Crackdown on anti-gay violence

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Penalties for anti-gay violence will be doubled, according to new measures being announced on Friday by the Dutch government.

Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt said that intimidation, threats and violence targeting gays and lesbians should be eradicated. People found guilty of such offences will be faced with the new rules from 1 June 2011.

According to daily further measures include a directive for police to treat reported anti-gay violence without delay. Schools will be required to report anti-gay incidents to the government's Education Inspectorate. The Education Minister's view is that far too many gay and lesbian youths are afraid to come out of the closet. The rate of attempted suicides among these teenagers, according to some figures, is at 12 percent. The new rules are not just targeting anti-gay discrimination. The minister said, "It is a generic rule. Every kind of discrimination should be countered."

The cabinet said it is aware that certain groups in society, such as ethnic minorities and orthodox religious communities, are having difficulty getting to terms with gays. But Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten, generally seen as a hardliner, did not mince his words. "Violence against gays is unacceptable. Gays and lesbians can rely on this government to guarantee their security."

Foreign policy LGBT rights figure prominently in the Dutch cabinet's policies. Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal wrote to the Lower House on Wednesday that he will actively oppose the treatment of homosexuality as a punishable offence in parts of Africa. Mr Rosenthal also announced that he will support improvement of LGBT rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The Dutch gay rights association COC is delighted with the Foreign Minister's plans, pointing out that "LGBTs are being oppressed in many countries. Homosexuality is a punishable offence in 85 countries. In 7 countries it even carries the death penalty," COC chair Vera Bergkamp said on the group's website.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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