Euroopan neuvoston seksuaalivähemmistöihin kohdistuvan syrjinnän vastainen suositus

Lisäkommentti ulkoministeriön ihmisoikeustuomioistuimen ja ihmisoikeussopimusasioiden yksikölle (OIK-40) koskien Euroopan neuvoston seksuaalivähemmistöihin kohdistuvan syrjinnän vastaisen asiantuntijakomitean (DH-LGBT) lopullista suositusluonnosta

30.9.2009

1. Suositus merkittävä koko eurooppalaiselle LHBT-yhteisölle

Setan tavoitteena on, että ihmisoikeudet, yhdenvertaisuus ja hyvinvointi toteutuvat ihmisten arjessa riippumatta seksuaalisesta suuntautumisesta, sukupuoli-identiteetistä tai sukupuolen ilmaisusta. Toteutuessaan suositus olisi merkittävä edistysaskel seksuaali- ja sukupuolivähemmistöjen ihmisoikeuksille koko Euroopassa. Se olisi merkittävä voitto syrjinnän vastaisessa taistelussa ja edistyksellisin hallitusten välinen sopimus LHBT-oikeuksista koko maailmassa.

Koska suositukselle on odotettavissa myös vastustusta, on tärkeää, että maat, jotka kannattavat suositusta, ymmärtävät sen tärkeyden ja puoltavat sitä aktiivisesti. Seta toivoo, että Suomen edustajat ottavat tulevissa neuvotteluissa aktiivisen, suosituksen hyväksymisen tähtäävän kannan.

Seta kiittää, että Suomi nosti asiantuntijakomiteassa kantanaan esille, että myös intersukupuolisten henkilöiden kohtaama syrjintä nostetaan eksplisiittisesti esiin. Seta näkee puutteena, että lopullisessa suositusluonnoksessa intersukupuoliset henkilöt on kuitenkin edelleen jätetty ryhmänä mainitsematta.

2. Tukea suositusneuvotteluihin

Alla Setan kattojärjestön ILGA-Europen (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Euroopan osasto) huomioita suosituksen tärkeydestä sekä vastauksia muutamaan kysymykseen, joita saattaa nousta esille neuvotteluiden aikana. Ne on kirjoitettu englanniksi alkutekstien mukaisesti. Seta yhtyy näihin huomioihin ja toivoo, että ne tukevat suosituksen läpivientiä.

1. Why the Recommendation is so important

There is overwhelming evidence that in many parts of Europe lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (”LGBT”) persons remain exposed to serious levels of violence, discrimination and denial of fundamental rights.

In a recent message to all committees involved in intergovernmental co-operation at the Council of Europe the Committee of Ministers noted that

”instances of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as homophobia and intolerance towards transgender persons are regrettably still widespread in Europe”[1]

In expressing his deep concern at the situation, the Human Rights Commissioner has commented:

”…. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons continue to be confronted with discrimination, violence and prejudices in many Council of Europe member states because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as with homophobia and transphobia more generally. Many politicians, opinion leaders and religious leaders have used intolerant speech or worse, incitement to hatred.”[2]

Despite the seriousness of these concerns, there are no explicit commitments in binding international or regional human rights instruments to combat sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.[3] Even non-binding inter-state instruments containing such references are very rare[4] and there are none in respect of Europe. Indeed, any protection against discrimination on the these grounds at the European regional level derives almost entirely from cases brought by individuals against States under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The proposed Recommendation therefore is a vital and historic first step towards the development of regional human rights instruments providing explicit protection from discrimination on these grounds, and, in the words of the Committee of Ministers´ mandate, towards ensuring respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and promoting tolerance towards them.

2. Basis for the proposed draft

In preparing the draft Recommendation, the Committee of Experts has followed closely the human rights principles of the Council of Europe, and in particular, the jurisprudence of the Court. Any proposal to weaken the draft would therefore have to be justified by strong arguments based on sound interpretations of the Convention and its jurisprudence.

3. Addressing possible concerns raised by the draft Recommendation

”The draft is too long”

The draft Recommendation and its Appendix are, taken together, just under 8 pages. This is of average length for such a Committee of Ministers document.[5] Given that discrimination touches upon almost all aspects of the lives of LGBT people, the wide range of human rights issues raised, and the fact that this is the first ever Recommendation addressing these issues, its length is not by any means excessive.

