Gays 'afraid to show sexuality' in Europe

Homophobia is still rampant in Europe despite law changes, rights agency warns

Two-thirds of Europe's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are still afraid to show their sexuality in public, and a quarter have been victims of physical or verbal attacks, a European Union report says.

"Fear, isolation and discrimination are everyday phenomena for the LGBT community in Europe," wrote Morten Kjaerum, director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, in the report released for the International Day Against Homophobia.

The online survey questioned about 93,000 people in the EU's 27 member states plus Croatia, which is to join the bloc in July.

Just more than a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents said they had been physically or verbally assaulted during the past five years.

Transgenders suffered particularly, with 28 per cent saying they had been attacked or threatened more than three times in the past year because of their sexuality.

Some respondents said even in countries traditionally considered to be tolerant, attitudes were worsening. In the Netherlands, the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2001, almost 20 per cent of those taking part said they felt discriminated against when going to sport clubs or hospitals, looking for an apartment, going out at night or dealing with banks. The average figure across Europe was 32 per cent.

Many said they were afraid to go to the police, including in France where the beating of a gay couple last month hit headlines after pictures of the bloodied face of one of the victims spread across social media.

EU Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding said the report showed "that things are not going right. The legislation in place in members' states is not really applied in practical terms."

About 300 politicians and experts met in The Hague yesterday to discuss measures to fight homophobia within the EU.


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