By Sonia Elks
LONDON, May 14 (Openly) - Six in 10 LGBT+ Europeans would not hold a same-sex partner's hand in public for fear of harassment or assault, according to a major study published on Thursday.
The survey of nearly 140,000 people found progress on tackling anti-LGBT+ discrimination had largely stalled in recent years and in some areas appears to be sliding backwards.
"Too many LGBTI people continue to live in the shadows, afraid of being ridiculed, discriminated or even attacked," said Michael O'Flaherty, director of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency, which was behind the report.
"Even though some countries have advanced LGBTI equality, our survey findings show that overall there has been too little real progress, leaving many LGBTI people vulnerable."
The online survey of LGBT+ people from across the EU as well as Britain, North Macedonia and Serbia, was carried out last year as a follow-up to a similar survey undertaken by the human rights agency in 2012.
Just over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender adults said they were open about their sexual or gender identity all or most of the time, a rise from 36% seven years ago.
But 43% said they felt they had suffered discrimination over the last year, up from 37% in 2012.
About 60% of all respondents said they would always or often avoid holding hands with a same-sex partner in public for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed.
Abuse and violence remained high, with more than one in 10 respondents reporting they had been sexually or physically assaulted in the last five years because they were LGBT+.
Responses across the continent were roughly evenly split between those who felt acceptance towards LGBT+ people was growing in their country and those who felt it was decreasing, though there was notable differences between nations.
Poland, where the ruling Law and Justice party has targeted LGBT+ rights as an invasive foreign influence, saw the highest rate of people reporting that intolerance was rising, followed by France, which has seen a spate of homophobic attacks.
The survey came as a separate 'Rainbow Map' benchmark of LGBT+ laws and policies across Europe by advocacy group ILGA-Europe warned nearly half of countries had failed to make progress last year and some states were falling backwards.
Poland fell into bottom place among the EU states in the 2020 league table, released on Thursday, while Hungary saw the biggest drop in rankings after moves to ban trans people from updating their sex on official documents.
"This is a critical time for LGBTI equality in Europe," said Evelyne Paradis, the executive director of ILGA-Europe.
"With each year passing, more and more countries, including champions of LGBTI equality, continue to fall behind in their commitments to equality for LGBTI people, while more governments take active measures to target LGBTI communities."
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(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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