19th Mar 2018

Catalonia passes historic anti-homophobia law

Catalonia’s new anti-homophobe legislation could see offenders fined up to €14,000 for attacks carried out against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB).

The Catalan chamber passed the bill on Thursday (2 October) in what has been described as a first in Spain.

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“Without sanctions, this law would be a mere statement of intent. This is meant as a deterrent,” Anna Simo, of the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), was quoted as saying in El Pais.

The legislation requires a person accused of homophobia to prove their innocence in a twist which has drawn criticism from the autonomous community’s Catholic base and conservative political groups alike.

Bishops of Catalonia over the weekend expressed some reservations that the law could also erode a person’s presumption of innocence.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) and the Catalan nationalists of Unio had vetoed the law but were outnumbered by the Catalan socialists and other left wing groups.

A global survey published by Pew Research over the summer suggests Spain appears to be the country most accepting of homosexuality worldwide. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed agreed that "homosexuality should be accepted".

Same sex couples have also been allowed to marry since 2005.

At the same time, the EU-funded European Men to Men Internet Survey showed that 40 percent of gay respondents and 45 percent of bisexual respondents in Spain had suffered violence or intimidation within a year of the survey.

“I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering,” Miquel Iceta, a Catalan socialist, was cited as saying in the Spanish press.

The European Commission, for its part, has been reluctant to formulate an EU-wide policy to combat homophobia and to protect the rights of the LGBT community.

Pro-gay rights groups, MEPs and 11 EU ministers are pressing the commission to come up with a proposal.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed a resolution for the EU legislator to come up with a roadmap in order to ensure LGBT people are treated equally throughout the 28-member bloc.

Asked about putting forward a roadmap during her grilling by MEPs last week, EU justice commissioner-designate Vera Jourova said the EU’s broad anti-discrimination directive was good enough.

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