“Sick, madness” - these are just some of words that has been used for years to identify all people who are attracted by same sex persons or felt to be in the wrong body, the lgbti community. That lack of sensitivity has lead most of the countries worldwide to make a change and try to protect the dignity of homosexuals, lesbians, intersex, transgender, giving them the rights to live as all the other human beings. But as life teaches, reality goes beyond purposes. Although immense progress has been made, some countries are still really far from that goal. On 15 December 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and a few days after a 90-year-old woman living in Uk has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19, the hungarian president Orban adopted a law that prevents same sex couples from adopting. Therefore, the Hungarian parliament has added an amendment to the constitution declaring "the mother is a woman and the father is a man".
Some months before this law was signed, the president prohibited trans people from changing names on their documents. But Hungary is not the only state where gender change and homosexuality are not fully accepted. For instance, following Human Dignity Trust map worldwide still 72 states criminalise same sex act or any other form of gender expression. But life is not easy also for those living where these acts aren’t criminalised by law. A deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitude exposes many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of all ages to egregious violations of their human rights, especially in those european states where conservatives law attack their rights, as Hungary.
Being Lgbt in Italy
Coming out as a transgender or as a gay, a lesbian or a bisexual has always caused considerable debate worldwide. I still remember when, as a student at the university of Sassari, I met for the first time a guy seeking to change gender and being a girl. I clearly admired the way in which that person could walk through the door wearing heels, beyond all the prejudices people had against her. At that time, in 2012, in Italy, there wasn’t a law which gave the possibility for same sex couples for registered partnerships and, consequently, for a lot of other rights, as housing. Only 3 years later, in 2015, thanks to the Cirinna law, same sex couples could finally acceed to it, but not to the marriage. Over the years, things didn’t change and Italy is still the only country in the western Europe which doesn’t allow same-sex couple to marry. Probably, this is due to the fact to be under the influence of Pope and the Catholic church. Gender change was allowed since 1982.
Anyway, discrimination over homosexual and all the lgbti community appears to have declined over the years. According to the “Vox diritti” report, which analyses the conversations on social media Twitter, in the period from march till september 2020, 56% of people wrote a positive tweet toward the Lgbt community. The year before, 66% of tweets were negative.
Being Lgbt in Hungary
Talking about Orban’s state, since 2009 same sex couples can acceed to registerested partnernship. Cohabitation was recognised even before, in 1996. The law also established that it was possible for any individual to adopt, even though the preference has always been given to a married couple. In 2018, transgender people living in Hungary were legally allowed to change their gender.
However, in 2020, things have completely changed. In may 2020, only two years after it was recognised, the parliament voted to end legal recognition for trans people. That means that intersex and transgender can't change gender in their documents, even after the surgery. Just some months later, Hungary limited gay rights in the field of marriage and adoption, drafting the Hungarian constitution which defines marriage as a heterosexual act.
Same sex marriages
But Hungary is not the only place that is making life harder for same sex couple, transgender and intersex. Worldwide, only 29 states allow same sex marriages. Most of them are part of west Europe, (16) and America (9). In Asia and Africa, only Taiwan and South Africa legalised marriages. All other Eu states, except for Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovack, provide for registered partnerships. In 2020, Montenegro has become the only and first state to legalise same sex partnership, outside European Union.
In Africa and in the middle east the situation is even more difficult. Although, being homosexual has been declasified as a disease, there are still many conservatory countries that condamn people seeking to express their homosexuality. As the map shows, 72 jurisdictions still criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. Most of them are in the middle-east or in Africa. Only the French Guayana, in South America. In 6 countries (Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen) criminalisation is implemented with the death penalty and in 5 (in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and UAE) the death penalty is a legal possibility.
Talking about adoption, this has been recognised by only 16 out 27 european States. Most of them, except for Slovenia and Estonia, also give the right to marry. The picture appears similar worldwide. Only Israel, Groenland, Puerto Rico and French Guyana allow same sex couple to adopt a child, but not marry.
Where being part of the lgbt community is still illegal
But what about being transgender and intersex nowadays? As the research project by Human dignity trust shows, 15 countries criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people, mostly using “cross-dressing” laws. Among them, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Nigeria. Furthermore, in the Ilga report, it appears that, at least in 40 states located in Asia, Africa and America, changing gender is still not possible. In the European Union the situation is better as in 2019 Cyprus was the only place where becoming transgender was completely forbidden. However, a lot still need to be done. In fact, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia allow to make the operation but with prohibitive or uncertain requirements. As them, outside European Union, Norway and Switzerland.
Talking about changing names after the surgery, there are many and contradictory laws. Lithuania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia, for instance, allow to modify them but don’t say anything specific about transgender, so it's not clear if this is possible for everyone.
As far as we could see, Hungary isn’t the only place in Europe that still doesn't concede full rights to the Lgbt community. The risk, for those living in these areas, is to become even more exposed to a form of discrimination or harassement, when they need to show their identiy documents, in the case of transgender, but also when they are simply holding hand in the streets, in the case of same sex couples.
According to the result of a survey realized by the European Union Agency for fundamental rights, with the participation of a total of 139,799 persons aged 15 years or older who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI), especially in the east part of European Union, people felt already much more discriminated than in other parts of European Union, due to their gender and sexual orientations choices. In 2019, in Hungary 72% of the respondents avoided to hold hands. In Poland (83%), Romania (82%). Slovakia (77%) and Bulgaria (75%), Latvia (75%), Lithuania (73%), that are the only Eu states without any rules for registered partnership, the percentage were even higher. The average in Eu is 61%.
41% of the hungarian respondents also declared to avoid certain places or locations for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed due to being LGBTI. In Poland, this percentage reached 51%. Talking about work, 24% felt discriminated against in the business environment the year before the survey in Hungary. The situation is even worse in Bulgaria (29%), Cyprus (30%), Greece (31%), and Lithuania (32%). These percentages are probably expected to grow by the end of 2021, as except for Latvia, that allowed the same-sex couples to apply for paternal leave and thus to receive the paternal benefit and Lithuania, that is confident that registered partnership for same sex couples will become law before the next parliamentary election in 2024, none of the other east european countries showed any willingness to change rules in 2020. Moreover, following Hungary's lead, in July 2020, Romanian parliament approved a bill banning schools and universities from teaching gender studies.
As it has been written in the Charter of Fundamental rights, being part of European Union means also to “prohibit any form of discrimination based, in particular, on sex, race, skin color or ethnic or social origin, genetic characteristics etc…”, so why are these countries still among the members?