||Background Information on the Global Themes
> Discrimination and Xenophobia
What is discrimination?
Neither the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor other
international agreements have a generic definition of "discrimination"
, although they refer to it several times. International and regional
human rights instruments dealing with specific forms of discrimination
differ in their definitions depending on the type of discrimination
"Racial discrimination" is defined by the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference
based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which
has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition,
enjoyment or exercise, on a equal footing, of human rights and
fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural
or any other field of public life."
should be judged by its treatment of minorities"
women" is defined by the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as "any
distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex
which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the
recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, of human rights and
fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural,
civil or any other field."
We can identify the following elements in both definitions:
"During my lifetime I have dedicated
myself to this struggle of the African people, I have fought against
white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in
which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.
It is an idea, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if
needs be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
There is a cause based, for
example, on "race", on gender or on ethnic origin -
she is black, she is a woman, he is Roma - of the person or group
discriminated against. The person or groups that discriminate
perceive the above-mentioned characteristics as a problem. There
are actions that are qualified as discrimination; these can be
rejection (not wanting to have a black person as a friend), restriction
(prohibiting the entrance of gay people to a discotheque), exclusion
of a person or a group of people (not hiring women), etc. There
are consequences that can also be the purpose of the discriminatory
action. All of these can prevent the victim from exercising and/or
enjoying their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Discrimination may be practiced in a direct or indirect way.
Direct discrimination is characterised by the intent to discriminate
against a person or a group, such as an employment office which
rejects a Roma job applicant or a housing company which does not
let flats to immigrants. "Direct discrimination shall be
taken to occur where one person is treated less favourably than
another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation
on grounds of racial or ethnic origin." 8
Indirect discrimination focuses on the effect of a policy or
measure. It occurs when an apparently neutral provision, criterion
or practice puts de facto a person or persons of a particular
minority at a disadvantage compared with others. Examples may
range from a minimum height criterion for firefighters (which
may exclude many more female than male applicants), to the department
store which does not hire persons with long skirts, or the government
office or school regulation which prohibits entry or attendance
by persons with covered heads. These rules, apparently neutral
with regard to ethnicity or religion, may de facto disproportionately
disadvantage members of certain minority or religious groups who
wear long skirts or headscarves.
Have you ever felt unfairly discriminated against?
DOmino includes a section on "Stories told by young people" and their experiences of being discriminated against.
Discrimination against persons and groups on the grounds of
race, religion, sex, ethnic origin, descent, nationality or sexual
orientation is forbidden by many international human rights instruments
and by most national legislations.
However, minorities are traditionally discriminated against,
regardless of whether they are national, religious, cultural,
ethnic or social minorities.
|Discrimination at work
"A staff member of the
French branch of Ikea, a furniture company, has been sentenced
to a 4 572 Euro fine for providing guidelines to the managers
of the company not to hire "coloured people".
The convicted woman, as well as Ikea France, will have to
pay compensation of a total of 15 240 Euros following the
complaint presented by four trade unions together with "SOS
Racisme" and the "Mouvement contre le Racisme
et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples." The employee
had written and sent out an e-mail which recommended not
hiring "coloured people" for the work of supervising
the correct distribution of the advertisement catalogues."
EFE Press release, April 2001
The negative consequences of widespread forms of overt or covert discrimination
have led some societies to adopt practices of positive discrimination.
Positive discrimination, also known as affirmative action, deliberately
favours or gives preference to a certain group or groups such
as women, disabled people or specific ethnic groups. The main
purpose of such policies is to overcome structural forms of discrimination
which otherwise would prevail against specific social groups,
usually minorities, and to redress balances in representation.
When we look at definitions - particularly in a multicultural context - it can
help to compare different ones and look at the contexts in which
the definitions have been made. You might find it worthwhile to
have a look at the definitions provided by youth organisations
in Alien 93 and the discussion
provided in the Education Pack in the section entitled "Linking
images and their effects".
Non-discrimination in the ECHR.
xenophobia and racism are also widespread in other parts of the
world: there are around 160 million Dalits (Untouchables) in India.
