Speech at the opening of exhibition on the freedom of assembly and expression
Dear Colleagues from the European Parliament,
Dear Guests, Assistants, Administration, Organizers, My Colleagues standing around me,
Next week we are celebrating the 7th anniversary of the international day against homophobia. We announced one year ago that it will become a habit to come back to it every year to underline how important it is. I am glad that we are celebrating it here this week through this exhibition which is entitled: "Freedom of assembly and expression, which is very close to each other".
A person has the right to be different. In the past power has been used too often to oppress people who were in some ways different. Think back to the struggle of women to get equal rights, seems to be quite incredible today. Or, to the struggle of people of different religions, race, or political beliefs to have their human rights protected.
I can also talk to you about my own experiences; I have fought all my life for human rights and for civil rights. For me, the European Union is based on a set of common values - the most important one is human rights. Our citizens have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and of course freedom from persecution.
Homophobia is deplorable because it aims to denigrate people and deprive them of these rights on the basis of their sexual orientation.
But as we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, we must also remember, which may be of special importance, that some people are not only deprived of their basic rights, but may be tortured and punished because of their sexual orientation. In some countries they may even face the death penalty.
Let us remind ourselves, there are still too many cases like David Kato's in this world - the Ugandan gay right activist killed recently.
I am very worried about the law currently discussed in the parliament of Uganda. It is our duty to voice our concern in order for that law not to be passed.
We have a duty to protect human rights, wherever they are, and in whatever form they take.
The EU is committed to combat discrimination on any ground: sexual orientation is no exception. This commitment is enshrined in our constitutional texts - let me remind you of two of them, the most important ones, both in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the Treaty of the European Union.
I make at the end the same call as I made last year - let us make sure that future generations of Europeans grow accustomed to a culture of openness, non-discrimination and tolerance. So that in the future there no longer needs to be a day against homophobia.