SERIOUS AND PERSISTENT HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS IN AUSTRIA
1 June 1995
ÖVP and FPÖ vote down a bill to amend the Federal Nazi Victim Compensation Act to cover also persons persecuted on grounds of their sexual orientation. On the same day, the Parliament adopts a law to found a “National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism”. The scope of this fund includes persons persecuted on the grounds of their sexual orientation. However, it does not provide a legal right to compensation but only to receive one single amount of money for those in financial need.
27 November 1996
ÖVP and FPÖ vote down a bill to repeal Article 209, the discriminatory age of consent provision in the penal code.
8 April 1997
The European Parliament adopts its report and resolution on the observance of human rights in the European Union in 1995 (document A4-0112/97), the first year of Austria’s membership in the EU. In paragraph 140 of the resolution, the EP urges Austria to repeal the unequal age of consent provision for male homosexual relations.
1 July 1997
In application # 25186/94, Euan Sutherland against United Kingdom, the European Human Rights Commission in Strasbourg finds “that no objective and reasonable justification exists for the maintenance of a higher minimum age of consent to male homosexual, than to heterosexual, acts” (paragraph 66 of the opinion) and concludes “that in the present case there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention” (para. 67). — Opponents of a reform of the similar Austrian age of consent provision in Article 209 put forward the formal argument that this decision, since it concerns a British complaint, does not effect the Austrian law; and that it was not confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights (the British government accepted the opinion of the Commission and, therefore, did not appeal to the Court).
17 February 1998
The European Parliament adopts its report and resolution on the observance of human rights in the European Union in 1996 (document A4-0034/98). In paragraph 69 of the resolution, the EP urges Austria once more to repeal the unequal age of consent provision for male homosexual relations.
17 July 1998
Fully aware of the July 1997 decision of the European Human Rights Commission and the two EP resolutions of 8 April 1997 and 17 February 1998, the ÖVP and FPÖ vote down another bill to repeal Article 209.
17 September 1998
The European Parliament adopts a resolution on equal rights for gays and lesbians in the EC (document B4-0824 and 0852/98). In this resolution, the EP, “considering that, for reasons of credibility towards the applicant countries when demanding from them the observance of human rights, EU member states such as Austria need to repeal their own legislation discriminating against lesbians and gay men, in particular existing discriminatory age of consent provisions” (consideration C), and “regretting the refusal of the Austrian Parliament to vote for the repeal of Article 209, the higher age of consent provision for gay men, on 17 July 1998, thus knowingly ignoring both the decision in the Sutherland case and the urgent demands towards Austria expressed by the European Parliament in its above mentioned resolutions of 8 April 1997 and 17 February 1998” (consideration G), “calls on the Austrian Government and Parliament to immediately repeal Article 209 of the Penal Code and to immediately provide for an amnesty for, and the release from prison of, all persons jailed under this law” (paragraph 1).
5 November 1998
After the consideration of Austria’s third periodic report submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee notes in its concluding observations: “The Committee considers that existing legislation on the minimum age of consent for sexual relations in respect of male homosexuals is discriminatory on grounds of sex and sexual orientation. It requests that the law be revised to remove such discriminatory provisions.” (para. 13)
17 December 1998
The European Parliament adopts its report and resolution on the observance of human rights in the European Union in 1997 (doc. A4-0468/98). In paragraph 53 of the resolution, the EP reiterates the demand towards Austria to repeal Article 209.
16 March 2000
The European Parliament adopts its report and resolution on the respect for human rights in the European Union in 1998-99 (doc. A5-0050/2000). In paragraph 60 of the resolution, the EP once more urges Austria to repeal Article 209 and to immediately release from prison all those jailed under this provision.
7 April 2000
At a press conference on the occasion of the official opening of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna, Nicole Fontaine, president of the European Parliament, declared, replying to a question of a journalist, that the unequal age of consent legislation, indeed, constitute a breach of human rights and, therefore, Austria is violating the EU Treaty. This must be made clear to the Austrian Government, this is not an interference in internal matters but a matter of respecting human rights.