In the United States of America, studies have shown that race
is a key factor in determining who is sentenced to death. In Rwanda
almost one million people were killed, mostly Tutsi, over a short
period of three months in 1994.
In June 2000, the adoption by
the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of Protocol
No.12 to the European Convention on Human Rights broadens the
scope of the Convention
regarding discrimination. At present, non-discrimination is addressed in article
14, which prohibits discrimination only in the enjoyment of the
rights already enshrined in the Convention. Protocol 12 marks
a significant development since it provides opportunities for
enhanced action in the field of racism and discrimination as a
general non-discrimination clause. This Protocol will enter into
force only after ten states have ratified it.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of xenophobia is "a
morbid fear of foreigners or foreign countries". In other
words, it means an aversion to strangers or foreigners.
Xenophobia is a feeling or a perception based on socially constructed
images and ideas and not on rational or objective facts.
A xenophobic perception of the world reduces complex social
and cultural phenomena to simplistic good and bad scenarios.
"We" (the locals) = the model, the good and normal
ones, the reference who everyone should look, feel, think like
- versus "Them" (the strangers) = the delinquents, the
threat, the disturbance, the vagrants, the violent ones, the burglars,
the invasive ones, etc. "We" (the locals) are the good
ones versus "Them" (the others), the bad ones. It is
obvious that we attach value to the perceptions we have of others
and ourselves, such as
"We" = positive and "They" = negative.
To build our identities as individuals and members of a group,
an ethnic group, a nation, etc. implies becoming aware of the
diversity in society and one's difference from others, which is
not negative in itself as long as diversity is not perceived as
threatening and the recognition of these differences is not used
for political manipulation. The other should be perceived first
of all as a brother or sister, as a fellow human, not as a foreigner,
enemy or rival.
It should be noted that while in eastern Europe the main targets
of xenophobia are likely to be members of minority groups, in
many Western countries the targets tend to be immigrants and refugees,
including those coming from Eastern European countries.
Can you think of recent examples of xenophobia in your country?
Even though the fear of foreigners - xenophobia - is considered
morally unacceptable and goes against what would constitute a
culture of human rights, it is not illegal and thus it cannot
be legally punished as such. Consequently, it is only the manifestations
of xenophobia, (which can derive from xenophobic perceptions and
which can take attitudinal or physically violent forms, such as
acts of racist attacks, discrimination at work, verbal attacks
or abuse, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc.) that are subject to
sanction in so far as there are laws qualifying these actions
Racism can be defined in many
ways. One definition considers racism as a conscious or unconscious
belief in the inherent superiority of one race over another. The
implication of this definition is that, in the first place, the
"superior" race has the right to exercise power over
and dominate those that are considered "inferior"; and
that, in the second place, racism conditions both the attitudes
and behaviour of individuals and groups. However, there is a problem
in that the term `racism' presupposes the existence of different
"races". In recent
years, it has been established that "race" is, in fact, a social construct
and that it is impossible to classify people according to any
other category than that of "human being". Therefore,
racism exists even though "race" does not.
Europe has a long history of racism. Historically, the existence
of "superior" and "inferior" races has been
argued on the grounds of biological differences. Darwinian theories
of evolution were applied to human beings in order to classify
them according to "race". Colonialism, when European
nations subjugated others to their exploitation, was possible
due to the widespread acceptance of social Darwinism and other
similarly "racist" theories. The "white man's burden"
implied the "duty" of colonial Europeans to "civilize"
other peoples. Slavery, another common practice among European
entrepreneurs and governments until the 19th century,
was also based on the belief that slaves belonged to "inferior
Nowadays, racists put emphasis on cultural differences rather
than on biological inferiority. Cultural racism is based on the
belief that there is a hierarchy of cultures or that certain cultures,
traditions, customs, and histories are incompatible. The exclusion
and discrimination of foreigners or minorities is justified in
the name of allegedly "incompatible cultures" , religions
Power and its use and misuse are heavily bound up with racism.
