Europe as a beacon of LGBTI rights can use soft power for global effect

EP President Metsola, Terry Reintke and Mark Angel reaffirm Europe's commitment to equality on the International day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)

MEPs Terry Reintke, Roberta Metsola, and Marc Angel
MEPs Terry Reintke, Roberta Metsola, and Marc Angel

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola described the European Union as a beacon for LGBTI rights, where such rights saw the biggest leap in terms of legislative and societal changes.

In conversation with MEPs Mark Angel (S&D, Luxembourg) and Terry Reitnke (Greens, Germany), Metsola said more work had to be done to “push a bit more for equality and recognition, understanding of people’s wish to live in the world the way they want to live.”

The MEPs participated in a question-and-answer session celebrating IDAHOBIT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which is observed on 17 May to raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBT rights work worldwide. 

Metsola said areas for improvement included work needed for rainbod families to grow happily with their children with the same rights as everybody else irrespective of their marital status or their gender status.

Angel there were equally reasons to be sad on such a day, referencing the backlash against the promotion of LGBTI rights in certain member states. “I wish for it to be a positive day,” the MEP said, highlighting the EP’s achievements, and 91 resolutions since the beginning of the mandate referencing LGBTI rights. “We’ve been very active and I think that is the reason to celebrate this parliament when it comes to defending LGBTI rights.”

Angel was also pleased to see that the European Commission had appointed a commissioner for equality, saying EC president Ursula Von der Leyen was “very committed to a union of equality.”

Angel said this was a call for celebration but warned that the backlash and hate speech should not be forgotten. “There is a strong anti-gender movement that wants to bring us back into patriarchy, who are attacking not only LBGTI rights but women’s rights.” Angel said this was all the more reason to be strong and celebrate in the face of opposition. 

Terry Reintke said that an intersectional approach to these issues was key. She referenced the activism and work of the EP’s integroup, an informal forum of MEPs on the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

“The intersectional approach is very important to us because we see that the attacks are coming to different groups and that they’re trying to really roll back rights that have been fought for and that have already been acquired,” Reintke said.

Reintke said MEPs were going to push for parental recognition across all member states for LGBTI people and that they were looking into adding hate crimes to the list of new crimes. “When talking about these groups there is an overlap people from the LGBTI community who are facing racism or LGBTI people who have a disability.”

Reintke said MEPs wanted to adopt a holistic “full picture” approach to fight against discrimination. “We want to live at the end of the day in societies in the EU where everybody can live freely free from discrimination and free from violence.”

The use of trade policy as a soft power mechanism to ensure compliance with LGBTI rights was also raised. Metsola said that later on Tuesday she would be meeting with a Ugandan LGBTQI activist whose message is that the EU needs to continue acting as a beacon to the world for these rights. Angel added how far things had come, stating that a recent trade agreement with Chile now had an exclusive chapter on gender.

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