In a span two months there were two significant events for LGBTQI rights in Europe. On September 26, the Swiss voted ‘yes’ to same-sex marriages with an overwhelming two thirds majority. Just a month later, following a string of homophobic assaults on gay people, Italy’s senate rejected a bill that that would make violence against LGBTQI people a hate crime.

The two almost opposite legislative events demonstrate exactly how divided the continent of Europe still is when it comes to LGBTQI rights. 

Throughout this year, several attacks on LGBTQI people have caught Europe’s and the World’s attention. In May, a queer man was attacked, set on fire, and died in Latvia, which witnesses have called a hate crime. Just a month after the incident, the Latvian government rejected a law making sexuality-based violence a hate crime.

The following month, fellow eastern nation Hungary voted “yes” to banning the depiction or “promotion of homosexuality” to under-18s as part of its gay propaganda law. This led to conflict within Europe, German spectators carry out a rainbow-coloured protest at a Germany-Hungary Euro 2020 football match in Munich, in support of LGBTQI rights. In 2019, around 100 Polish towns voted to declare themselves as “LGBT-free” zones.

Not A “West Versus the Rest” Situation

Image: Pride In London

On paper, the western part of Europe is considered to be more liberal when it comes to gay rights, while the eastern part has some of the more hostile nations. However, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) stresses that LGBTQI rights in all regions of Europe are under attack.

“Despite more “Western” countries previously leading the way as regards legal protection of LGBTQI rights, we are currently seeing stagnation in these countries, where it is erroneously believed that the “work has been done”, while in reality discrimination is rising,” Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director, ILGA told Star Observer.

In July, LGBTQI communities in western Europe were shocked when a gay man was murdered in what is suspected to be a homophobic killing in Spain, one of the world’s safest places to be queer.

Meanwhile in the UK, the head of media at Stonewall, one of the largest LGBTQI rights charities across Europe, announced that he plans to take a year-long sabbatical amid “a tsunami of transphobia”. Jeffrey Ingold was not alone in raising the issue. A UK report revealed that transphobic hate crimes have quadrupled over the past five years in the country. 

“We are at a juncture in history when anti-LGBTQI forces are rife, not only in headline-grabbing countries like Poland and Hungary, but across Europe. LGBTQI people need all governments to seize this moment and make sure Europe remains a committed and active leader in the arena of human rights for everyone,” added Hugendubel. 

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