Racism is at one and the same time defined by those who have power
and it defines power relations between perpetrators and victims.
The victims of racism find themselves in a powerless position.
Prejudice, or the negative judgement of other persons or groups
(without significant knowledge or experience of those persons
or groups), is also bound up with racism. Hence, racism can be
understood as the practical translation of prejudices into actions
or forms of treatment of others by those who hold power and who
are therefore in a position to carry those actions out.
Racism can exist at different levels:
is estimated that nearly 12 million Native American Indians in
North America were exterminated between 1600 and 1850. Between
10 and 20 million black Africans are presumed to have died during
the 200 years of the international slave trade.
- a personal level: this refers to personal attitudes, values
and beliefs about the superiority of one's "race"
and the inferiority of other "races".
- an interpersonal level: this refers to behaviour towards
others that reflects the belief of the superiority of one's
- an institutional level: this refers to the established laws,
customs, traditions and practices which systematically result
in racial inequalities and discrimination in a society, organisations
- a cultural level: this refers to the values and norms of
social conduct that promote one's native cultural practices
as the norm and the measuring standard and judge other cultural
practices to be inferior.
The different levels at which racism manifests itself are highly
interdependent and actively feed each other. Racism also manifests
itself in overt and covert ways. In its subtlest and most covert
forms, racism is as damaging as in its overt forms.
The consequences of racism, both historically and contemporarily,
are devastating for both the victims and the societies where this
injustice has been perpetrated. Racism has been at the origin
of mass extermination, genocide and oppression. It has ensured
the subjugation of majorities to the whims of tiny minorities
who have a stranglehold on both wealth and power. While much progress
has been made to remedy these injustices, today hidden and less
hidden forms of isolation, discrimination and segregation still
exist and continue to be practised. Those perceived as "different"
or "foreign" face restrictions in their freedom of movement,
outright aggression, humiliation or social exclusion.
Racism and youth violence
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Youth violence motivated by
racial hatred is a reality in most European countries. There are
numerous reported cases of young people and/or adults being attacked,
beaten up, threatened and, in the most extreme cases, killed,
because of their nationality, appearance, religion, the colour
of their skin, their hair or even their beard.
Racist violence has other subtle, but more diffuse, means of
expression. It includes multiple forms of scapegoating, segregation
and discrimination. Being singled out for police controls and
checks because one looks different - darker skinned or darker
haired - is also a form of oppression.
The United Nations World Conference against
Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
The third WCAR was held in Durban, South Africa between the
31 August and 7 September 2001. This conference generated a very
important international movement and many expectations. Nearly
160 states and more than 1500 NGO participants took part. The
conference was dominated by two issues: the plight of Palestinians
(including attempts to re-label Zionism as a racist practice)
and recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity and the
right for compensation. The final text ended up recognising the
two issues with a wording that was acceptable to most:
"We are concerned about the
plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We
recognise the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
and to the establishment of an independent state. We also recognise
the right to security for all states in the region, including
Israel, and call upon all states to support the peace process
and bring it to an early conclusion."
An apology for slavery was also inserted although the text did
not go as far as to offer any compensation. The recognition of
the slave trade and of slavery as crimes against humanity was,
for many, a historical moment in the restoration of dignity to
a large part of humanity.
Do you think that the governments from countries who benefited
from slavery in the past should now pay for compensation?
In addition to the official conference, an NGO forum and an
international youth forum were held in the days preceding the
WCAR. Youth organisations, representatives and youth delegates
on government delegations were invited to participate. Some 200
young adults representing all geographical regions gathered to
discuss key issues related to the struggle against racism and
Why should racist propaganda on the Internet be controlled or
Immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers
the city of Frankfurt-am-Oder, located on the Polish-German border,
a group of young German skinheads frequently threaten and attack
foreign students from the university and foreign workers. On the
Polish side, in the suburbs of Frankfurt-am-Oder, there is a city
called Slubice where another group of young neo-nazis hunt foreigners.
An incident was reported stating how they had started to beat
up a student but apologised to him when they realised he was Spanish.
