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Gays, lesbians face wide harassment in Europe

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS -- Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals face widespread harassment, bullying and discrimination across Europe, according to an EU report released Tuesday.

That harassment and discrimination occurs "in all areas of social life," from schools to the workplace to health care centers, the report by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency said.

Agency Director Morten Kjaerum said the investigation found gays and lesbians continue to face assault and other physical attacks due to their sexual orientation despite EU rules meant to guarantee equality in the 27-nation bloc.

"These are alarming signals in an EU that prides itself on its principles of equal treatment and nondiscrimination," he told reporters at the European Parliament.

The report said gay pride events were being obstructed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania. Meanwhile, politicians and religious leaders in Italy, Hungary, Malta, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have also rejected calls to improve the rights of gays and lesbians.

Kjaerum said, according to the scarce data available from national authorities, "very few incidents" of assault, hate speech by public figures or verbal attacks are reported to police.

Current laws meant to protect against discrimination also do not cover areas such as housing, education or health care, he noted.

The report, which compiled studies and surveys from across Europe, said homophobic abuse is usually carried out by young men in groups, but is also persistent at work, in school or when trying to get medical care.

Kjaerum appealed to EU nations to improve equality legislation, to better record hate crimes "and to train police accordingly." The agency also recommended better awareness campaigns to promote diversity and fight discrimination.

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