Greece: Government Votes Against LGBTQ+ Rights

Right wing government pursuing conservative, ideological campaign on many levels

The right wing party New Democracy has been in government for 6 months. During this short period of time it has attacked a number of workers’ and democratic rights, stepped up repression, especially against young people and 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 being attacked.

At the end of 2019, the government revised the Constitution — a parliamentary process that should only take place once in every 5 years. During this, the main parliamentary opposition party, SYRIZA, proposed amending the 5th article of the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on race, language or religion, or on the basis of sexual preferences or gender identity. The New Democracy government voted against this proposal, in effect taking 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 governing party’s MPs and cadre have, in the past, made crude homophobic comments in public. Gerasimos Giakoumatos, a New Democracy MP in the former parliament, during an interview said that “homosexuality is an infectious disease”. To back his claim, he even invoked his medical profession as a general practitioner and research he had supposedly personally conducted!

In 2017, the New Democracy government voted against the right of Trans-people (including minors from the age of 15) to change their gender on their ID cards without having to provide the authorities with a psychiatric evaluation and a medical certificate, to prove they have physically changed their gender. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, when still an MP, spoke in the parliamentary plenary discussing the bill to relate a story he had supposedly heard from a doctor. The absurd and ridiculous tale, which supposedly proved why the bill was wrong, was about a teenager who asked his 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.

The vote against including a prohibition in the constitution of discrimination on the basis of sexual preferences or gender identity, gives a 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 incidents were only from the prefecture of Attica, the greater Athens region, and only included those officially reported to the organisation. They give just a glimpse of the problem.

The murder of activist and drag artist Zak Kostopoulos in 2018 is also characteristic. Zak was being chased by a still unknown assailant 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. When they arrived, the police joined the owner and 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, videos that had been taken and later blood tests proved that the police and the shop owner were lying, and that they had committed murder.

A constitutional prohibition of discrimination against LGBTQI+ people would represent an important step in the struggle for equal rights and could also positively effect LGBTQI+ peoples’ lives. For example, a study conducted in Denmark and Sweden proved that allowing same-sex marriage reduced significantly suicide rates among gays and lesbians.

Of course, laws establishing LGBTQI+ rights are far from sufficient to solve all their problems. We need to constantly fight against rigid gender stereotypes, 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 others, 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.

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