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22. A clear signal against homophobia.

Seminar sends a clear signal against Homophobia  
FMA Bulletin (European Parliament Former Members Association), nr. 15 (june 2006), p. 13 
On 18 May I travelled to Strasbourg to participate in a European Parliament seminar to mark International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). The seminar was organised on the basis of Parliament"s resolution on homophobia of 18 January, which called for urgent action to fight homophobia and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 
EP President Josep Borrell opened the seminar. He said that the European Parliament had always fought against discrimination of all kinds and that homophobia is a very current issue, where vigilance and action are of extreme importance.  
Jean Marie Cavada (ALDE, FR), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee, appealed for the memory of the homosexual victims of World War II to be honoured and the truth clearly stated in school textbooks. Like many participants, he drew attention to recent events in Poland and stressed that EU has to speak out forcefully as "laws not only have to be adopted but also respected." 
As far as I know, this was the first time the EP decided to organise such an event and the first time EP leaders spoke out so firmly on this issue. In the past, it was sometimes very difficult, for instance, to get formal recognition for the EP Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights or to obtain the necessary resources for hearings and conferences. For a certain number of politicians the fight against discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation was - and perhaps still is - difficult to accept as a demand of simple justice. Old taboos can be persistent.  
Recent events in a some member states, such as the banning of ‘equality marches’ or Pride Parades , the condoning of violent counter attacks and the homophobic language frequently used by leading politicians, have contributed to raising awareness. Fighting homophobic hate speech and violence has now become a question of human rights. 
"Homophobia must stop in Europe," said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights. He said the CoE had started an in-depth research into legislation and practice in the Cof E member states to ensure the rights of LGBT people are really respected. 
Michael Cashman (PES, UK) and other MEP’s said they wanted firm action against homophobia. They emphasised that the Commission and Council should not keep silent at homophobic developments in the member states. Many participants also argued for better legislation against homophobic hate crimes and violence. European institutions should eliminate homophobia in policy-making, i.e. integrate LGBT human rights in all relevant dossiers. 
For me, this short trip to Strasbourg was also a sentimental journey. It was good to meet again old friends. It was strange to experience that frantic Strasbourg MEP-routine once more. But the best thing was to witness the giant leap forward the fight for LGBT human rights has made in the European Parliament. As a political issue, LGBT human rights are now firmly placed on the political agenda. The stadium of politely asking access is over.  
PES, The Netherlands (1999-2004) 
“Seminar sends a clear signal against homophobia”, in: FMA Bulletin (European Parliament Former Members Association), nr. 15 (june 2006), p. 13. Zie ook [klik hier]


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