Talking about the establishment of a national committee that will tackle discrimination against LGBTIQ* people in Greece.
The Greek Prime Minister’s decision to establish a committee that will examine legal and rights-based discrimination against LGBTIQ* people in Greece and will suggest solutions to diminish this phenomenon was rather unexpected but definitely very positive news. This decision comes at a moment when issues of gender inequality but also sexual harassment and abuse are higher than ever on the political agenda as a result of the unfolding of the Greek “Me Too” movement over the past few months.
The aim of the committee will be to draw up a comprehensive plan that will horizontally define the strategy, tasks and actions of the ministries and bodies responsible for the development, development and implementation of LGBTIQ* policy, mainly in the period 2021-2023. “We all work for a modern and just Greece, and such a country does not mean excluding or separating its citizens. That is why LGBTIQ* individuals must find an equal place in the economic, political and social life of our country. It is their individual right, but it is also their duty states, and I think this is also a ripe cut for the benefit of the whole nation, “ said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a meeting with former European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) President and Professor of public international law at the Athens Law School, Linos Alexandros Sicilianos, who is appointed chairman of the committee.
The committee brings together renowned and well respected members of the Academic Community and of the Civil Society along with relevant members of the government. Heinrich Böll Stiftung Office Thessaloniki Director, Michalis Goudis asked one of the members of the committee, Lina Papadopoulou, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at the School of Law, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Greece and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair for European Constitutional Law and Culture, to map the challenges for gender equality in Greece today and to outline what we can expect from the committee’s work.
Read the short interview below. You may find more information, including the complete lineup of the committee (in Greek) here.
How do you evaluate the state of gender equality in Greece at the moment, in light of EIGE's Gender Equality Index 2020 and the recent public revelations on sexual abuse?
As everything is a matter of comparison, one can easily figure out, by seeing the EIGE’s Gender Equality Index 2020 that Greece is below the EU average. This is mostly due to the huge inequalities in the domain of politics and power. Although women are successful as professionals in almost all domains, they remain significantly behind when it comes to power positions. Despite the fact that we now have a female President of the Republic as well as female Presidents of two Supreme Courts, still there are few female Members of Parliament, Ministers, members of boards in large companies, supervisory board or board of directors etc.
Sexism and misogynism in everyday life are still remarkable and they play a significant role in all decisions, even in a hidden and subtle way. This is mainly due not to laws but to impeded culture and prejudices, which pressurize women to follow traditional stereotypes. Although the Greek society does evolve, these stereotypes are resistant and form the relationships both in the private and in the public domain.
Is a Committee the most effective platform to pursue a national strategy for the LGBTIQ* equality in your view?
The Committee which was announced today (March 17th) by the Prime Minister is not but a first step. Its goal and mission is to examine in a holistic and horizontal manner the discrimination suffered by LGBTIQ+ and propose solutions for them to be diminished. The Committee cannot bring about the changes itself but can only show the way what has to be done and how it could possibly be done. It is then the mission of the political bodies, namely the Legislative and the Executive (Government and administration) to make them happen, to realize the National equality strategy for LGBTIQ+.
And foremost, one should not forget that it is after all the society who needs to embrace the changes and overcome prejudices and stereotypes, closely related, if not identical, with the gendered ones referred to above. It is up to each person and each family, each parent, to accept their children, friends, colleagues who happen to be LGBTIQ+ and treat them with respect that every human being deserves independently of any special characteristics.
What do you expect to be the outcome of the Committee's work in your personal opinion?
As already said, the Committee’s mission is to create a roadmap for inclusive legislation and policies for LGBTIQ+. This will include lifting existing inequalities and discriminative provisions (for example the exclusion of those who have had same-sex sexual intercourse from blood donation) and proposing changes in family law, procedures for recognition of gender identity, equal treatment in provision of medical services, education, services, army etc. However, as mentioned above, the Committee can only show what should be done but cannot do it. It will then be the mission of those exercising political power to make them come true. The Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has shown his intentions to go forward, and we all hope that he will be willing to push the Greek society forward in terms of equal treatment of everybody including LGBTIQ+.
Women's rights and LGBTQI* rights. Do you consider this strategy to be part of an integral approach towards gender democracy, or as a separate step concerning the LGBTQI* community alone? Is gender equality the sum of its parts?
Yes, I absolutely believe that gender equality is the sum of its parts, including LGBTQI* equal treatment. I am aware of the relevant debate, whether non-discrimination of LGBTQI* is a different field, I believe it is not. If one could abolish gender discrimination, then discrimination against LGBTQI* would also automatically be abolished as well. Because when you discriminate against somebody due to their sexual preferences, this means that you discriminate against him or her because they belong to the one and not the other gender. If a state, for example, does not allow for same-sex marriage, this only means that a person cannot enjoy their right to marry as well as legal protection of their relationship to their partner or children because of their sex / gender! The more stereotypes a society accepts concerning women and men, the more discriminatory it is against LGBTQI*. So, yes, and thank you for this valuable question: I do think it all falls under gender equality. “The little difference and its huge consequences” (see Alice Schwarzer, Der “kleine Unterschied” und seine großen Folgen”) lie behind both women’s and LGBTQI*’s discrimination.