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by Rex Wockner
The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, says “Europe is often more tolerant of homophobes than [of] their victims.”
“Sexual orientation will no longer get you jailed [but] the bigots in several European countries are free to speak and act on their homophobic beliefs without any fear of sanction from the authorities,” Davis said in an article he wrote for the May 12 issue of the publication New Europe.
“Very often the officials themselves – mayors, parliamentarians and even ministers – will be the first to voice and promote homophobic ideas. Many individuals in positions of moral authority endorse or even encourage hatred against gays and lesbians, demonstrating a deplorable failure to practice the tolerance they preach. As a result, homophobia in parts of Europe is on the increase. … This is one minority which is left to fend for themselves.”
Davis said fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights must be defended “with conviction, perseverance and force” and “those who discriminate against gays and lesbians are … breaking the law.”
“[I]t is not only the human rights of gays and lesbians which are at stake,” he said. “Democracy, human rights and the rule of law cannot function in a society which tolerates bigotry, prejudice and hate.
“If we continue to look the other way, an outburst of homophobic violence is only a matter of time. That is why we must end the hypocrisy of silence and stop treating homophobic attitudes as a cultural eccentricity.”
The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, promotes democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other similar agreements. Forty-seven nations are members.
Decisions are made by the Committee of Ministers, which is composed of the 47 foreign ministers or their deputies. A 640-member Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the 47 national parliaments, conducts investigations and makes recommendations. The secretariat, headed by the secretary general, who is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly, employs some 2,000 people recruited from the 47 nations. Other council components include the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, a voice for Europe’s regions and municipalities; and the European Court of Human Rights.