They had thought he was German.9
In Europe today, many immigrants,
asylum-seekers and refugees face very difficult situaticrimons and
see their basic rights and dignity violated every day. Refugees
and asylum-seekers have often been forced to leave their homes,
countries and families to save themselves from war, persecution
or a complete lack of security. Although the vast majority of
refugees in the world do not seek asylum in Europe, some people
and groups do. The growing or persisting feelings of nationalism
and xenophobia, or simply the concerns of xenophobe politicians,
have led many governments to adopt very strict measures towards
asylum-seekers, aimed mostly at ensuring that
they do not reach
To get a small insight into what it means to be a refugee, read the Personal experiences of refugees in Alien 93.
Asylum-seekers and refugees form a particularly vulnerable target
group, whose status is defined and protected by the Geneva Refugee
Convention of 1951. Most European countries now have legislation
that allows them to be detained at airports and border police
stations, often without any consideration of their rights. Deportation
of illegal immigrants or asylum-seekers who see their application
rejected is a common practice and sometimes a form of degrading
What happens if a refugee seeks asylum in your country? Do you
know what they have to do?
The Schengen agreements (1990) provide for free movement and
unrestricted travel to persons across all borders of 14 of the
European Union member states. However, while abolishing the former
existing borders, the EU has built a larger "border"
to protect the European area.
The development of a common European policy towards refugees
and migrants has often been described as a "fortress Europe"
policy partly because of its emphasis on exclusion and the deflection
of refugees, and partly because it is an example of how the fear
of economic migration can block out consideration for the reality
and needs of asylum-seekers.
Where do refugees in your country come from? Why are they refugees?
World Refugee Day
International Migrants Day.
The very restrictive and xenophobic
policies held by many European countries force many immigrants
to turn to illegal methods of getting into Europe. They often
fall prey to organised traffickers. Most never reach Europe, while
some die on the way: on the sea and coasts of Spain, in abandoned
ships and boats in the Mediterranean or in trains and trucks where
they suffocate to death.
Illegal immigration also means cheap labour for many industries
and entrepreneurs. Poverty in countries like Moldova and Ukraine
has resulted in many men seeking work in western European countries.
Because they are "illegal", they are forced to work
in very bad conditions and for very low salaries. They are often
blackmailed by having their passports retained or they are threatened
with denunciation to the police. Young women often face similar
situations of human trafficking for domestic work and forced prostitution.
In most countries, there is a utilitarian view of the immigrant.
The immigrant is not welcomed for their intrinsic value as a person
who can contribute to the development of society, but rather they
are welcomed and accepted only in so far as the labour potential
that they he represent is needed.
Do you think that only people with money should be allowed to
enter your country?
Many young people from immigrant backgrounds or of immigrant
descent, so-called second or third generation immigrants, experience
different forms of discrimination on a daily basis, sometimes
resulting in violence, social exclusion and criminalisation. One
of the most common manifestations of covert racist discrimination
is asking those young people to "make a choice" between
so-to-say their parents' "culture" and that of their
"host" country. The same type of suspicion regarding
identity, allegiance and patriotism is applied to other social
and ethnic minorities.
Anti-Semitism and Romaphobia
"The value of human dignity is at
the centre of my work with immigrants. We encourage those young
immigrants coming to us to share their story with their peers."
Ms Giulia Sanolla,
Italian volunteer at Sud
All across Europe, the Jews
and the Roma have historically been the two minorities that have
suffered most from discrimination on grounds of their supposed
"inferiority" and the subsequent negative stereotyping
attached to this alleged status of inferiority.
Both minorities originated from outside Europe, the Jews from
the area of what is now Israel and Palestine and from the southern
shores of the Black Sea, and the Roma from India. Both migrated
due to persecution, both have suffered down the ages at the hands
of the majorities in Europe and both were considered inferior
and many of both groups were exterminated by the nazis during
the second world war. Both suffered under the communist regimes
in Europe and both still experience discrimination, hatred and
prejudice today, even though their social realities are very different.
