The Greek government votes against LGBTQI+ rights

18/01/2020
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Giannos Nikolaou

The right wing party New Democracy has been in government for 6 months. During this short period of time it has already attacked a number of workers’ and democratic rights, it has stepped up repression, especially against young people [1], and has launched a conservative ideological campaign on many levels, including the rewriting of history in school books, discussing the possibility of priests teaching in public schools and the replacement of some school holidays with obligatory church attendance. It is in the context of this conservative and reactionary turn that LGBTQI+ rights are also attacked.

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In the end of 2019 the government revised the Constitution – this is a parliamentary process that can take place only once in every 5 years. The main parliamentary opposition party, SYRIZA, proposed to add to the 5th article of the Constitution that prohibits discriminations based on race, language or religion, the prohibition of discriminating against people based on their sexual preferences or gender identity. The New Democracy government voted against this proposal, taking in effect a stance against LGBTQI+ rights! 

For many LGBTQI+ activists and people on the left this was a shock. However, it was predictable.

A number of the government’s party MPs and cadre have made in the past crude homophobic comments in public. Gerasimos Giakoumatos, a New Democracy MP in the former parliament, had said during an interview that “homosexuality is an infectious disease”. To back his claim he even invoked his medical profession (he is a general practitioner) and research he had supposedly personally conducted!    

In 2017 New Democracy government had voted against the right of Trans-people (including minors from the age of 15) to change the gender on their ID cards without having to provide the authorities a psychiatric evaluation and a medical certificate that they have physically changed their gender. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, an MP then, told a story in the parliamentary plenary that was discussing the bill, which he had supposedly heard from a doctor. The absurd and ridiculous story, who was supposed to prove why the bill was wrong, was about a teenager asking the doctor to change his gender because an alien had advised him to do so!

There are dozens of similar examples that could be mentioned and which show the stance New Democracy has towards LGBTQI+ people and their rights.  

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The vote against the inclusion of a prohibition in the constitution against discriminations on the basis of sexual preferences or gender identity, gave the green light to LGBTQI-phobic people to step up discrimination and violence.

Violence against LGBTQI+ people is far from rare in Greece. Between 2014 and 2015, 140 cases of violence or discrimination were reported to the organisation “colour youth”. These were incidents only from the prefecture of Attica (greater Athens region) and only the ones officially reported to the organisation, giving only a glimpse of the problem [2].

The murder of activist and drag queen Zak Kostopoulos in 2018 is also characteristic. Zak had been chased (still unknown by who) and tried to seek refuge in a jewellery store in the centre of Athens. The owner locked him in the store and called the police. Together with the owner the police beat Zak to death in broad daylight, in public. The police and media tried to present Zak as a drug addict who wanted to rob the shop owner. However the videos, the blood tests etc that came out proved that the police and the shop owner were lying and that they had committed murder.

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To constitutionally prohibit the discrimination against LGBTQI+ people would represent an important step in the struggle for equal rights and could also have a positive effect in LGBTQI+ peoples’ lives. For example a study conducted in Denmark and Sweden proved that same-sex marriage reduced suicide rates among gays and lesbians significantly [3].

Of course laws establishing LGBTQI+ rights are far from enough to solve to the problem. We need to constantly fight against the rigid gender stereotypes, the conservative and LGBTQI-phobic ideas in society, discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ people.

In order for this struggle to be successful it has to be part of the struggle against the system as a whole. Capitalism, despite the “progressive” mask it might wear on occasions in relation to such issues, bases its existence, among other, on discrimination and cultivates ideas and practices that divide the working class – the class that has the power to overthrow this system and build a society without poverty, discrimination and exploitation, a socialist society.       

[1] http://net.xekinima.org/greece-wave-of-repression-and-attack-on-workers-and-democratic-rights/ , http://net.xekinima.org/xekinima-youth-members-arrested-and-charged-with-fake-charges-in-a-police-intimidation-operation/
[2] https://www.colouryouth.gr/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Ekthesi-Ergou-Pes-to-S-emas.pdf
[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nordics-lgbt-health-trfn/suicides-fall-with-gay-marriage-in-sweden-denmark-as-stigma-fades-idUSKBN1XO010.