Rising populism stokes homophobic hate speech across Europe - rights group

Tuesday, 4 February 2020 08:00 GMT

Anti-LGBT protesters react as police use water cannon before the start of a Pride march in Lublin, Poland, September 28, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Jakub Orzechowski via REUTERS

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Hate speech by public figures increased in 17 countries, including in countries such as Portugal, Spain and Finland, according to ILGA-Europe

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Feb 4 (Openly) - Homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and other anti-LGBT+ hate crimes are rising across Europe, fuelled by divisive politics and socially conservative groups that also campaign against abortion access, an advocacy group said on Tuesday.

Hate speech by political and religious leaders increased in 17 countries, including in countries such as Portugal, Spain and Finland, known for being LGBT-friendly. Homophobic violence also rose across the region, according to a report by ILGA-Europe.

Poland's nationalist ruling party railed against "LGBT ideology" in its re-election campaign last year, while Hungary's parliament speaker equated gay adoption with paedophilia and Spanish and Finnish politicians criticised Pride marches.

"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.

In March 2019, then-deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right League party, spoke in Verona at the World Congress of Families, a conference that promotes the "natural family" against LGBT+ and abortion rights.

"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."

While ILGA-Europe's report was not based on comparative, quantitative, hate crime data, Paradis said there was a "heavy trend" of increased anti-LGBT+ hate speech and violence in a majority of European countries.

She noted however that there was more recognition of same-sex civil partnerships and parental rights and a growing movement to ban medically-unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex infants who are born with atypical sex characteristics.

More countries, including Germany, are also considering outlawing so-called conversion therapy, which is based on the belief that being LGBT+ is a mental illness that can be cured.

"It's not all doom and gloom," Paradis said.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Ros Russell. 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)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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