What happened to Jewish people in your country during second world
The anniversary of the Kristallnacht
International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism.
Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom ha Shoah)
Anti-Semitism can be defined
as "hostility towards Jews as a religious or minority group
often accompanied by social, economic, and political discrimination"10,
and this has been widespread in European history up to the present.
Anti-Semites have fabricated stories about Jewish conspiracies,
fuelling the anti-Semitic attitude of non-Jewish people against
them, the most infamous being the "Protocols of the wise
men of Zion" (a fictitious slanderous document inciting violence
against Jews and which still circulates today in some European
By the end of the nineteen century, Jewish communities in Russia
regularly became victims of pogroms (a Russian word meaning devastation),
which were organised systematic discriminatory acts of violence
against Jewish communities by the local population, often with
the passive consent or active participation of the police, encouraged
by the anti-Semitic policies of the government. Attacks on Jewish
communities were also common in other European countries including,
for example, France and Austria.
The rise of fascism in the first part of the 20th
century brought further hardship for many Jews in Europe, as anti-Semitism
became part of the ideology in power. Fascist regimes and parties
also collaborated directly or indirectly with the German nazi
regime during the Holocaust.
During the Holocaust perpetrated by the nazi Germany and its
allies during the second world war, known also as the Shoah (a
Hebrew work meaning desolation), an estimated six million Jews
were systematically exterminated for no other reason than that
they were Jews. The Holocaust was the culmination of the racist
and anti-Semitic policies that characterised Hitler's government,
whose savagery had commenced with the "Kristallnacht",
a massive pogrom throughout Germany on 9 November 1938.
With the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, pogroms ceased
in the Soviet Union but anti-Semitism continued in different forms,
including forced displacements, confiscation of property and show
trials. Under communist regimes, anti-Semitism was often also
disguised under official anti-Zionist policies.
Today, anti-Semitism is as alive as ever, even if in an often
covert manner. Groups claiming their superiority desecrate Jewish
cemeteries, networks of neo-nazi groups, often including young
people, openly shout their anti-Semitism, and there are many Internet
websites and literature circulating and glorifying nazi propaganda.
Roma people (wrongly named as Gypsies, including the Sinti),
have always been viewed as different by other Europeans. For much
of history, they have been nomads, moving from one place to another
as tinkers, craftsmen, musicians and traders. Throughout their
history they have been submitted to forced assimilation; the Roma
language has been prohibited in some countries and their children
have been forcibly taken away from the parents. Roma people were
slaves in many countries, the last having been Romania, where
their slavery was abolished in 1856. The Roma have never had a
state and they have never fought wars against other people. Throughout
the twentieth century they continued to be considered as vagrants
and in many countries laws were passed to force them to settle
Today, Roma communities continue to be directly and indirectly
discriminated, persecuted and unwanted across all European countries.
What is the size of the Roma community in your country?
World Roma Day
Porajmos refers to the Genocide
of European Roma and Sinti perpetrated by German nazis and their
allies between 1933 and 1945. The estimated number of victims
varies according to different sources between 500000 and 2000000.
As the result of Porajmos, Roma in Europe lost up to 70% of their
The communist regimes of eastern Europe, under the banner of
"emancipating the Roma", broke the Roma traditional
way of life. The Roma family disintegrated even further with the
advent of capitalism - the Roma are generally not qualified for
high-tech work and they are thus condemned to manual labour, unemployment
and social exclusion.
Today, the Roma population in Europe totals an estimated eight
to twelve million people, across literally all European states.
The vast majority are sedentary but in some Western countries
nomadism is still practised, fully or partially. While Roma in
Spain and Portugal have practically lost Romany as a language
(because it was forbidden and repressed) in most other countries'
Roma communities, the Romany language is still a unifying cultural
Romaphobia, discrimination and hostility towards Roma people,
is a widespread common reality all over Europe. The Roma are among
the first to suffer in armed conflict, as in the wars in the former
Yugoslavia where the plight of Roma, caught in the crossfire,
was mostly ignored. Other recent examples, include Roma families
being de facto illegally stripped of their right to property on
the grounds of "fighting crime" (Portugal); discrimination
regarding access to education for Roma children and provision
of basic community services (in the United Kingdom and France,
for example, for travelling communities) or simply having their
recognised rights respected. In many countries, Roma have been
victims of violent fascist and racist groups, resulting in murders;
Roma children are sometimes put together in the same school as
mentally handicapped children. Roma villages are often segregated
What can you find in your local news about Roma?
