European Union – Call for new laws on transgender rights…

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Call for new laws on transgender rights

By Martha Moss

01st September 2010

There is an urgent need to improve the rights of transgender people in the EU, a parliament conference has heard.

Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson, who chairs parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee, told participants that the EU should think about changing legislation on transgender rights because “things aren’t happening quickly enough”.

“We’ve got to improve our know-how and expertise in decision making bodies so we can tackle the discrimination that transgender people are still subject to in society,” she said.

“It is 2010, and people are still being discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender.”

Svensson, one of the speakers at the Greens/EFA conference on transgender equality held in Brussels on Wednesday, spoke of “heterocentric rules” underpinning power structures, “which means that men have more power in society”.

“We have got to work on these issues in parliament,” she said.

She acknowledged that the FEMM committee “haven’t prioritised the rights of transgender people as much as we should have” but insisted that certain steps had been taken to improve the situation.

“As MEPs we have a say in EU decision making, but we must also lobby at national level,” she added.

“We also have work to do in civil society because that’s where we can put transgender issues high on the political agenda.”

Raül Romeva i Rueda, vice-president of parliament’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) intergroup, said urgent action was needed to prosecute the perpetrators of violence against transgender people.

“These people need to be prosecuted,” he said, adding that such actions could not be accepted on the grounds of “cultural difference”.

Romeva i Rueda highlighted talk of the ‘big g’ and ‘small t’ in the LGBT movement, saying “this is something that needs to be changed”.

“Action is crucial, it’s urgent,” said Romeva i Rueda, also a member of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee. “In many places it’s a question of life or death – not simply a philosophical issue.”

Event organiser and Dutch deputy Marije Cornelissen, who has been shortlisted for a Parliament Magazine MEP award in the employment and social affairs category, spoke of the importance of mainstreaming transgender issues into work across the parliament.

Speaking on behalf of the gender equality and non-discrimination unit in the European commission, Belinda Pyke said there was still a “huge intolerance and ignorance about transgender issues”.

Emphasising the need to increase the “knowledge base”, she promised to “raise more general awareness” on transgender issues, and said it was particularly important to distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity.

In this context, Pyke welcomed the June 2009 parliament resolution, which included a specific reference to gender identity.

© Dods Ltd 2010

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