The European Parliament building, in Strasbourg.

A new report has claimed that discrimination, harassment and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people are widespread throughout Europe.

The study, titled Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States: Part II – The Social Situation, was published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

“Many LGBT persons experience discrimination, bullying and harassment. There have been physical attacks and even deadly assaults against LGBT persons in some countries. These are alarming signals in an EU that prides itself on its principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum.

The FRA report found that discrimination affects the lives of LGBT persons living in the 27 nations of the EU in all walks of life, ranging from harassment in schools to discrimination in employment or health care.

In some member states, LGBT NGO premises have been vandalised or burnt down. In countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania, events such as Gay Pride marches have been banned or obstructed. The report also notes that anti-gay speech by public figures in countries such as Italy, Hungary, Malta, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic is a particularly worrying phenomenon, as it negatively affects public opinion, thus fuelling intolerance.

“We know that very few incidents are reported to the police or other public authorities. This means that crimes go unpunished, victims do not obtain justice, and authorities are not able to take the necessary action to respond to such crimes or prevent them from recurring,” said Kjaerum.

While EU-wide legislation bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the context of employment, it does not yet cover sectors such as housing, education, or health services. In order to remedy this situation, the EU Commission proposed more comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in July 2008.

The FRA called on political decision-makers to further enhance equality legislation and ensure accurate reporting in order to improve the situation. Part 1 – The Legal Situation of the FRA report was published in June 2008 and found that the legal protection for LGBT persons varies considerably across the EU.

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