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Ireland to criminalize incitement to hatred against transgender people

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has endorsed legislation

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(Photo courtesy of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland/Facebook)

Ireland Justice Minister Helen McEntee presented the Irish government with her approval of legislation that will criminalize incitement to commit acts of hate against transgender people and people with disabilities and acts condoning, denial or gross trivialization of genocide such as the Nazi holocaust and war crimes.

The Irish Times reported that the new legislation will repeal the previous incitement to hatred laws and is intended to make prosecutions easier. However, the bar for a prosecution remains high. A defendant must have deliberately intended to incite hatred or violence against a person on account of their protected characteristic and there are defense’s for a reasonable and genuine contribution to literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic debates.

A person who seeks to incite hatred against a person or group with one of these characteristics may be guilty of an offense which could carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, the Times noted.

The Times also reported that McEntee intends to include a “demonstration test” in the bill, where guilt can be established if the perpetrator uses, for example, racial language or other evidence of hate against the victim. A demonstration test hinges on a perpetrator showing hostility towards someone with a “protected characteristic” at the time of an offence being committed.

The Cabinet was told this could include the use of hostile or prejudiced slurs, gestures, other symbols or graffiti.

The public comment period for the legislation received around 4,000 responses and the Justice Department’s staff also consulted with outside leading experts with backgrounds in hate crimes, discrimination and the LGBTQ and intersex community.

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European Union

Surge in transphobic rhetoric across Europe sparks concern ahead of EU elections

ILGA-Europe released comprehensive report on Thursday

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The German Reichstag in Berlin in 2022. EU elections will take place in June. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

As the European Union prepares for the upcoming elections in June, an increase in anti-LGBTQ sentiments and transphobic rhetoric in particular from politicians across the continent has sparked concern.

A comprehensive report that ILGA-Europe released on Thursday reveals a stark rise in hate speech from politicians in 32 European countries, with 21 of them being EU member states.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia sheds light on a concerning trend of hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. A significant portion of these statements has been directed at trans people in various EU member states that include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Icelanders participate in Reykjavík Pride in the Icelandic capital in 2022. Iceland is among the countries in which anti-transgender rhetoric has increased in recent years. (Photos courtesy of Inga Straumland/Reykjavík Pride)

Politicians have increasingly utilized anti-trans rhetoric, often weaponizing children as part of scare tactics to generate opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational restrictions. This strategy extends to a broader trend where politicians argue that limiting information about LGBTQ individuals is necessary to protect minors.

The report underscores the detrimental impact of demonization by politicians and attempts to introduce restrictive legislation. These actions have contributed to a rise in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly among young LGBTQ individuals. Moreover, the report notes an escalation in violent protests outside schools and libraries, creating unsafe environments for young people.

The fear-mongering tactics have further exacerbated attacks on LGBTQ people. 

Out of the 54 countries covered in the review, only six reported no hate crimes in 2023. In the remaining 48 countries, verbal and physical violence, with a focus on trans people, were prevalent. Only one EU member state reported no hate crimes.

“The very core values and standards upon which the EU was founded are being called into question,” said ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel.  

She emphasized that human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. Hugendubel highlighted the divisive nature of exploiting LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In response to these alarming trends, ILGA-Europe will launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign next week. The campaign aims to provide candidates for the European Parliament with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to supporting and protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. 

“LGBTQ rights are under attack, and children are being harmed in the process,” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Chaber stressed. 

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign will call for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy, and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

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European Union

Czech lawmakers reject marriage equality bill

Lawmakers agree to ‘compromise’ measure

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(Bigstock photo)

The lower house of the Czech Parliament rejected a bid to allow same-sex marriage in the Central European country Wednesday afternoon, instead passing a compromise bill that expand the rights of same-sex couples in registered partnerships and allow them to adopt each other’s biological stepchildren. 

The bill heads to the Senate, where some senators have vowed to continue fighting for full equality.

Czechia has allowed same-sex couples to form registered partnerships since 2006, but these accorded limited rights compared to marriage. Notably, same-sex couples were barred from adoption, and were not allowed a widow’s pension or joint property rights.

Lawmakers were debating a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, as well as a set of proposed amendments that would have instead expanded the rights of couples in registered partnerships. While a parliamentary committee had recommended that lawmakers vote on the proposals from the most expansive to the least expansive, Parliament instead reversed that order. In the event, the proposal for full equal marriage didn’t even come for a vote as the compromise amendment was passed first. 

Under the compromise bill passed Wednesday, registered partnerships will be renamed “partnerships,” and same-sex couples will have all the same rights as married couples except with regard to adoption. Joint adoption will not be allowed, and partners will only be allowed to adopt each other’s biological children.

The compromise bill passed with 118 votes in favor, 33 against and 23 abstentions. A proposal that would have allowed full joint adoption rights received 66 votes in favor to 54 against with 64 abstentions, but failed because it required a majority of lawmakers present, or 93 votes, to pass.  

Czech marriage equality advocacy group Jsme Fér says the result was disappointing.

“It is a sad day for thousands of families with children who have two moms or two dads and hundreds of thousands of LGBT people. It is a sad day for justice and equality in our country,” the group posted on X following the vote.

Same-sex marriage has been a live political issue in Czechia for the past several years. Polls have consistently shown wide support for same-sex marriage in the country, but support among lawmakers has long lagged public opinion.

Civil society had also mobilized to support same-sex marriage, with groups representing university students, artists, business groups and large corporations joining campaigns urging legislators to support equal marriage. 

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, President Petr Pavel, who campaigned last year on a promise to support same-sex marriage, urged lawmakers to support equality.

“I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation. I believe we are a tolerant society and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine,” Pavel wrote in a post on X.

The compromise bill now heads to the senate, which will need to pass it before it can become law. At least one senator has said he will urge his colleagues to insist on full marriage equality.

“A watered-down version of same-sex marriage is heading to the Senate. I am sorry that the majority of MPs were against equal marriage for all. In the Senate, we still have a chance to fix it, I am ready to file a PN. I don’t want to continue the regime of two categories of people,” Sen. Lukáš Wagenknecht of the Pirate Party wrote on X.

But the bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate, which is slightly more conservative than the lower house. Last month, the Senate rejected ratifying the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, a European treaty meant to protect women, over concerns that the convention would expand LGBTQ rights. In fact, the treaty does not mention LGBTQ people, but anti-LGBTQ forces have been mobilizing against it in Eastern Europe. 

As in many countries in Eastern Europe, support for same-sex marriage has become a proxy for support of Western or pro-European Union values. Of the 27 EU countries, 16 allow same-sex marriage, the most recent being Greece and Estonia. A further five recognize some form of civil union, while a civil union bill has been proposed by Poland’s new government and another civil union bill is before the Lithuanian Parliament.  

The next Czech parliamentary election is not expected until October 2025.

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European Union

Greek lawmakers approve marriage equality bill

Greece is first Christian Orthodox county to allow same-sex couples to marry

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(Bigstock photo)

Lawmakers in Greece on Thursday approved a bill that extends marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The Associated Press reported 176 out of the 300 members of the Greek Parliament voted for the bill that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right government wrote. Greece will become the first Orthodox Christian country to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, even though the Greek Church strongly opposed the bill. 

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece — a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” said Mitsotakis in an X post.

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