European Commission signs trade deal with countries jailing and killing homosexuals

Monday, 22 March 2010

Negotiations came to a close last Friday over the revised Cotonou Agreement, which delineates political and trade relations between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. Out of 79 ACP states, 49 criminalise homosexuality with up to 14 years in jail, and up to 5 punish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with death.

European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs previously intended to include non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the new terms (as demanded by the European Parliament), but finally agreed to conclude a deal with ACP states that does not mention the human rights of LGBT people, despite blatant increases in state-supported violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the ACP region.

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, reacted: “This is unacceptable for the European Parliament. The Commission backed down in the face of governments that increasingly discriminate, imprison, torture and kill people because of their sexual orientation. It is a dangerous signal that there is a hierarchy of rights: some will be defended, but others will not. This matter will not be left to rest here.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights, concurred: “I would have expected Commissioner Piebalgs not to give in to pressure from ACP governments. His abdication is not only against European values, it also is harmful to LGBT people in ACP countries who are confronted with the notion of homosexuality being ‘un-African’—a notion proven wrong by historians and sociologists. The European Parliament will confront the Commission with this decision.”

The revised agreement has been tentatively agreed upon, with the official signature planned for June 2010 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

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