We can only subscribe to this: ‘LGBTIQ-free zones are humanity free zones, and they have no place in our Union.’

The European Commission published the strategy for the coming five years, an unprecedented vision for and commitment to equal rights of LGBTIQ people. IndustriAll Europe fully supports the strategy and is especially happy about the prominent place given to the employment context.

According to a 2019 survey by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, 19% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, 35% of trans people and 32% of intersex people felt discriminated against at work. They experience discrimination during recruitment, in the workplace and at the end of their career. The Commission promises clearer and more encompassing implementation of existing legislation to combat this discrimination. If necessary, equality bodies shall be imposed.

Judith Kirton-Darling, industriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary: “We are happy to see that the Commission clarifies that the Gender Equality Directive that enshrines the right not to be discriminated against in the world of work on the basis of sex does also apply to gender reassignment. IndustriAll Europe would like to see here an appeal to employers to support their employees during periods of transition.”

Unfortunately, the current legal framework does not yet refer to sex characteristics as a prohibited ground for discrimination. The Commission promises to examine how non-binary, intersex and queer people can be better protected against discrimination.

Discrimination-free workplaces not only benefit workers: Diversity and inclusion are crucial to stimulating new ideas and fostering an innovative, thriving society. For example, there is a proven correlation between LGBTIQ inclusion and returns on assets, innovation and productivity. The strategy foresees guidance for Member States and businesses on enhancing trans and intersex people’s participation in the labour market. 

“If we had to point to a gap in the strategy with regard to employment, we would say: it does not look into the (self-)segregation of LGBTIQ-people in the labour market, the causes of their choice against technical or science jobs, their preference for university education above apprenticeships.” states Judith Kirton-Darling.

Free movement for all

The travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic pointed to another problem that needs remedy: the different levels of recognition of rainbow families across the EU. Partners and families encountered difficulties to have their documents and relationships legally recognised and have even been blocked at borders and being prevented from joining their families. Even in normal times, trans, non-binary and intersex people are often not recognised in law or in practice, resulting in legal difficulties for both their private and family life, including in cross border situations. Judith Kirton-Darling: “This clearly breaches EU free movement law and we welcome that the Commission will address this problem.”

Urgent activities against homophobic attacks and hate speech

With more than 33%, sexual orientation is the most commonly reported ground of hate speech. The COVID-19 crisis has led to yet higher levels of hatred, violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ people. Hate crimes are often not even reported. Negative experiences with law enforcement, fear of negative reactions and victim-blaming are the most common causes.

Judith Kirton-Darling: “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that LGBTIQ people’s everyday experience varies significantly across the EU. In general, social acceptance of LGBTI people rose from 71% in 2015 to 76% in 2019. But it went down in nine Member States. That is a worrying trend: more frequent anti-LGBTIQ incidents, attacks on LGBTIQ events, so-called declarations of ‘LGBTIQ ideology-free zone’. We can only subscribe to this: ‘LGBTIQ-free zones are humanity free zones, and they have no place in our Union.’” 

IndustriAll Europe is looking forward to supporting the European Commission in the shaping and implementation of the strategy’s elements in the years to come.

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication), Maike Niggemann (policy adviser)