Homophobic Attacks in Spain: Protests are growing in the streets By Salomé Rizk
Researcher at LGBTQIA+ Team.
Last July in Galicia, nursing assistant Samuel Luiz was murdered, allegedly because of his sexual orientation. Since then, Spanish protesters have taken the streets to denounce the rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community (Reuters, 2021a). According to a statistical report of the Spanish Ministry of Interior, hate crimes have been on the rise, with a 9% increase every year since 2014, including hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals (Reuters, 2021a). Recently a new targeted attack sparked protests. On Wednesday 8th of September, Spaniards took to the streets to express discontent against the lack of protection of LGBTQ+ following the aggression against a young man committed three days before, also because of his sexual orientation (Yagüe & Wilson, 2021). However, the Ministry of Interior quickly refuted the claim by explaining that the young man amended his original statement by adding that the wounds had been inflicted consensually (Yagüe & Wilson, 2021). The man could be facing legal charges for making a false statement (Jones, 2021).
Following this statement, the protest organizers came forward and explained that a false report should not discredit the reports on rising trends in hate crimes (Jones, 2021). Irene Montero, the Spanish Equality Minister, insisted that "Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ collective rose 43% during the first half of 2021. Let's not lose sight of the forest because of one tree." (Montero in Jones, 2021). Additionally, LGBTQ+ groups emphasize that the statistics do not include all the hate crimes committed since these crimes are still widely underreported (Euronews, 2021).
Historically, Spain has adopted a progressive approach towards LGBTQ+ rights. They were the fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage, following the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada (Guardian, 2005). However, recent reports published indicate that LGBTQ+ individuals are still facing hate crimes (Reuters, 2021a, McMurtry, 2021).
In response to the last attack's protest, the Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, held an emergency meeting on Friday 10th of September, with the ministers and community leaders (Reuters, 2021b). Following this meeting, the government decided to create a special unit within the Interior ministry. The team will focus on preventing hate crimes and support victims (Reuters, 2021b). Furthermore, the National Anti-Hate Crime Unit will increase hiring and publish a three-year plan soon (Reuters, 2021b)
The National Anti-Hate Crime Unit will not focus exclusively on LGBTQ+ attacks, but also on other minorities, such as the gitano population, who face increasing discrimination and violent attacks (Reuters, 2021c).
The Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the normalization of hate speech on social media platforms for fuelling intolerance and encouraging hate crimes (Reuters, 2021b). LGBTQ+ rights activist, Boti Rodrigo, claimed that the increase in hate speech beyond social media platforms and within political institutions and political parties also encouraged targeted crimes against the LGBTQ+ community (EURACTIV, 2021). On the other side of the political spectrum, far-right party VOX accused the government of not respecting the legal concept of presumption of innocence. Others also called for the interior minister's resignation following the false attack claim (Reuters, 2021b).
Both the official statistical reports and the growing protests reflect that the LGBTQ+ community in Spain lacks sufficient protection against LGBTQ+ based violence.
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