Homophobia still a major issue in Latvia; university professor attacked

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On Sunday evening, homophobia-based physical and emotional attack was carried out against cultural researcher, Professor Deniss Hanovs of Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU), Latvian Radio reported November 9.

This is not a first-time occasion, and the fact that homophobia in Latvia is still a major problem, which many are afraid to talk about, was also acknowledged by the Latvian Centre for Human Rights.

On Sunday evening, professor Deniss Hanovs was at Ķengarags market, Rīga. The attack was committed by two men, possibly under the influence of alcohol.

"There were two men approaching us at the market in Ķengarags, by flower kiosks. They passed us by and then began to publicly and loudly comment about my body - backside. He kicked me in the back with his foot. I turned around and asked, what are you doing, I will call the police.  One of them spoke hateful words, calling me gay, only in Russian, and I don't want to  repeat everything at the moment.

And then he said he wanted to have sex with me," Hanovs said.

The attackers became aggressive and tried to fight. The victim ran into a nearby flower kiosk and held its doors closed.

"I hid there, and I held the handle, because they wanted to break in there, screaming and shouting.

One of them exposed and pressed his genitals to the glass door of the kiosk, screaming at me to open the door," Hanovs said.

The police had come very quickly and acted in accordance with the law. Hanovs, however, highlighted one problem.

As the police explained to him, the law states that a case may be initiated regarding the expression of a threat of rape against a woman, but there is no corresponding article regarding the expression of such threats to a man. The responsible authorities have also promised to comment on this issue. Meanwhile, the head of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights Anhelita Kamenska said homophobia was still a great problem in Latvia, and many are afraid of speaking out loud.

"If you look at official statistics, there are few cases, but if you look at informal statistics, then of course there are many more cases.

It's very good that someone has reported. The situation with homophobic crimes is very similar to racist-motivated crimes that are hardly reported, but in reality there are many more cases. And for example, the nongovernmental organization Mozaīka reported 29 cases last year and reported 22 cases in 2018. These have been both sexual and physical attacks," Kamenska said.

She believes that reporting would be encouraged by a system in which individuals can report to non-governmental organizations and further inform the police.

Deniss Hanovs is convinced that what has happened must also be attributed to the actions of politicians. For example, by rejecting the law on cohabitation, speaking in this context of something unnatural, mentioning incest and otherwise speaking hatefully. Thus, according to him, the attitude of the state is showing and the public is turned against people who don't fit the traditional family, including people with unconventional sexual orientation.

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