1st Oct 2023

Anti-LGBTI violence hits unprecedented high, report finds

  • Last October two people were killed, and a third wounded, in a shooting at a gay bar in Bratislava, Slovakia (Photo: Wikimedia)
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Violence against LGBTI people in Europe and central Asia reached its highest level last year, according to the annual report by ILGA-Europe, an advocacy group, published on Monday (20 February).

"Attacks on LGBTI people with a conscious and deliberate will to kill and injure have increased to unprecedented levels," the report said, which is the 12th annual study looking at the human rights situation of LGBTI people in the region.

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Activists link the rising attacks against LGBTI people to the spread of hate speech by politicians and religious leaders, and the instrumentalisation of LGBTI issues by politicians.

The report described a year of "planned, ferocious attacks" which happened "in the wake of rising and widespread hate speech from politicians, religious leaders, rightwing organisations and media pundits", all of this making 2022 the most violent year against LGBTI people.

Two attacks on LGBTI bars in Norway and Slovakia last year left four people dead and 22 injured. Suicides are also on the rise.

Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director of ILGA-Europe told reporters in Brussels on Monday that the rise in violence is not only happening in "a few bad countries", or regions, but across the continent.

Hate speech against anti-LGBTI people by politicians was reported in 24 countries — including Austria, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands.

"Hate speech in all its forms translates into actual physical violence," ILGA-Europe's executive director Evelyne Paradis warned.

Anti-LGBTI hate crime is increasing in France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK, according to the report.

"Antipathy for LGBTI people has been driven, and then exploited, for political gain," according to ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation of over 600 organisations from 54 countries in Europe and central Asia.

The report identified education is a "growing battleground" in the resistance to LGBTI people and rights. Rightwing Italian premier, Giorgia Meloni has advocated for a ban on sex education in schools and the exclusion of LGBTI people in children's books.

On the upside, the report finds growing support among societies for LGBTI people.

For instance, in Hungary, despite efforts to use anti-LGBTI sentiment by prime minister Viktor Orbán's government, most Hungarians do not consider "homosexual propaganda" an important issue.

Citing some positive trends, the report notes that Cyprus, Ireland and Lithuania lifted of the prohibition on men who have sex with men from donating blood.

Advocates pointed to the need for better leadership that could withstand the rising violence against LGBTI people.

"Our leaders need to find ways to proactively fight the rise of hate speech, rather than finding themselves in the position of reacting to its consequences," Paradis said.

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