"Gypsies should be hunted down with
fire and sword."
Spanish law, eighteenth
Many young Roma people and children
grow up in hostile social environments where the only support
and recognition they have is in their own community or family.
They are denied many basic rights or have limited access to them,
such as education or health.
"Persons with disabilities have the
right to independence, social integration and participation in
the life of the community."
Article 15 of the revised
European Social Charter
A greater awareness and concern
about the Roma is slowly emerging. At the international level,
the International Romany Union is the most representative political
Roma organisation, with consultative status at different United
Nations bodies. The European Roma Rights Centre, based in Budapest,
is the main international Roma human rights organisation, active
in raising public awareness, monitoring and defence of Roma human
The disabled and handicapped
Disability is defined as a condition that disables, as a result
of an illness, injury or physical handicap; the expression is
also used as a term of legal disqualification or incapacity.
World Mental Health Day
International Day of Disabled Persons
The term "disability"
encapsulates a great number of different functional limitations
occurring in any population in any country of the world. People
may be disabled by physical, intellectual or sensory impairment,
medical conditions or mental illness. Such impairments, conditions
or illnesses may be permanent or temporary in nature.
The term "handicap" means the loss or limitation of
opportunities to take part in the life of the community on an
equal level with others. It describes the encounter between the
person with a disability and the environment. Both terms are indeed
adequate, but the emphasis carried by each of them is slightly
and significantly different.
How can people with disabilities participate in the activities
of your organisation?
the European Union, most organisations active in promoting the
rights of the disabled are part of the European Disability Forum
(EDF). Within the Council of Europe, actions and policies are
co-ordinated by the Directorate General of Social Affairs.
It has been estimated that, on
average, 10% of the world population has a disability. For the
nearly 800 million population of the 43 Council of Europe member
states, that would mean some 80 million persons with disabilities.
Despite the progress made in recent years in numerous areas, many
people with disabilities in Europe today are still faced with
barriers to equal opportunities and full participation in the
life of the community, such as low levels of education and vocational
training; high unemployment rates; low income; obstacles in the
physical environment; social exclusion; intolerance, clichés
and stereotypes; direct or indirect discrimination; violence,
ill-treatment and abuse.11 According to a Eurobarometer
survey in 2001, 97% of the people interviewed think that something
should be done to ensure better integration of people with disabilities
|What do people with disabilities
"Nothing special, nothing
unusual. We want to be able to attend our neighbourhood
school, to use the public library, to go to the movies,
to get on a bus to go shopping downtown or to visit friends
and family across town or across the country. We want to
be able to get into our neighbourhood polling station to
vote with everyone else on election day. We want to be able
to get married. We want to be able to work. We want to be
able to provide for our children. We want high quality,
affordable medical care. We want to be seen as real people,
as a part of society, not something to be hidden away, pitied
or given charity." Adrienne Rubin Barhydt, April 10,
discrimination because of sexual orientation
Transgender International Rights and Education Day
Homophobia may be defined as aversion or hatred to gay
or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture, or generally
of people with a different sexual orientation.
In many parts of the world, individuals that have a different
sexual orientation (different from the majority) are subjected
to discrimination that ranges from being insulted to being murdered.
In many countries, the practice of homosexuality is still a crime
and in some of them it is punishable by the death penalty. Within
Europe, although progress has been achieved, in changing legislation,
many people still see homosexuality as a disease, a psychological
disorder or unnatural behaviour.
Homosexuality means different things to different people. Some
- Bisexual refers to somebody attracted to person(s) of the
same and the opposite gender.