”The draft addresses issues outside the remit of the Steering Committee on Human Rights (CDDH), such as criminal law and family law”

The Committee of Ministers’ mandate includes combating ”discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” and ensuring ”respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons”. The Recommendation would not be consistent with this mandate if it ignored discrimination in areas such as criminal and family law. However, it addresses these issues purely as a matter of discrimination, on a non-technical level, and guided by judgments of the Court. On this basis, it cannot be said to be dealing with these issues in a manner which is outside the mandate of the CDDH.

”The draft addresses economic and social rights, which are outside CDDH´s mandate”

* According to the Committee of Ministers mandate, the Recommendation is to address ”measures to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity”. The mandate does not set any limitation on the rights to which the discrimination relates.

* Excluding discrimination related to economic and social rights would remove from the scope of the Recommendation important areas such as employment, and access to health, housing and education. The latter is of particular importance in any long term work to meet the objectives set by the Committee of Ministers.

* The Court has found that sexual orientation discrimination in employment is an infringement of the right to respect for private life.[6] On this basis, it is arguable that a wide range of economic and social rights are protected by Article 8 + Article 14 of the Convention. Moreover, the right to education is covered in Article 2 of the Ist Protocol to the Convention.

”Paragraph 5 of the Appendix should include the proviso that measures to address ”hate speech” and other ”hate-motivated expressions” should respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

”Hate speech” and ”other hate-motivated expressions” are abuses of the right to freedom of expression, since it is the act of expressing opinions which runs counter to human rights principles, not the holding of opinions.Including a proviso regarding freedom of thought, conscience and religion in paragraph 5 would suggest that ”hate speech” and ”other hate-motivated expressions” can be justified in the name of protecting the right to thought, conscience and religion, and would therefore be inappropriate. However the need to respect the right to freedom of expression is relevant in this context, and a provision to this effect is included.

”The Recommendation should include a general provision guaranteeing the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”

If such a provision were included in the Recommendation itself, a hierarchy of rights would be implied, with those set out in the Appendix subordinated to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Perceived conflicts of rights should be settled on a case-by-case basis, and not through establishing a hierarchy. Such an approach is in conformity with the way in which Court has dealt with such issues in its case law.

”Paragraph 28 of the Appendix should include a general exception on employment for religious organisations”

As noted above, serious interferences with the possibility to obtain or keep one’s employment on the ground of sexual orientation are treated by the Court as an interference with the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the Convention. Any such interferences require particularly serious reasons by way of justification. It must be shown that they are not only suitable, but also necessary for the achievement of a legitimate aim. No blanket exception could fulfil these criteria.

Rights of same-sex partners – ”Paragraph 24 is not supported by ECHR case law”

Paragraph 24 invites member states, in countries where national legislation recognizes neither registered same-sex partnerships nor unmarried couples, to consider the possibility of providing same-sex couples with legal or other means to address the practical problems which arise from such absence of recognition. This wording imposes no obligation on member states, in recognition of the absence of an ECHR judgment on this issue. However, inclusion of an invitation along these lines is entirely consistent with the mandate of the Committee of Ministers, since the failure of national legislation to recognize same-sex couples in these circumstances is a clear form of discrimination (either direct or indirect), and can be a source of major practical problems to same-sex couples across a wide range of areas, including absence of next of kin status, family reunion, pension benefits etc.

”The Recommendation regarding assisted reproductive treatment for single women in paragraph 27 of the Appendix is not supported by ECHR case law”

While there has not been a judgment of the Court on the access by single women to assisted reproductive treatment without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the Court established in E.B. v. France that where national legislation permits single individuals to adopt children, such legislation should be applied without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. There is no reason why this principle should not apply in the analogous situation of assisted reproductive treatment.

Aija Salo
pääsihteeri
Seta ry

[1] Message from the Committee of Ministers to steering committees and other committees involved in intergovernmental co-operation at the Council of Europe on equal rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 2 July 2008 at the 1031st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

[2] Contribution of the Commissioner for Human Rights to the work of the Committee of Experts on Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (DH-LGBT) – 9 February 2009

[3] The only such agreements are at the sub-regional agreements of the EU – the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 21) and the Employment Directive. These do not however refer to gender identity.

[4] OAS resolutions in 2008 and 2009 condemn acts of violence committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity

[5] Between January 2007 and June 2009 the Committee of Ministers issued 32 recommendations, varying in length from 1 to 25 pages, and averaging 8 pages.

[6] Smith & Grady v. U.K., and Lustig-Prean & Beckett v. U.K (1999)

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