance using a case-by-case approach to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons within its external action. This has been strengthened by recent adoption (spring 2019) of the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-Discrimination that reinforces the EU commitments to promote human rights for all.

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is the most common issue facing LGBTI persons. Discriminatory legislation, policies and practices can be found in the workplace and in the public sphere, specifically regarding access to health care and education. It includes in many occasions issues of bullying and other forms of exclusion.

EU external action is guided by the EU Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. The EU uses a combination of political and human rights dialogues with third countries, as well as awareness raising activities and financial assistance to projects, in order to accompany their implementation. The recent adoption of the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-Discrimination even reinforces the EU LGBTI Guidelines.

We need concrete support for affected individuals and groups, so let me focus on actions we have taken in defence of LGTBI persons:

The European Union will continue to address LGTBI discrimination and violence by:

  1. Defending an enabling environment through political and policy dialogue with partner countries.
  2. Opposing through public and private messaging situations where human rights of LGTBI person are under attack, in particular in response to hate crime.
  3. Improving our analysis and report on threats to LGTBI persons thought the inclusion of non-discrimination as a component of our human rights and democracy country strategies. More than 32 strategies have identified LGTBI rights either as a priority for action or as an issue of concern.
  4. Promoting stronger partnership with local organizations working on the human rights of LGBTI persons e.g. by hosting debates/seminars on relevant issues including LGBTI aspects and speakers and by endorsing cultural events, conferences, or social projects.
  5. And AS we are all together here today relentlessly supporting the principles of equality and non-discrimination in UN fora.

All of these policy actions are also supported by funding. We are among the top 5 donors worldwide in providing support to LGBTI civil society organisations. Over the last 5 years, 16 projects have been implemented by civil society organizations for an amount of € 5.2 million in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe

In 2018 we launched a specific call for proposals (€10 M) to support security and protection from threats of LGTBI organisations; build their capacities and in particular address the needs of grassroots and nascent movements encouraging the creation of alliances and networks.

An area that we consider as a best practise is providing support to strategic litigation, and empowering LGTBI organisation to create positive counter narratives on social media.

I am looking forward to ideas and suggestions on how to achieve effective and concerted policy responses to ensure that LGTBI Persons are empowered instead of being attacked.

Thank you