The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has released a new report on hate crime and discrimination against sexual minorities in the EU member states. The survey's results raise several concerns and leave room for an improvement.
Out of the 374 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual (LGBT) respondents from Estonia, 44 percent said they had been discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of being LGBT in the year preceding the survey. That is 3 percent below the EU average. The situation is best in the Netherlands and Denmark, with 30 and 31 percent respectively, and worst in Croatia and Lithuania, with 60 and 61 percent.
23 percent of the respondents felt they had been discriminated against at work, 30 percent in areas other than work, and 19 percent by the school or university personnel.
The gap between public perception and the realities of the LGBT life are highlighted by the differences in answers given by LGBT people and non-LGBT respondents regarding discrimination levels. According to the Eurobarometer 2012 survey, only 32 percent of Estonians perceive discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation to be very of fairly widespread. However, more than twice as many - 72 percent - of all LGBT respondents from Estonia said that sexuality and gender identity based discrimination is very or fairly widespread.
Although the discrimination rate is slightly lower in Estonia than in the EU on average, people are more likely to hide their orientation. Nearly every third respondent said they hid their sexuality at school. That is considerably higher than the EU average 67 percent. The rate is highest among gay and bisexual men.
61 percent of the respondents had experienced negative comments or conduct at school because of being LGBT, 85 percent had heard such comments about a schoolmate and 56 percent about a teacher, who was perceived to be LGBT.
Almost every second LGBT person also refrains from disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity to others in their later life. Only 9 percent of the respondents said that they are always open about that part of their life. Both numbers differ greatly from the EU average, which are 38 and 22 respectively.
41 percent (EU average: 32) have not disclosed their orientation to their employer.
Whereas the equal rights of LGBT people are fairly secure, the prevalence of hate-motivated harassment (verbal insult, abuse, humiliation, negative comments, aggressive gestures, isolation etc.) is slightly higher than the EU average (19 percent). 24 percent of the Estonian respondents said that such harassment is a common occurrence.
Estonia has the third highest number of harassment incidents: 1,496 a year per 1,000 respondents. The situation is best in Spain (683) and worst in Bulgaria (1,704).
72 percent of the latest harassment incidents experienced by the respondents included both verbal and non-verbal insults. On the whole, such harassment is most often inflicted in a public place by a group of younger males, who are not familiar to the victim.
The number of incidents involving violence is also much higher than the EU average: 372 per 1,000 respondents against EU's 262. The situation is best in Slovenia and the Netherlands and worst in Romania and Lithuania. In the EU generally, transgender people experience nearly twice as many physical and sexual attacks than other LGBT groups.
Over half of the respondents from Estonia said that the last violent incident that they experienced in the year preceding the survey happened partly or entirely because they were perceived to be LGBT.
Hence, over three quarters of LGBT people in Estonia avoid holding hands in public for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed. The percentage is highest among gay and bisexual men. The EU average is 66 percent.
The rates for reporting discrimination and hate-motivated incidents are fairly low all over the EU but especially so in Estonia, with five and seven percent respectively. In the EU as a whole, 59 percent said they failed to alert the authorities because nothing would happen or change anyway and 44 percent said that such incidents happen all time, so it is not worth reporting them.
72 percent of gay or bisexual respondents, and 83 percent of transgender respondents, find that Estonian authorities are doing very or fairly little to promote their human rights. EU average is a much lower 58. In Netherlands, for instance, only 16 percent of respondents found that the government could do more to rise awareness.
The percentage of people who said that it is very or fairly common for politicians to use offensive language about LGBT people is the same as in the EU in average, 44 percent. The list is topped by Lithuania with 93 percent. In Netherlands, on the other hand, only nine percent said that politicians have made comments that they find offensive.
In Estonia, LGBT people are also less aware that the law forbids discrimination against them when applying for a job. The 44 percent, who know about the equal opportunities law, is 12 percent lower than the EU average.
An alarming 56 percent of non-citizens, who reside in Estonia and filled in the survey, said that the social environment for LGBT people in Estonia was worse than in their home country. Only three percent found it better.
The survey was conducted in the summer of 2012, which was long before the debate in Parliament over the equal rights of cohabitating couples, regardless of gender, took place this year. The cohabitation bill passed and was signed into law in September, 2014.