Strongman’s favourite bogeyman: how fascists wield homophobia


Strongman’s favourite bogeyman: how fascists wield homophobia

Why have countries such as Hungary, Russia and Uganda jumped on this bandwagon? It’s devastatingly simple

Clara Ferreira Marques

Hungary’s parliament this month approved legislation that outlaws school materials and other content for the young deemed to “promote homosexuality”. The effort to marginalise the LGBTQ community and link it with paedophilia has outraged many fellow European states and is straining the 27-member Union. Discrimination against gay and transgender people is an increasingly popular ploy for strongmen keen to distract attention from faltering popularity, and this is no exception. The personal, political and economic scars will endure.

The bloc’s more reactionary governments have been testing limits of what is permissible for some time, and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, who rails frequently about the evils of immigration and liberalism, is often leading the charge. He has already, among other steps, effectively banned adoption for same-sex partners and made it impossible for Hungarians to legally change their gender. This new law, ostensibly about child protection, makes inclusion even harder. 

The sad reality is that there is nothing original here. Orban’s Fidesz party found inspiration in Russia’s 2013 law outlawing propaganda on “non-traditional sexual relations”, a significant step backward for a country that first decriminalised homosexuality in 1917 (and then again in 1993). Such legislation legitimises homophobic rhetoric, reduces much-needed support for LGBTQ youth and, research has found, increased tolerance for violence against individuals. Attitudes have deteriorated: A survey in 2018 found that 63% of Russians believed in a concerted effort to destroy Russian values through gay propaganda. In Poland, ruling nationalists also made homophobia a key plank of 2020’s presidential campaign. In an interview on Sunday backing Orban, Czech President Milos Zeman described transgender people as “utterly disgusting”...

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