By Hugo Greenhalgh
PRAGUE, Oct 24 (Openly) - Rising populism and nationalism pose the greatest threats to LGBT+ rights in Europe, activists said on Thursday as they gathered in Prague for a major annual conference.
Campaigners attending the annual conference of LGBT+ rights organisation ILGA-Europe said they had growing concerns about the rise of right-wing politicians and a dip in public support.
As the three-day conference got under way, the Thomson Reuters Foundation asked delegates what they saw as the greatest threats to LGBT+ rights in Europe.
ADELA HORAKOVA, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, JSME FER (THE CZECH MARRIAGE EQUALITY CAMPAIGN)
"The deconstruction of democracy... impacts us (and) it impacts others.
"The impact on other people is not so visible yet as we are being used in the forefront as a tool of the fight against democracy, but that is the biggest threat – the framework is falling apart.
"We might see numbers of public support falling as people are not immune to the fear-mongering they hear around them. Certainly, there is a risk of regression."
CZESLAW WALEK, FOUNDER, PRAGUE PRIDE
"We just conducted a survey with the (Czech) ombudsperson and the main finding that came out of it was that only 11% of people think LGBTI people are discriminated against in our country, but in fact 75% of Czech LGBTI people experience discrimination throughout their life.
"There is this discrepancy between perception and reality and LGBTI people do not report this discrimination because they don't trust the local authorities to solve it."
MARJOLEIN VAN DEN BRINK, LECTURER IN LAW, UTRECHT UNIVERSITY
"What is a problem is that some of our right-wing populist parties (in the Netherlands) take this idea of liberal Western Europe and then they polarise it.
"They set us as liberal Western Europeans apart from basically anyone who wants to enter the country.
"(But) I am inclined to be optimistic. It's not even 20 years ago that the first country opened up marriage for same-sex couples which prior to 2000 no one had expected.
"This whole issue of third gender or questioning gender (we wouldn't have seen) not even 15 years ago.
"It's going very fast and maybe that's also what triggers the backlash and there's a risk in that."
EVELYNE PARADIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ILGA-EUROPE
"The two biggest threats to LGBTI rights in Europe are the overall rise in populism and attacks on democracy everywhere because it is fostering hatred and fuelling hatred and violence that affects the LGBTI communities in particular.
"It's just fuelling division for everyone in society, so in the end everyone is losing.
"The other important threat continues to be complacency in the sense that not everyone is seeing the impact that populist and right-wing politics is having, and people are not quick enough – especially governments and public authorities – to react.
"I am more worried than I was a few years ago in the sense that the task ahead is quite big."
ONDREJ MOUCKA, CHAIRMAN, CZECH LGBT+ GROUP OLLOVE
"My main worries are the situation in Poland and Hungary because it's really tough.
"I just spoke with my ex who now has a boyfriend from Poland.
"(My ex) is visiting Poland at the moment and they are afraid of their lives ... They are not just screaming at (LGBT+ people) in Poland, they are attacking them."
ADEL ONODI, ACTRESS AND SINGER
"I am an actress and performed a play in my home country of Hungary based on my transition story as a trans woman.
"The Hungarian government is a big danger for me as they described me in the press as a trans actress 'man', and after that I thought if I stay in my country it will be dangerous for me."
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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