An advocacy group says that homophobic language and hate speech against transgender people is on the rise among European politicians and has warned about a backlash against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people across the continent.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said in its annual report published on February 16 that politicians in 17 countries in Europe and Central Asia have verbally attacked LGBT people over the past year.
The report highlighted Poland, where nationalist politicians from the ruling right-wing PiS party have criticized “LGBT ideology” during election campaigns. It also singled out Hungary, where transgender people last year were banned from legally changing gender.
The situation for LGBT people in Bulgaria and Romania could worsen this year, while in Turkey, ruling-party politicians have repeatedly attacked LGBT people, Evelyne Paradis, the association’s executive director, warned.
The trend of politicians verbally attacking LGBT people has also been on the rise in countries such as Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, North Macedonia, and Russia, the report said.
In Belarus and Ukraine, some religious leaders have blamed LGBT people for the coronavirus pandemic. Hate speech on social media has grown in Montenegro, Russia, and Turkey, in traditional media in Ukraine, and is an ongoing issue in Georgia, North Macedonia, and Romania, the group said.
“There’s growing hate speech specifically targeting trans people and that is being reported more and more across the region….We have grave concerns that it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Paradis said.
In Central Asia, LGBT rights are stagnating or backsliding in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the report said, adding that in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, “we see windows of opportunity for advancing LGBT rights.”
The group said the pandemic has caused difficulties for some young LGBT people at home with homophobic families during lockdowns and given openings to politicians who attack gay and trans people as a way to shift attention from economic problems.
“LGBT communities are amongst the groups that get scapegoated in particular,” said Paradis.