Homophobic hate speech rising across Europe

With more governments leaning to the right fuelled by divisive politics and socially conservative groups, hate speech is growing across Europe.

protest with signs declaring

Hate speech by political and religious leaders increased in 17 countries, including countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Finland, typically known for being LGBTQ+ friendly. Homophobic violence also rose across the region, according to a report by ILGA-Europe. While this report was made earlier this year, the trend has not slowed down, confirming that homophobic hate speech is rising in Europe.

Within the past year across several countries in Europe, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is on the rise, including in Poland, where the nationalist ruling party railed against “LGBT ideology” in its re-election campaign last year, and in Hungary where the parliament speaker equated same-sex adoption with paedophilia. While Spanish and Finnish politicians–two countries know for being LGBTQ+ friendly–criticised Pride Parades.

“It’s not just countries of eastern Europe where people traditionally think there is more organised opposition – the groups that are opposing LGBTI equality are popping up in more places,” said Evelyne Paradis, the executive director of ILGA-Europe.

“Those groups tend to be more active where there is overall insecurity and anxiety in the population, where the overall political discourse, not just on LGBTI rights, is a bit more toxic, where populist parties are very active,” Paradis said.

A rise in hate speech can lead to increases in violent hate crime, said Helga Eggebo, a Norwegian researcher at the Nordland Research Institute, who has studied discrimination:

“There is a relationship between general negative attitudes, hate speech and violent crime against minority groups,” she said. “For example, there was a documented rise in violent hate crime against Muslim women after 9/11.”

More recently over the past year hate speech and hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community have continued to rise in Poland, Italy, and Hungary.

In Poland, the rise in homophobic discourse has resulted in over a third of the country declaring itself an ‘LGBT+ free zone’. Since the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in Poland, the EU has continuously spoken out against this harmful rhetoric. In July 2020, the Commission rejected the applications of six ‘LGBTQI-free’ Polish towns for community funding because their discriminatory political stance does not respect “fundamental rights”.

In Italy this year, thousands marched and protested despite the pandemic to add hate crime legislation to protect those in the LGBTQ+ community.

The latest research by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights on LGBTQ+ people in Italy shows that 62% of respondents avoid taking their loved ones by the hand and 30% do not go to certain places for fear of being attacked.

23% claim to have suffered discrimination at work, 32% to have suffered at least one episode of harassment in the last year, and 8% one episode of physical aggression in the last 5 years. Only 1 in 6 people have reported these incidents to the police.

On November 4, the hate crime legislation in Italy was passed by the Lower House of Parliament, approved by 265 votes to 193 in the member chamber. It will now move into the Upper House Senate before becoming law.

Meanwhile, Hungary passed a bill in the first half of 2020, ending legal recognition of transgender people. Most recently, the Hungarian government passed a ban on same-sex adoption. The legislation enforces a ban on same-sex couples adopting, and forbids schools from holding LGBTQ+ equality workshops.

Despite the rise of right-wing conservative governments that preach hate speech, the people across Europe continue to march and fight for their fundamental human rights. No matter how high the statistics against the LGBTQ+ community rise, as long as there are people willing to fight, there is hope.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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