European Commission joins LGBT+ stars as fears COVID-19 fuels inequality

Helena Dalli – Image: REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts

The European Commission (EC) has joined forces with singer Elton John, tennis legend Billie Jean King and actor Sir Ian McKellen, to call for support for the LGBT+ community, warning that inequalities have been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.

In an opinion piece published simultaneously in Le Monde and the Guardian, the authors, who also included US singer Frank Ocean, and Vogue magazine editor Edward Enninful, stressed that “no society has yet achieved LGBTI+ equality”.

“Much still needs to be done,” Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview on Monday.

“The pandemic (has) exacerbated the realities, the discrimination, the inequalities of LGBTI+ people,” she said.

The EC has also joined advocacy group, Global Citizen, in an initiative called ‘Global Goal: Unite For Our Future’, which aims to raise billions of dollars to help lessen the impact of the pandemic on marginalised communities.

As part of the initiative, international music and film stars. ranging from Miley Cyrus to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, will headline a globally televised and streamed virtual fundraising concert on Saturday.

The European Commission will publish its first LGBTI+ Equality Strategy later this year, as the body ramps up its focus on rights in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and a populist-led backlash, in parts of central and eastern Europe.

Last year, European lawmakers condemned ‘LGBTI-free zones’ in Poland, and, in April, further criticised a move by the Hungarian parliament to ban transgender people from changing their sex on certain official documents.

Reports of young LGBT+ people facing homophobia or transphobia from family members under lockdown have also increased dramatically, said Dalli, who was appointed as the first equality commissioner in December last year.

“Young people are being confined in households with homophobic persons,” she said, adding this has led to increased homelessness due to the “aggravation they are getting at home”.

Many transgender people have also seen access to treatment curtailed under lockdown rules, or seen surgeries deemed non-essential and postponed.

“This is life-threatening for them,” Dalli said.

As Pride marches around the world have been cancelled due to coronavirus, the signatories to the opinion piece, who also included British singer, Skin, called for “strategies for diversity and inclusion”.

“The adoption of equality and anti-discrimination laws, national action strategies for diversity and inclusion, and the creation of safe spaces, are critical and cannot be delayed,” the authors wrote.

“Support programmes for parents of LGBTI+ youth should also be introduced.”

The EU is increasingly taking a role as a champion of global cooperation, in efforts to control and end the pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, while the United States and China are focused more on national initiatives.

-Hugo Greenhalgh – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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