by Jade MacEwan
On 18 December, the European Parliament passed its first motion on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including notoriously known Polish LGBTI free zones. The adopted text includes measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity and the recognition that hate crimes against LGBTI people are on the rise across the European Union, with often inadequate responses from public authorities and hate speech from public authorities themselves. The text recognises that discrimination has been fuelled by populism and far-right extremism, leading to an increasingly unsafe environment and lack of protections for LGBTI people (European Parliament; The European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup).
Discrimination against LGBTI people is increasing across Europe, and has become of particular concern in certain countries. The resolution is a particularly important message of support to the LGBTI community in Poland, as this community is under particular threat, especially as the current Polish government have been passing resolutions against LGBTI people (ILGA). Institutional discrimination and laws passed by the state to deny equal rights are particularly dangerous, because this leaves minority groups with a lack of safety and support, as well as legitimising discrimination of these groups. In Poland, over 80 regions, counties and municipalities have passed resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT free zones” in 2019. There have also been restrictions on supporting LGBTI people and organisations and restrictions on sex education in schools. Such policies can lead to an increase in violence and hate speech against minorities, as could be seen at Pride events in Poland this year, for example, in Bialystok, where thousands of nationalists, football fans and far-right extremists attacked people marching in the Pride parade, throwing rocks and glass bottles at them (CNN).
LGBTI rights are not only under threat in Poland but in several EU countries. The motion also points out recent incidences of hate speech and discrimination in countries such as Romania, Estonia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Hungary, particularly during political campaigns such as elections and the Romanian referendum on the definition of family (European Parliament).
As a result of this motion, European member states are expected to take action to protect LGBTI rights. This includes providing training for judicial and law enforcement authorities, so that they can better prevent and respond to discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTI people, giving equal rights and freedom of movement to all families including LGBTI families, tackling homophobia in sports, taking action against bullying in schools and ensuring that sex education is provided in schools (The European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup).
The motion demands that all European member states condemn discrimination against LGBTI people, and Poland is called upon to revoke its discriminatory resolutions, including the local laws on “LGBT-free zones.” The motion also calls for further action to be taken and the adoption of an EU-wide strategy to ensure the equal rights of LGBTI people. As much of Europe continues on a path towards stronger nationalism and populism, with a denial of equal rights and safety for all in favour of rhetoric promoting so-called “traditional values”, this motion is particularly welcome, as is the hope that the EU will strengthen its commitment to protect and uphold LGBTI rights (ILGA).