July 25, 2021

The rise of populism in Europe threatens the rights of the LGTBI collective | Society

The rise of populism in Europe threatens the rights of the LGTBI collective | Society



The rise of nationalism and populism again threatens the rights and freedoms of the collective LGTBI. Especially in several Eastern European countries where these movements have come to power. Far from aspiring to the conquest of marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, activists in these countries are forced to protect themselves from the verbal violence that conservative and far-right currents throw at them. This escalation was accentuated in the campaign of failed referendum convened in Romania to veto gay marriages in its Constitution. Associations of countries such as Poland or Lithuania have also reported having suffered several attacks at their headquarters this year.

Mirka Makuchowska, Polish Campaign Against Homophobia activist, denounced at the annual international association conference ILGA-Europe, which brings together dozens of entities from the continent, held in Brussels, the authoritarian drift of the ultraconservative government of Law and Justice. Just when he spoke, he received the news that many schools were forced to cancel activities that they had programmed to promote tolerance in schools. The Ministry of Education had warned all the directors and had asked the parents to denounce the centers that hosted these events.

"Everything has gotten worse," Makuchowska sums up. Polish activists denounce an escalation of actions to Undermine civil rights movements by depriving them of access to public funds. "We are seeing how a virulent language is used and we re-use words that we had not heard for a long time, such as 'sodomitas' or 'perverts'. And that hate speech emboldens kids who pass by a place that has the rainbow flag and do not hesitate to stone him, "he denounces.

Those messages loaded with prejudice also supported the Romanian citizens last September, during the campaign of a referendum that sought to veto same-sex marriages in the Constitution. Leaders of the government Social Democratic Party spread the television chant that these unions put the family at risk. The referendum watered by not convoking the minimum votes to be validated. "The leaders of that populism present it as a movement of the people, but it is the other way around, they come from above and seek to win over the people at the expense of the weakest," warns the Romanian activist and journalist Teodora Ion-Rotaru.

The hostility of the governments of countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania or Bulgaria towards the LGTBI groups has set off the alarms of the European Commission. Your first vice president, Frans Timmermans, warned in that conference of the return of the "language of hate" from the hand of the populist and nationalist movements. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, already irritated last year to Brussels to host a congress of an antiLGTBI group in which he criticized the European Union for being dominated by a "relativist and liberal ideology that is an insult to families."

However, Timmermans especially rebuked the Bulgarian and Romanian socialists, their European political family, for wanting to get support by employing homophobic approaches. "If they want to be part of our family, they have to understand that respect for equality is an essential element," he said.

In the queue on civil rights

Almost all Eastern countries are in the red zone of the report that ILGA-Europe produces every year. For years, they remain trapped in that territory that borders on discrimination and the violation of human rights. Latvia is the worst-placed country in the European Union. "We do not want to be there, but since 2006, when we adopted legislation in the workplace, nothing else has been done," complains Kaspars Zalitis, an activist from Mozaika.

Despite the lack of progress, Zalitis is more optimistic than other activists. He does perceive social changes. Just a few years ago, it counts, in the Baltic marches of Pride he had to endure, along with another handful of companions, how they were throwing excrement at him. This year, some 8,000 people marched through the streets of Riga without suffering any incident. "Of course, we are worried about populism, but it is something that France or Holland are also experiencing," he adds. Not in vain, in the box van of the index of the European association is also Italy, where its vice president has recently rejected adoptions by same-sex couples claiming the right of children to have "a father and a mother".

In Latvia, adds Zalitis, two parties with parliamentary representation that can be decisive in forming a government have already placed LGBT equality on their agenda. Something that Simeon Vasilex and Lilya Dragoeva, two Bulgarian activists, can not say. "No party that is in Congress raises that question," says Dragoeva. "Nationalism tries to attract votes. And he uses the discourse that Western ideology wants to infiltrate our country, "laments Vasilex. "Those divisive forces remind us all of a basic truth: these threats concern us all," says Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe.

"We want to go to the end"

The LGTBI collective scored a victory after the Court of Luxembourg ruled that homosexual marriages should have the same residence rights in the EU as heterosexual couples, even in countries where these unions are not legal. The battle was started by Adrian Coman, of Romanian origin, who married a US citizen in Brussels. Two years after their wedding, they asked Romania for a residence permit for the husband. The petition was initially rejected, but the CJEU ruled that Bucharest should recognize it.

Coman, who attended the Brussels conference, explains that the legislation has been clarified, but he still waits for the Romanian justice to solve his case. "We want to go to the end," says Coman, referring to the fact that he may still run into a legal "hole". Even so, the Coman ruling has opened the door for other couples to claim recognition of their marriages celebrated in other countries of the European Union in which one of the spouses has resided. In fact, resolutions are expected shortly in Poland and Lithuania.

Today Coman lives in the United States. That option, that of leaving the country, is why many young people opt for it. It happens in Romania, according to the organizations denouncing the civil rights of that country. But also in Lithuania. A survey recently conducted by the largest LGTBI organization in Lithuania among young people in the country showed that 90% of those asked had thought or were considering going abroad when they finished their studies. In the Baltic countries, in fact, the groups complain that they are suffering from the lack of Russian tolerance. "We have a problem of bullying in schools, but the institutions do not face it. They consider that all information about the LGTBI collective is propaganda and we continue to feel the pressure of the Church, "says the president of the entity, Vladimiras Simonko, who denounces that just two months ago his headquarters was attacked.

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