LGBT+ people are being ‘scapegoated’ by political leaders in Europe and across the world

Andrzej Duda sworn in LGBT+ gay

LGBT+ people are being “scapegoated” by political leaders in Europe and Central Asia, according to an LGBT+ rights organisation.

Progress on LGBT+ rights is “increasingly fragile”, ILGA-Europe warned in its tenth annual review, published on Tuesday (16 February) – and this is down to political forces who have harnessed homophobia and transphobia to deflect blame from themselves.

The advocacy organisation warned that there has been a rise in hate speech in a large number of countries over the last year, and many politicians are importing transphobic debates into their own territories.

ILGA-Europe said that the trend of politicians verbally attacking queer people has “grown considerably and spread widely” over the last year, while many religious leaders have also directly pinned the coronavirus pandemic on the LGBT+ community.

The advocacy organisation expressed particular concern about the growth of anti-trans sentiment in many countries, with opposition to transgender people’s rights becoming alarmingly common.

According to the annual report, there has been legal regression and stagnation in 19 countries in Europe and central Asia over the last year.

Much of this backslide on LGBT+ rights can be attributed to increasingly vocal opposition figures making sure their discriminatory views are being heard.

Governments must take ‘bold and decisive action’ on LGBT+ rights.

Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: “Our annual review shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted all of the gaps in terms of lived realities of LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia.

“In reports from country after country, we see a stark rise in abuse and hate speech against LGBTI people; many of whom became vulnerable to homelessness have been forced to move back into hostile family and community situations.

“LGBTI organisations have had to skew their work towards provision of basic necessities like food and shelter as many governments left LGBTI people out of their relief packages; and there has been a resurgence of authorities and officials using LGBT people as scapegoats while authoritarian regimes are empowered to isolate and legislate without due process.”

Poland made headlines in 2020 after a third of the country declared itself an “LGBT free zone”, while Hungary banned transgender people from having their gender identity legally recognised.

The situation in Europe is “worrying”, said Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director at ILGA-Europe. Hugendubel praised the European Commission expressing its commitment to protecting LGBT+ rights.

“These are steps in there right direction, but they need to be followed by similar actions at national level,” Hugendubel added.

Meanwhile, Paradis urged governments to “acknowledge how fragile the situation is for LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia.”

“It is essential to take bold and decisive action at multiple levels, so that the human rights of LGBTI people in all their diversity will continue to advance across the region, and the promise of equality will be experienced in their lived realities.”