Castile-La Mancha is promoting LGBTIQ rights | Interview with the Regional Minister for Equality and Spokesperson for the Government of Castile-La Mancha Blanca Fernández

Blanca Fernández
9 June 2022
Castile-La Mancha is promoting LGBTIQ rights | Interview with the Regional Minister for Equality and Spokesperson for the Government of Castile-La Mancha Blanca Fernández

This interview is part of our #LoveWhereILive campaign and of our series “#ProgressiveLocalStories”, aimed at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe. Cities and regions have become laboratories for innovative solutions and, with this series, we want to discover how progressive mayors, councillors and presidents of regions put in place policies to promote and protect LGBTIQ rights.

Mrs. Fernández, your region is an example in the promotion and protection of LGBTIQ rights. As a progressive leader, what are your thoughts on LGBTIQ rights in your territory and in Europe today?

Equality for all and non-discrimination is a fundamental human right, which is furthermore enshrined in our Constitution. The primary aim of our government is to promote effective measures to ensure equal treatment and equal opportunities, so that LGBTI people do not suffer or experience discrimination. The recent adoption of our Law on Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights in Castile-La Mancha provides us with a practical regulatory framework to work towards securing LGTBI people's rights with full freedom and equality. Europe is making great strides in raising the visibility of LGTBI people in all areas and countries of the Union; nevertheless, we are witnessing a growing wave of reactionary and discriminatory movements, mainly in countries such as Poland and Hungary, which seek to undermine our coexistence and remove the visibility and dignity of a group of people who have historically fought, and are still fighting, to have their rights - which are human rights - recognised. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face discrimination in many areas of life, for example when applying for jobs. They may also face hate speech and even violence, and may feel insecure in workplaces, schools and public spaces. All of this is what we are striving to condemn and prevent, and we will work to stop it happening, by making our towns, cities and countries free, equal and safe from hatred and injustice.

What practical measures have you taken (or are you planning to take) to make your region one where the rights of LGBTIQ people are fully respected and promoted? 

The recent adoption of our Regional Law on Sexual Diversity and LGTBI Rights includes measures guaranteeing the right to equal treatment, equal opportunities and non-discrimination. These measures are spread across the entire body of legislation, although one of the most prominent measures is the obligation on the regional government of Castile-La Mancha to pay comprehensive, real and meaningful attention to the victims of anti-LGBTBI violence. The Regional Law also addresses the regional government's role as public prosecutor in cases of manslaughter or murder or when specific circumstances mean that the regional government taking such a role would be advisable for this type of offence. In general terms, emergency support is guaranteed for all victims of LGTBIphobia in Castile-La Mancha, regardless of where they are officially registered, but all types of measures are then provided for. For example, the law establishes a set of measures for education: firstly, it reaffirms everyone's right to an education, without any discrimination whatsoever. It also establishes the need to ensure mechanisms for the prevention of and attention to discriminatory behaviour and attitudes and the implementation of a co-education plan or strategy in Castile-La Mancha that promotes gender equality, as well as specific measures covering the entire transgender and intersex education community. Training and awareness-raising actions are also planned, as well as measures for the region's public universities. Lastly, specific measures are also put in place to combat situations of multiple and intersectional discrimination faced by LGBTI people in rural areas, such as minors, young people, adolescents, older people, those with disabilities and, across the board, lesbian, transgender and bisexual women. In addition, situations of non-criminal discrimination are addressed in the system of penalties laid down in this law. Looking at the law's guiding principles, they discuss the protection of human rights, providing a response to the historical demands of the LGTBI community, the guarantee of real and meaningful equality and non-discrimination, and the gender perspective because women also have to mobilise and make themselves seen in this movement. Lastly, channels will be provided for involvement by the various public bodies and civil society in order to make further progress on this path towards equality in Castile-La Mancha.

Last year, the European Commission proposed its first LGBTIQ strategy and the European Parliament declared the EU an LGBTIQ freedom zone. How can the European Union further contribute to promoting LGBTIQ equality and why is this important for your region?

The European Union has for a number of years facilitated and supported ways of working to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or identity. Many of the policy areas related to improving equality for LGBTI people are mainly national or regional competences. However, the EU plays a key role in providing guidance on the implementation of public policies, in coordinating measures, monitoring implementation and progress, providing support through EU funds and promoting the exchange of good practices between Member States. It is perhaps these last two points that can benefit us most in the short and long term, in a region such as Castile-La Mancha, which is starting to develop its own legislation on equality and non-discrimination for LGBTI people. Funding can support the implementation of services, resources and awareness-raising and training campaigns, and can help keep the region’s LGBTI strategy on track.

As we know, joint efforts are always more effective than working in isolation; thus, a strategy coordinated by all European Union countries will always be more effective. The European Union's most significant contribution to LGBTI equality in the region is likely to be the drawing together of an effective strategy to make equality in sexual diversity a reality. The European Union's vision provides a broader overview than any individual country can offer, and certainly much more than an isolated region such as Castile-La Mancha, and can thus better identify the needs and possible approaches and strategic points for action.