- Gay is a term used for homosexual men. In some circles it
also includes homosexual women (Lesbians).
- Homosexual refers to a person attracted to persons of the
same gender only.
- Heterosexual refers to persons attracted to persons of the
opposite gender only.
- Lesbian is used to refer to female homosexuals, i.e. women
attracted to other women.
- Transgender is used to refer to a person who has a different
gender from what their biological sex indicates (i.e. a man
in a female body or the other way round).
- LGBT is an abbreviation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
a report presented in June 2001 to the European Parliament on
sexual discrimination in Poland, 22% of LGBT people stated that
they have experienced physical abuse and 77% of them have never
reported these incidents to the police for fear of the reactions
of their families and the police .14
Living as an LGBT person in Europe today varies from being very
easy (in the larger towns in western Europe, with a well-developed
subculture, bars, clubs and organisations), to being relatively
difficult (in small-town western Europe, and large parts of central
Europe where views about homosexuality are slowly changing) all
the way to being outright dangerous (harassment by the police
as well as "normal" people as well as discriminatory
laws and hate-crimes are the order of the day in some eastern
European Countries such as, for example, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania
Lesbian and Gay couples across all of Europe are also victims
of legal discrimination, in areas such as the right to marry,
to constitute a family or to adopt children (in other words, they
can not benefit from the same status as heterosexual couples).
Do you know any famous gay or lesbian person from your country?
|The pink triangle
Tens of thousands of homosexuals
died in the nazi concentration camps. The pink triangle
and the pink colour are commonly associated with homosexual
movements and culture, derived from the pink badge that
homosexuals had to wear in the nazi concentration camps
on the grounds of "sexual deviance".
The biggest problems LGBT young people face are, on the one hand, discrimination
by strangers, meaning violence, harassment and denial of services
(getting kicked out of a restaurant is a common occurrence). On
the other hand, there are often problems with family and friends
once somebody comes out to them. For a lot of people, these are
very serious problems, and a lot of LGBT young people postpone
their coming-out for fear of rejection. At school, peer pressure
can be very strong and make life difficult for LGBT students.
Should gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry?
Young people are also particularly vulnerable targets of homophobic
violence and discrimination. Often they have to cope with feelings
of guilt and deep questions about their sexual identity
and they fear rejection or being misunderstood. The negative
"feedback" they receive puts them at odds with themselves
and society. On top of this, violence and abuse force many into
depression and sometimes leads to suicide.
Diversity within Europe is often most visible as religious diversity.
The majority of Europeans are Christians, even if they don't "practise"
their religion, but this majority often "hides" a lot
of diversity. Europe has been deeply torn by wars between Catholics
and Protestants, as it was previously by wars between Catholics
and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Within each denomination there
are many branches with differences that are often indiscernible
to the layperson but are crucial to those who believe in them.
Although Christian religious minorities exist across the whole
of Europe, historically they have been (and in some countries
are still) discriminated against. Their religion or church is
not "recognised" or does not have the same status or
rights (for example, in education) as the "official"
or dominant church.
Partly due to the process of European integration and co-operation,
differences between Christian denominations have become less important
in socio-political terms. For some thinkers and politicians, Christianity
should be a basis of European identity, a dangerous move that
ignores the millions of Europeans who are not religious and, of
course, also those who are not Christian.
Which minority religions exist in your town or community? Where
do they gather and worship?
Among non-Christian religions, Judaism is perhaps the one that,
throughout history, has been the most widely discriminated against
across the continent. After the expulsions from Spain and Portugal
in the 15th century, for example, those who remained
were converted by force or had to practise their religion secretly
and at great risk to their lives. Prejudice and misconceptions
about the Jewish faith has certainly contributed to fuelling anti-Semitic
attitudes. It has also been historically used to justify discrimination
and segregation against Jews and probably contributed to the passive
tolerance of the Holocaust in some predominantly Christian societies.
Other important religious minority communities in Europe include
Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'is, Rastafarians and Sikhs. Depending
on the country, they may experience different forms of discrimination.
