HRC condemns European politicians 'shamelessly' targeting LGBTQ+ people for political gain

Dunja Mijatović shared, 'scapegoating LGBTI minorities has become a tactic applied by ultra-conservative and nationalist politicians'.

a group of young people marching for Pride on a city street
Image: Christian Lue

As World Pride took place in Copenhagen, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, released a statement recognising how far LGBTQ+ rights had come in the last decades, but also condemned European politicians targeting LGBTQ+ people for their own gain.

Mijatovic shared that certain politicians were “posing as defenders of so-called ‘traditional values’ to strengthen their base and gain or stay in power. I have observed that stigmatisation of LGBTI people is particularly pronounced in the run-up to elections and votes.”

The statement uses as an example, the situation in Poland where “high-ranking officials and politicians affiliated with the ruling coalition used the stigmatisation of LGBTI people as a campaign tool during the 2019 parliamentary elections.

“In the 2020 presidential elections, the serving President of Poland, running for re-election, promised to prohibit the ‘propagation of LGBT ideology’ in public institutions, calling it ‘worse than Communism’, and tabled a bill proposing to ban ‘any person in a relationship with another person of the same sex’ from adopting children. As the 2022 parliamentary elections approach in Hungary, the ruling party there is evidently taking the same path.”

Mijatovic shared further examples of politicians targeting LGBTQ+ people for their own political gain:

“In the Russian Federation, exploiting anti-LGBTI prejudice to attract votes is a long-standing practice, the latest example being the proposal to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in the Constitution.”

“In Bulgaria, I documented the use of inflammatory language by politicians, some of whom made banning the Sofia Pride march an election campaign promise.”

“In Turkey, I recently expressed my dismay at the increasing stigmatisation of LGBTI people by politicians and opinion-makers. The Turkish authorities withdrew from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), claiming a need to resist ‘the normalisation of homosexuality which is incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values.'”

“In Hungary, Italy, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom – to name but a few – politicians incite and perpetuate transphobia, questioning the ‘normality’ or even the very existence of transgender people.”

The Human Rights Commissioner urged EU member states to take measures stopping politicians targeting LGBTQ+ people; “Political parties and parliaments should adopt codes of ethics that prohibit and punish homophobic and transphobic hate speech… There must be no impunity for particularly serious cases of incitement to hatred and violence by politicians.”

Mijatovic concluded, “Pitting groups of people against each other breeds tensions, hate and violence – only serving the narrow interests of some unscrupulous politicians.

“Europe is at a crossroads in the protection and inclusion of LGBTI people. By standing up for LGBTI people, we defend the equal human dignity of all, protect our societies’ wellbeing and the strength of our precious human rights system. Targeting, scapegoating or ignoring one group can ultimately negatively affect us all.”

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