by Michele Lipori Confronti Editorial Staff
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was born in 2004 to raise awareness of the violence and discrimination suffered by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersexuals and all other people with non-binary sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The date of 17 May was chosen in memory of the decision by the World Health Organization to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, which took place on this very date in 1990.
The declassification by the WHO was only the last step in a long journey. As early as 1974, homosexuality had been deleted from the American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the first version of the manual (dating back to 1952) homosexuality was considered a psychopathological condition that could be classified as a sociopathic personality disorder. Subsequently, in 1968, it was then considered a sexual deviation, similar to pedophilia, to be classified among the non-psychotic mental disorders.
The European Union officially established the day against homophobia in its territory in 2007. Since 2009, the campaign has focused mainly on transphobia, making explicit this attention to the issue of violence against transgender people right down to the name. The explicit reference to biphobia dates back to 2015.
Demonstrations for May 17 are held in more than 130 countries, including some of the 73 countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Every year thousands of initiatives, large and small, are brought back from all over the world. The official hashtag to follow this year’s events is #IDAHOBIT2021 and the theme of this year’s campaign is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!”
Discrimination in the world
According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, at least 69 countries still have laws that criminalize homosexual relations between consenting adults. In addition, laws exist in at least nine countries that specifically criminalize transgender and non-binary people.
In 2021, the last countries to decriminalize same-sex sexual activity were Bhutan and Angola (one of the few African countries to have legislation to protect LGBTIQ + people).
No European country has a law explicitly against homosexuality. The last country in Europe to have such a law was Northern Cyprus (recognized only by Turkey), but it was then repealed in January 2014.
However, it is good to remember that
- in Russia an anti “gay propaganda” law was enacted in 2013 which prohibits any positive mention of homosexuality in the presence of minors, even online;
- a similar law was passed in Lithuania in 2015. The country is considering adopting another that would impose fines for any public performance that “defies traditional family values.”
- Ukraine was considering adopting laws in this direction between 2012 and 2013, but has not yet done so;
- Moldova, adopted a similar law, only to repeal it in 2013;
- Belarus was debating a similar law in early 2016;
- Poland established in 2019 the so-called “zones free from LGBT ideology” (LGBT-free zones), or areas (municipalities or entire regions) that have declared themselves hostile to the “LGBT ideology” in which equality marches are banned and other events supporting the cause of LGBTIQ+ people. In June 2020, over one hundred municipalities (about one third of the total), and five regions adopted resolutions making them “LGBT-free zones.”
Furthermore, as noted by the 2021 annual report of ILGA-Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have highlighted the difficulties experienced by LGBTIQ+ people living in Europe and Central Asia. The report highlights a clear increase in abuse and hate speech against LGBTIQ+ people; but also the unease of many LGBTIQ+ people who – as economic conditions change – have been forced to return to hostile family and community situations. In this regard, the organizations that deal with the rights of LGBTIQ+ people have had to reorient their activities towards the provision of basic necessities such as food and shelter, as many governments exclude these people from their aid packages.
The Zan Bill (approved on November 4, 2020 in a unified text and transmitted to the Senate) continues to arouse great and bitter discussions, which – if approved – among the measures envisaged includes imprisonment of up to 18 months or a fine of up to 6,000 euros for those who commit acts of discrimination related to sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; as well as prison from 6 months to 4 years for those who commit or instigate to commit violence for the same reasons.
The Eurispes survey of July 2020 showed that, regarding the legal protection of unmarried couples, there was a clear majority of consensus, with 67.8% of Italians in favor. The Italian population demonstrates, compared to the past, a greater openness to issues related to homosexuality and, in this regard, see the data relating to the possibility of contracting marriage between persons of the same sex and adoption. The first is accepted by 59.5% of the sample, registering a considerable increase especially compared to the results obtained in the 2015 survey, when the favorable ones reached a 40.8% consensus. The possibility of adoption also for homosexual couples is favorably seen by 42% of the respondents.
Nonetheless, in 2020 Arcigay documented 138 incidents related to hate crimes and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people, of which 74 occurred in Northern Italy, 30 in the Center, 21 in the South and 13 in the Islands. 32 events have to do with actual assaults, 13 are solicitations for the purpose of robbery, blackmail or extortion, 9 are family violence, 31 are discrimination or insults in public places, 17 are slanderous written on walls, cars, houses, 25 they are episodes of hate speech and hate speech, online and offline, triggered by politicians, groups, movements.
In May 2019, the results of the first European survey on discrimination, based on sexual orientation and gender identity in sport, were published. The study found that the level of homophobia and transphobia in sport are higher in Italy than the average for other countries in Europe.
The Eurobarometer survey by the European Commission, published in September 2019, found that in Italy only 68% of people believe that lesbian, gay and bisexual people should be on an equal footing with respect to heterosexual ones. The percentage drops to 43% with respect to the legal recognition of gender identity for trans people and to 37% with respect to the possibility of a “third gender” on public documents. Regarding the acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people in politics or in the workplace, in Italy 55% and 62% were in favor. This figure shows how Italy continues to score below the European average in terms of social acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people.
Ph. © Gayatri Malhotra/CopyLeft