In many cases, religious discrimination is combined with racism.
Among non-Christian religions, Islam is the most followed in
Europe. It is the majority religion in some countries and regions
in the Balkans and in the Caucasus and is the second largest religion
in France, Germany and in many other countries, both western and
The spotlight that has been focused on Muslims across the world
in the aftermath of the horrific attacks on the United States
in 2001 show how fragile community relations and our sense of
tolerance really are. Muslims living in the West were surprised
that people whom they thought to be friends, neighbours and co-citizens
could suddenly turn and blame them for the attack on the World
Trade Centre and even carry out revenge attacks on innocent men,
women and young children. Of particular concern is that fact that
in the United States and across Europe a number of women who wear
the headscarf have been attacked.
What images do you have of Islam?
Islamophobia, literally meaning a fear of Islam, Muslims and
matters pertaining to them, is not a new phenomenon. It is in
fact an ancient form of prejudice that has recently become a topical
issue due to the devastating effect it is having on the lives
of Muslims, especially those Muslims who live in minority communities.
The present situation feeds on strong and deep-rooted prejudice
in most European societies regarding Islam. Some of the most common
forms are the lack of official recognition as a religion, the
non-granting of permission to build mosques or the non-provision
of facilities or support to Muslim religious groups or communities.
Ignorance about Islam is the main reason for Islamophobia. Islam
is often associated only with terrorism and extremism. In fact,
Islam is a religion that preaches tolerance, solidarity and love
for each other, like many religions do.
What can be done in your organisation or school to increase knowledge
and understanding of other religions?
One of the most common prejudices about Islam is its so-called
"incompatibility" with human rights. This prejudice
often stems from the reality of countries where Islam is the majority
religion, mostly Arab countries. The absence of democracy and
widespread violations of human rights are given as examples of
this "incompatibility" . The prejudice lies in considering
Islam as the only contributing factor for these situations, when
in fact most of the regimes in question are simply undemocratic.
Applied to Christian countries, this would be the equivalent of
making Christian religions responsible for the previous dictatorships
in Portugal, Spain or Greece, for example, and then to conclude
that Christianity is incompatible with human rights and with democracy.
Young people are often harassed for displaying their allegiance
to Islam. In some countries, Muslim girls have been forbidden
to attend school wearing the veil on their head.
Numerous international and regional instruments either refer
to discrimination generally speaking or deal with specific forms
of discrimination. Some examples, at the level of the United Nations,
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Racial Discrimination (1965)
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (1979)
- The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (1975)
- The ILO Convention (No.169) Concerning Indigenous and Tribal
Peoples in Independent Countries (1989).
Within the Council of Europe, in addition to the European Convention
on Human Rights, important achievements have been made in recent
years, especially through:
- The European Charter on Minority Languages (1992)
- The Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public
Life at Local Level (1992)
- The Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities
On racism and discrimination
- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of
the Council of Europe, www.ecri.coe.int
- La Ligue Internationale contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme
(LICRA), France, www.licra.com
- SOS Racisme (France), www.sos-racisme.org
- UNITED for Intercultural Action - the European Network against
nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and
- The European network against racism, www.enar-eu.org/
- The Internet Anti-racism Centre in Europe, www.icare.to/
- The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC),
- Minorities of Europe (MoE), www.moe-online.com
- Young Women from Minorities (WFM), www.wfmonline.org
On People with Disabilities
On Immigrants and Refugees
- The United Religions Initiative, www.uri.org
- Bahá'í Faith (site of Bahá'í
- On Islam - site of the Islam 21 Project, www.islam21.net
- The Forum against Islamophobia and Racism (UK), www.fairuk.org
- The Sikhism home page, www.sikhs.org
- Hindu Resources on-line, www.hindu.org
- The World Council of Churches, www.wcc-coe.org
- Catholic Church - The Holy See website, www.vatican.va
- Eastern Orthodox Churches, www.orthodoxinfo.com
- Russian Orthodox Church, www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru
- Shamash: Jewish Network information and discussion on the
On Gay and Lesbian issues