Protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual persons (LGBT rights)
Within the scope of its foreign relations, the German Government opposes any form of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and has been making every effort to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The international term for these individuals is “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons”, or LGBTs.
Human rights include the right to free sexual orientation. Nevertheless, homosexuality is a criminal offence in around 80 countries; in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, same-sex acts can even incur the death penalty on the basis of the Sharia, since it prohibits extra-marital sexual relations. During the last few years, however, the German Government has not learned of any executions on grounds of sexual orientation.
In Germany, the Act on Lifetime Partnerships was adopted in 2001. Under this Act, same sex partners can enter into a legally binding partnership, which has largely the same legal status as a marriage. Furthermore, Germany adopted the General Equal Treatment Act in 2006 in order to implement an EU directive. The purpose of this Act is, among other things, to prevent or eliminate discrimination on grounds of sexual identity.
In June 2010, the EU adopted the Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People.
This set of measures is intended to enable the EU to react to the violation of LGBT people’s human rights in third countries and to have an impact on its structural causes. The emphasis is on measures to decriminalize LGBT people, to ensure they have equal rights and to eliminate discrimination against them, as well as to protect and support human rights activists campaigning for LGBT rights.
The Toolkit was negotiated by the Working Party on Human Rights at the EU (COHOM), which is responsible for shaping the EU’s human rights policy vis à vis third countries. COHOM regularly monitors developments related to human rights. Germany is a member of COHOM’s LGBT Task Force, through which it is endeavouring to ensure that the Toolkit is transformed into an instrument equal to the other EU human rights directives.
An open and objective discussion on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is still very much a taboo within the United Nations. A convention on this sphere is difficult to negotiate due to the criminalization of LGBT persons in many countries around the world.
Nevertheless, progress has been made. For example, the Yogyakarta Principles were presented by internationally renowned human rights experts in Yogyakarta/Indonesia on 23 March 2007. These 29 principles represent a global standard for guaranteeing the human rights of LGBT persons. The central issues are combating violence against homosexuals and the criminal prosecution of homosexuality as well as access to education, the right to establish a family, freedom of assembly and the right to asylum. The German Government regards the Yogyakarta Principles as an important contribution by civil society which can rationalize the debate on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Germany is calling for the Yogyakarta Principles to be included in the EU’s LGBT Toolkit.
In December 2008, a statement on sexual orientation and gender identity with regard to specific LGBT rights was read out in the UN General Assembly, and has since been signed by 68 states. Germany, along with its EU partners, was one of the first to sign. The declaration brings together parts of existing international agreements on human rights and formulates the aim of protection from any form of discrimination, prosecution and use of force by states on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
UN Statement on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In March 2011, a joint statement on ending acts of violence and the related human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council. This statement has already been signed by 85 states.
The most recent and farthest-reaching measure is the first resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and sexual identity adopted by the 17th session of the Human Rights Council on 17 June 2011. This was sponsored by South Africa, which is of special importance considering that homosexuality is still a criminal offence in many African countries. The vote was close, with 23 countries voting in favour and 19 against. This shows that despite achieving this milestone, we still have a long way to go.
Council of Europe
In spring 2010, the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation to the member states on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The recommendation relates to the application of existing provisions from international agreements, such as the non-discrimination provisions contained in the UN Human Rights Convention. It also contains a list of measures aimed at improving legislation in the member states.
Resolution 1728 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Projects and bilateral cooperation
Within the scope of bilateral cooperation, the Federal Foreign Office has already promoted several projects aimed at improving the human rights situation of LGBT persons. Examples of this are:
In Serbia, a film project which spotlighted attacks on demonstrations for the rights of LGBT persons (gay prides) was funded. The aim is to confront the public with the issue of homophobia on a broad basis and to foster tolerance towards homosexuals. The film “Parada” by the Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic was shot in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia and starts with the bloody outcome of the first gay parade in Belgrade in 2001. In a mixture of fiction and reality, it is about a friendship between two people from two different groups which leads to deep-seated prejudices being overcome. “Parada” was supported by the Federal Foreign Office and received the renowned Panorama Audience Award at the 62nd Berlinale in 2012.
In Turkey, the project Legal Protection for LGBTs in Turkey run by the NGO Black Pink Triangle has been supported since July 2011. The project is intended to help raise awareness in Turkey of the rights of LGBT persons, thus doing vital work in helping people to understand this issue. The project is to culminate in the drafting of an information booklet which will not only be targeted at a broad public but which will be specifically directed at policymakers, in particular Turkish members of parliament, with a view to boosting the lobbying for improved LGBT rights.
On 27 November 2010, Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, welcomed six African LGBT activists from Sub Saharan countries to the Federal Foreign Office. These activists were taking part in a fact finding trip on the positive development of LGBT rights in Germany organized by the Hirschfeld Eddy Foundation in collaboration with the German Government. The trip was an important step towards networking the LGBT movement in Africa. The guests told the Commissioner about widespread human rights violations committed against LGBT persons in African states, including torture and murder, the criminalization of LGBT persons and incitement to discriminate by church representatives. Markus Löning assured the activists that the German Government would inform these governments time and again that it could not accept any human rights violations, that homosexuals in particular had to be protected from attacks and discrimination and that the worldwide abolition of criminal penalties against homosexuality is a matter of great importance to the German Government.
Particularly in those countries where the situation of LGBT persons is especially precarious, the Federal Foreign Office seeks to help the victims of discrimination. This applies, for example, to northern Nigeria where homosexuality still carries the death penalty. For this reason, LGBT activists are very restricted in their work and can only function in secret. The Northern Nigeria LGBT Advocacy Programme set up by the Heartland Alliance NGO, established with support from the Federal Foreign Office, is intended to foster networking among LGBT activists from the Moslem northern part of the country. To this end, they are being invited to a conference in Abuja where the participants will exchange their experiences and work together to draw up effective strategies. In addition, information on LGBT rights are to be elaborated in the Hausa language.
In recent times, intersexuals have been included in the abovementioned LGBT group of persons. For example, they are mentioned in the EU’s LGBT Toolkit. Intersexuality covers various phenomena of non clear cut gender with different – for instance chromosomal or cellular – causes. There are between 80,000 and 120,000 people in the Germany who are medically defined as intersexual. In a report for the German CEDAW Report (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) of February 2009 written by intersexuals, the situation of these people is described. The CEDAW Committee called on Germany to enter into a dialogue with NGOs for intersexual and transsexual people in order to gain a better understanding of their needs and to take effective measures to protect their human dignity. The German Government subsequently tasked the National Ethics Council in Germany with presenting a statement on the situation of intersexuals.
Last updated 05.03.2012