LGBT Discrimination In Europe: Most Gay People Afraid To Hold Hands In Public, Survey Says

France may have taken a big step forward with parliament's decision to legalize gay marriage, but according to the results of a European Union survey, discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is still widespread in Europe.

Released Friday, the online survey of more than 93,000 LGBT people in 27 EU members states and Croatia found nearly half the respondents said that in the previous year they had "felt personally discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of sexual orientation." Two-thirds of those polled also indicated they were afraid to hold hands with their same-sex partner in public; the percentage was even higher for gay or bisexual men.

"A too great number of LGBT people across Europe are being barred from being themselves. Their ability to enjoy their basic human right of living with dignity, to enjoy life and express themselves freely without discrimination, is being denied," EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Director Morten Kjaerum said during a speech announcing the findings.

According to the report, the countries with the largest proportion of respondents who felt discrimination based on sexual orientation in the past 12 months included Lithuania (61 percent), Croatia (60 percent), Poland (57 percent) and Cyprus (56 percent).

For some, including a 27-year-old gay man from Belgium, the discrimination has only worsened in recent years.

"The situation is worse now than it was, for example, four years ago," the unnamed man wrote in the report, adding that incidents he experiences are "mainly random acts of verbal aggression."

The EU survey comes on the heels of the release of SOS Homophobie's 2013 report of homophobia in France, which revealed a sharp increase in the number of anti-gay attacks in the country.

According to the annual report, 645 cases were reported to the French LGBT organization last year, compared to 249 reported cases in 2011, illustrating that the number of anti-gay assaults has more than doubled in France. However, almost half of the attacks occurred in the last three months, during the time gay marriage demonstrations began to heat up in Paris, SOS Homophobia President Elisabeth Ronzier indicated to Le Huffington Post.

Surprisingly, France ranked further down the list in the EU survey, with 41 percent of respondents reporting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Launched in 2010, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights was tasked with collecting survey data on hate crimes and LGBT discrimination in EU member states. As the report's authors note, the startling results "will contribute to much needed discussions in the EU and its Member States about concrete legislative and non-legislative measures to improve the situation for LGBT persons living in the EU."

Click over to the FRA's site to read the full report, or watch the video below for a brief overview of the findings.



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