On hand to provide their expertise as the European Union (EU) made a “pledge to prioritize human rights in EU policy at home and abroad” were Germaine Trittle PeBenito Leonin, founding president and policy and advocacy coordinator of R-Rights, and Outrage Magazine columnist and transpinay activist Sass Rogando Sasot, invited to provide “inputs from LGBT rights experts from around the world to develop the toolkit turned into formal guidelines”.
Earlier, Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, noted that “around the world, gender identity and sexual orientation continue to be used wrongly as the pretext for serious human rights violations.” This is because LGBTs “continue to fall victim to persecution, discrimination and gross ill-treatment, often involving extreme forms of violence (with) around 80 States still criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults, and seven even foresee the death penalty”. This is “incompatible with international human rights law”.
As the European Parliament “strongly condemns any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and strongly regrets that, in the EU, the fundamental rights of LGBT people are not yet always fully upheld; calls, therefore, on member states to ensure that LGBT people are protected from homophobic hate speech and violence, and ensure that same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society; urges member states and the commission to firmly condemn homophobic hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence, and to ensure that freedom of demonstration – as guaranteed by all human rights treaties – is respected in practice”.
EU adopted a “Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by LGBT People” in June 2010, looking at providing it with an operational set of tools to promote and protect the human rights enjoyed by LGBTs.
Leonin was the sole representative from the Philippines, chosen “because of my previous exposure as an international LGBT advocate who worked at the UN level (via) the HRC (in Geneva), and with various embassies locally in the Philippines (particularly, UK and US),” Leonin said. She was a reactor for the first plenary session on the EU guidelines, and was a presentor/speaker on the session on equality and non-discrimination.
Sasot, now based outside the country, spoke in the parallel session on transgender rights.
“We must be quick to recognize opportunities like these (which identify) possible allies and supporters who we never thought could be crucial to our advocacy,” Leonin said. She believes that “it is important that standards or guidelines like these influence possible engagements between EU countries and other states, not only in terms of funding support but in terms of other partnerships.”
This event was initiated by COC Netherlands, which asked their very own Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry to sponsor the event in Amsterdam.