OPINION: The Slovakian elections are a dark dawn for nation’s queer people

Friday, 6 October 2023 12:22 GMT

SMER-SSD party leader Robert Fico reacts during a press conference after the country's early parliamentary elections, in Bratislava, Slovakia, October 1, 2023. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Slovakia's elections were not just a political event but a referendum on equality, empathy, and progress

Krystof Stupka is a member of the Czech Government's Committee on LGBTQ+ Rights

For the queer community in Slovakia, waking up after the parliamentary elections on Sunday might have felt like entering a dystopian nightmare.

The triumphant rise of Robert Fico's pro-Russian SMER, a party that opposes wider LGBTQ+ rights, casts a dark shadow over the nation's future.

Just last year there was the heart-wrenching attack at the Bratislavan gay bar where Juraj Vankulič and Matúš Horváth were murdered. I remember the tears, the anguish, and the solemn promises of 'never again'. Yet now, Slovakia has re-elected proponents of homophobia.

In the new Slovak Parliament, a majority of members — 80 out of 150 — belong to parties that can best be described as anti-LGBTQ+ equality.

Fico's SMER has vowed to introduce his own version of the 'Don’t Say Gay‘ bill to restrict schools from discussing LGBTQ+ lives.

Ľuboš Blaha, deputy leader of the Smer, warned that Slovakia is facing "fascism in rainbow colors" and Fico, the former PM and leader of SMER previously said that he does not want “people coming in here who will claim to be women and have a 20cm d**k between their legs“.

OĽANO's leader and the former Prime Minister Igor Matovič was named homophobe of the year 2022, for calling the previous leader Pellegrini a homophobic slur.

Anna Záborská was also re-elected on OĽANO’s list. She won the same award in 2020 for saying that queer people are a threat to humanity itself. Záborská became internationally known last year for proposing an amendment that would ban legal gender recognition.

Meanwhile, Milan Majerský, the leader of the KDH party, views LGBTQ+ people as a national plague, which can destroy the nation as a whole. And an MP re-elected for the far-right SNS, Štefan Kuffa, previously also won the Homophobe of the Year award for a hateful comment about burning gay men to death - for which he refused to apologise. 

There are only two parties, Progresivni Slovensko (32 MPs) and Svoboda a Solidarita, (11 MPs) that came to defend equality during the elections, pledging to deliver the recognition of registered partnerships and assistance for the LGBTQ+ community in their programmes. Yet, even their manifestos fell short of embracing equal marriage.

Slovakia is stumbling at the precipice of majoritarian tyranny, camouflaged as democracy. For that democracy, in its essence, must be based on equality before the law – yet here it has been grotesquely distorted.

It is likely Fico will attempt to deliver a copy of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “Anti-LGBT propaganda Law,” or Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s ‘Don’t Say Gay bill‘. This means one of Europe‘s worst countries for queer rights, where same-sex couples have zero legal recognition from the state, will become even worse.

This will have an impact on societial acceptance too. The 2023 GLOBSEC survey already reveals that 55% of Slovaks believe “LGBTI+ is an immoral and decadent ideology“, up from 49% in 2020. Politicians bear the sole fault for this increase and continue to fan the flames.

Hostility towards queer people has also surged and the legal framework to protect the LGBTQ+ community remains startlingly inadequate.  

It's an inescapable truth: Slovakia's elections were not merely a political event but a referendum on equality, empathy, and progress. And the results are a damning reminder that in our part of the world, queer rights are not yet understood as human rights.

The legacy of Juraj and Matúš, and countless others whose voices have been stifled, should push us to action. Their memories deserve more than passive remembrance; they demand a fierce pursuit of equality and justice.

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