International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), recently also commemorated as the day against transphobia (added in 2009) and biphobia (added in 2015), has been observed, since 2004, on 17 May each year, as a rememberance to the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1990, to remove homosexuality from its International Classification of Deseases. The purpose of the commemoration is to draw attention of the political decision makers, opinion leaders, civil society organizations, media and broader public to the violence or discrimination against LGBTI people, internationally.
In a number of countries, same-sex acts between consenting adults are illegal, even somewhere punishable by death. In spite of the WHO recommendations, homosexuality is somewhere still regarded as a desease and various „conversion therapies“ are used, often against the will of the „patients“ (themselves usually minors).
Even where spared of crime or felony charges, LGBT people face violence on daily basis, or various forms of discrimination. Denied access to military or to other public service is often a halt to their upward social mobility. Elsewhere, it is the unchallenged discrimination at the job market or at work, which degardes them into second class citizens. The issue of same-sex marriages (or civil unions as a „light“ alternative) goes far beyond mere formal, protocolar equality of all human voluntary associations. It often has various financial, hence social consequences, e.g. in inheritance, housing, access to social services, etc, to the disadvantage of the LGBT people.
This year`s commemoration is specially dedicated to the rights of transgender people, namely those whose gender identity or expression is different from the sex they were assigned by birth. As a „visible minority“, they more often suffer violence and discrimination. Recent cases in Balkans, such a beating of a trans-person in Belgrade, Serbia, coupled with subsequent discrimination by the police, demonstrated that authorities have to do much more to have changed the public perception of sexual minorities, atop of what has already been achieved in the field.
In its Freedom Barometer Europe annual editions, website and Facebook page, FNF has been carefully monitoring the treatment and state of human rights of the LBGT people in 30 observed countries of Europe and Central Asia. Respect for human rights is an inseparable element of the rule of law, while the latter, together with economic and political freedom, is the essence of human freedom as understood by liberals.
To their part, human rights of the LGBTs are often a lithmus test of the overall respect of human rights in a particular country. As they are a minority whose self-expression is often blocked either by tradionalist prejudice or by politically induced hatred, the way LGBTs are treated in a country and society indicates at the ability and readiness of certain community to – more generally - respect individual diversity of people, their autonomy and their equal rights and dignity.
In its Human Rights Index (HRI), which is a part of the Freedom Barometer methodology, FNF monitored various aspects of civic equality of LGBT people, from decriminalization of the homosexual activity and adherence to the UN declaration against dicrimination, via access to military (as a lithmus test for other public service or office), up to the issue of same sex marriages or civil unions. Respect for self-chosen gender identity and opportunities to change sex without social degradation are also measured.
In 2016, the best situation was in Benelux and a few other EU countries monitorted by the Freedom Barometer and its HRI. There were considerable problems for LGBTs, but also partial improvements and efforts to further improve, identified in numerous Central European, Western Balkans and Baltic countries. In Russia, Turkey and Central Asia, the discrimination is very strong and it is worsening. In the latter group of countries, year and again new legislation is brought and implemented, which is tightening the grip around the LGBT minority, often scapegoated and treated by politicians as a lightning rod for public anger over other political or social issues that they are otherwise unable to resolve.