‘Stark rise’ in abuse and hate speech directed at LGBT+ people across Europe, report warns

Europe has seen a “stark rise” in abuse and hate speech directed at LGBT+ people over the last year, a campaign group has warned.

ILGA-Europe said in its annual report that progress which human rights advocates had taken for granted was now “increasingly fragile”.

“In reports from country after country, we see a stark rise in abuse and hate speech against [LGBT+] people,” the review said, with legislative change often “lagging, stagnant or backsliding”.

“In a lot of countries there are still more progressive laws on the books than there were five years ago, but in too many places we’re still waiting for those laws to translate into real change.”

Warning of a “substantial rise in hate speech, both from official sources, in the media and online”, ILGA-Europe said the trend of politicians attacking LGBT+ people had “grown sizeably” over the last year.

Among those to be singled out was Hungary due to the introduction of policies including a ban on legal gender recognition, which makes it impossible for trans and intersex people to change their registered gender in official documents, and an amendment to the constitution, adding the phrase “the mother is a woman, the father is a man” – which in combination with other legislative changes in effect prevents LGBT+ couples from adopting children.

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, has also warned against Western efforts to “experiment with a godless cosmos, rainbow families, migration and open societies”.

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And in reaction to an MP shredding a book which contains LGBT+ characters, Mr Orban said gay people “should leave our children alone”.

The report said a “crackdown on democracy and civil society” in Hungary and Poland among other European nations had led to a “regression” in rights.

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, had “degraded and scapegoated the [LGBT+] community on his way to election victory”, ILGA-Europe said, leading to dozens of local governments declaring they were “LGBT-free zones”

Trucks with homophobic banners and audio claiming a link between homosexuality and pedophilia were witnessed in public spaces in Poland while hate speech by the government remained a “serious issue”, the report claimed.

Issues around LGBT+ discrimination were also identified in the UK, where the report said “anti-trans rhetoric continued to cause serious damage”.

It said there were cases of rejection and possible deportation of LGBT+ asylum seekers – including the case of a lesbian woman from Cameroon and a gay man from Guinea living with HIV. The Home Office later granted protection to the asylum seeker from Guinea.

Northern Ireland “continues to lag significantly far behind the rest of the UK” in terms of sex education, ILGA-Europe said.

It also noted what it described as a “grim ruling” by the High Court which it said had deprived a trans father – Freddy McConnell – of his right to be featured on his child’s birth certificate as a father, because he gave birth.

ILGA-Europe also noted that the absence of Pride events around the world due to Covid had the potential to impact on the “visibility and presence of [LGBT+] people and communities in the public space, which will only be seen as we move into the years beyond the pandemic”.

In the UK, coronavirus restrictions caused the first LGBT+ Muslim Festival to be postponed.

The report noted the work the European Union had done to try and counter regressive policies by member states, including a proposal to extend the list of EU crimes to cover hate crimes and hate speech on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It also highlighted efforts to stop EU funding applications of six Polish municipalities and cities which had applied for the twinning programme of the Europe for Citizens project, because they had adopted discriminatory Family Rights Charters.