SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong kicks off summer post-card action against homophobia

30 June 2011

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong kicks off summer post-card action against homophobia

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong has begun a summer ‘post-card’ action against homophobia throughout Europe. In an interview with the Dutch magazine Gaykrant (Gay Newspaper), De Jong explained why he has begun the action.

(Greetings from Homophobia)

Why this summer action?
As things stand in the European Union discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people is only forbidden in employment. A directive which would ban discrimination more generally was approved by the European Parliament a few years ago, but the member states have yet to vote in favour of it. Unfortunately little progress has been made towards this to date. Germany argues that it is not a matter which can be subject to European regulation, so it’s been left in a draw for years, with no prospect of acceptance.

With this action I want to show that this is more than a hypothetical problem. Discrimination against LGBT people occurs in Europe outside the workplace too. We’ve all experienced it on holiday, from an unfriendly stare directed against a couple, to direct intimidation, to annoying and unpleasant questions from a hotel owner such as ‘are you sure you wouldn’t rather have two single beds?’

Although a European ban wouldn’t immediately get rid of discrimination, it would give LGBT people an additional means whereby they could raise serious instances. They would know for sure that every member state would be obliged to have in place special legislation to enable this.

With the summer action we are calling on everyone who is confronted with homophobia while on holiday within the EU to report this. This is not only an opportunity to report unpleasant things that have happened to you but it should also be used as a token of solidarity with the LGBT community in other EU countries. The SP’s team in the European Parliament is interested in all cases of homophobia which you have come across on holiday, whether they happen to you or to someone else.

Why do you place any confidence in a Polish EU Presidency?
Not long ago the Polish president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, on the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), opened the exhibition ‘Walk with Pride’, a collection of moving and poignant photographs of Gay Pride actions in Europe. He spoke from the heart about the need to advance the fight for gay emancipation and at the meeting I was moved by his words, which you don’t expect to hear from a Polish Christian-Democrat. But times are changing and I wasn’t surprised to hear from ILGA-Europe, the European LGBT organisation, that they had had indications that in contrast to the Hungarian Presidency, which covered the first half of this year, that Poland is indeed hoping to revive the directive.

How will you use the results of this summer action?
To start with we want to get a picture of where discrimination is occuring, whether for example it’s in hotels or campsites, or in contacts with the police. Serious cases I can use as a basis for questions to the European Commission, so that they can put the member state concerned under pressure to do something about the abuses. It’s also possible that in such cases the European Commission will offer additional support to the local LGBT movement.

Also, I want to hold a special meeting at the European Parliament, together with the Gaykrant and LGTB organisations, as well as like-minded members, where personal experiences can be related to MEPs and to the Polish Presidency. I hope that a ‘black book’ of this kind, where people have the chance to tell their own stories, will make more of an impression than would abstract figures.

Who is participating in this?
The action is an initiative of the SP in the European Parliament but is also supported by the Gaykrant and the COC, the long-established Amsterdam-based organisation for LGBT people. In the European Parliament there is a special cross-party group for cooperation between sympathetic MEPs and ILGA-Europe. The results of the action will be shared with this group. If we receive enough reactions Gaykrant will also publish the results, as will the COC.

How does the action work?
The easiest thing is to send your story via email, to eurofractie@sp.nl. (You can also do this in English). You should recount

  • What has occurred – irritating questions, harassment, verbal abuse or violent attack
  • Where it occurred – which country and where in that country, and for preference if it was in say a bar or hotel, what street this is in
  • Whether you are happy to see your complaint or parts of it published, as well as your name, or if you would prefer to see the information treated in confidence
  • Whether you or others took any action (complaint to the police, contact with local LGBT movement

In every instance the same rule of course applies: the more details the better. Confidential information will be of course treated in an anonymous manner which will not enable the informant to be traced.

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