The European legal instruments against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Article 14 of the ECHR states: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.” 

  • The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in 47 Council of Europe Member States.


  • The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe treaty which guarantees social and economic human rights. The European Committee of Social Rights is the body responsible for monitoring compliance by State Parties. The European Social Charter submits that “the enjoyment of the rights set forth in this Charter shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national extraction or social origin, health, association with a national minority, birth or other status.”


  • The Parliamentary Assembly monitors the human rights situation in the Member States of the Council of Europe and provides recommendations as to what should be done in order to improve the existing practices.

The non-binding resolutions and recommendations it has adopted so far regarding LBGT rights aimed at eliminating discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation (Recommendation 924/1981); ensuring that persecution on grounds of homosexuality would be recognized as a ground for asylum (Recommendation 1470/2000); fighting homophobic attitudes in sports (Recommendation 1635/2003); ensuring that sexual orientation is considered a profound part of the identity of each and every human being (Resolution 1728/2010).
Legislative work within the European Union has taken a number of legislative steps to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation. The European Parliament has taken since 1984 a strong stance against discrimination on ground of sexual orientation. Also the Commission has played a major role in affirming full equality. The Treaty of Amsterdam, in force as of 1 May 1999, eventually made substantial changes to the founding treaties on the EU, and enabled EU to fight sexual orientation discrimination. The Amsterdam Treaty is the first ever international treaty to explicitly mention and protect sexual orientation. 

  • Article 13 of Amsterdam Treaty (now Article 19 TFEU) submits that “the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”.


  • In December 2000, the Council adopted a Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, which aims to combat discrimination on the ground of, among others, sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation, Proposal for a Council Directive (COM/2008/0426) aims to implement the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief,disability, age or sexual orientation outside the labour market.


  • The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union expressly sets out the prohibition on discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation: “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”, being the first international human rights charter to do so.


  • The Lisbon Treaty, with the legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, strengthens the framework of non-discrimination legislation. The EU is now required to combat discrimination, including that based on sexual orientation, in all its policies and activities.


The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights