Latvian politicians criticized for facilitating homophobic speech

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In the aftermath of the cruel crime in Tukums, where a man was set on fire allegedly for homophobic reasons, questions arise about the ability of law enforcement to react and investigate such crimes, Latvian Radio reported April 26.

It has not yet been confirmed that what happened in Tukums was related to homophobic motives, but it is investigated as one of the possible reasons.

Last year, a homophobic physical and emotional attack was targeted against cultural scientist, professor Deniss Hanovs.  After what happened, Hanovs still hasn't received a response from the police that the perpetrators would have been found and punished:

"I think it's important that this man be punished because it's a message to the public. But what has happened now, literally a few days ago, is what I warned about in October and November. Politicians irresponsibly spread hatred, and at some point this hatred will find a concrete path. That's where a man was nearly burned alive. "

In the opinion of Hanovs, public attitudes are heated. The public has become more aggressive in terms of both the pandemic and the two Constitutional Court judgments that have been beneficial to same-sex partners, people with homophobic views are more radicalized.

Hanovs also said that the situation was affected by irresponsible remarks of hatred from the Saeima. The claim that some politicians openly speak homophobically was confirmed by chair of Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs committee Dace Rukšāne-Ščipčinska (Development/For!): “People look at this and think that if they can, then we can. That, I think, is unacceptable. "

Anhelita Kamenska, director of the Latvian Human Rights Center, pointed out that the European Commission had already recommended in 2019 that Latvian State Police form a separate unit whose work would be directed against racism and intolerance. However, such a step has still not been taken.

She also noted that homophobic hate speech has increased on the Internet and is more prominent than against other groups. There is an increase especially in the last half-year.

“Politicians have also contributed to promoting homophobic speech. It may not always be illegal, but it creates that hostile environment. And perhaps, in this terrible case, the positive thing is that a condemnation followed, serious response from senior officials, because so far we have experienced such a reaction very rarely. Finally, the President of Latvia has responded, the foreign minister has responded, several deputies of the Saeima. So it should be,” Kamenska added.

Meanwhile, member of the Human Rights and Public Affairs committee, criminal justice expert Andrejs Judins (New Unity), said that human attitudes cannot be changed by the Criminal Law. “We can foresee more punishment. We can construct some compositions of criminal offenses. But it has to be realized that if people have such intolerance and they are willing to apply force and murder people because of their sexual orientation, then it's just crazy. Then here, with amendments to the law, we will not solve the problem,” Judins said.

According to Judins, there will be a discussion in the Saeima on this issue and solutions will be sought to improve legislation.

Board member of the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender people and their friends Mozaika, Kaspars Zālītis, called on the police to carefully investigate what happened in Tukums. The organization wants the criminal offence to be investigated at the Rīga precinct.

"This issue has been raised at national level. And what we want is that this issue is not viewed separately and solely as one case that has happened. This context is extremely broad, given that there have been previous threats and, after our conversations, we are observing these homophobic signs. The police have to take this whole context,” Zālītis said.


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