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As we navigate an increasingly tumultuous world laden with conflict, unconditional backing of equal rights for all will become increasingly essential for the well-being and resilience of minority groups within Europe, Camille Ogoti writes.
Right-wing, anti-gender rhetoric is surging across Europe. From Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who has been vocally opposing what he frequently describes as “woke culture” and “gender ideology”, through to the Netherlands’ Gert Wilder, whose Freedom Party recently campaigned to “end political indoctrination … and gender madness”, the use of identity as a political weapon and the targeting of minority groups is intensifying in many EU member states.
The sad reality is that, in 2024, despite the many advances for equity and equality in our societies, we are seeing a growing commitment of millions of euros to “culture war” groups, which aim to roll back the freedoms and values we, in Europe, take for granted.
Parts of the political right — emboldened by developments in the US and the striking down of Roe vs Wade — now see capital from attacking sexual and reproductive health, and the rights of women and LGBTQ+, under the guise of demography and concerns about so-called ‘woke’ practices of government.
This has painted a target on the back of minority groups, to the extent that the volume of attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals in Europe now stands at a decade-high.
Adding fuel to the immigration ire
These sentiments are further inflaming the political discourse on immigration. Germany, a powerful EU member state, is witnessing the surge in popularity of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, encouraging discussions around mass deportation.
The heightened fears surrounding immigration, coupled with the surge in anti-gender sentiments, are placing LGBTQ+ refugees at an alarming risk of discrimination and deportation.
Both the UN and the EU have recognised the call for recognition of the specific needs of LGBTQ+ refugees.
Transgender individuals, facing elevated levels of transphobia across Europe, are particularly at risk. Hungary’s government, for instance, overtly opposes inclusive language internationally and reported hate crime levels are on the rise.
The fear of disclosing sensitive information to officials at the Ukrainian border, coupled with concerns about being turned away at the border, or having their identification documents confiscated, has dissuaded many queer individuals in Ukraine from attempting to leave their country.
Some have it even worse
This experience is even worse for those who have faced discrimination and harassment for their race.
Many refugees were established in key industries before being forced to flee — connecting them to training and economic opportunities helps their integration into their host countries and allows skilled individuals to adapt their pre-existing experiences to suit new job markets.
Yet, for the first time since 2010, we are witnessing a concerning shift as countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Japan have reduced their financial commitments to address gender violence.
Additionally, they have allocated a smaller share of total aid to support gender equality initiatives.
Funding significantly impacts LGBTQ+ organisations, offering critical support not only to counteract millions poured into anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups but also to aid some of the community’s most vulnerable members.
Hard-won freedoms under fire
It is clear that the rise of anti-gender rhetoric, and escalating violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Europe, requires urgent address and a stamping out from our society.
This pushback must come from our elected officials, with a commitment to standing up for the values and rights of minority groups.
It must also come from deeper collaborative efforts, which highlight the critical role funding and coordination can play in both countering politically-driven assaults and providing safeguards to the most vulnerable in our society.
As we navigate an increasingly tumultuous world laden with conflict, in both the physical and political sense, unconditional backing of equal rights for all will become increasingly essential for the well-being and resilience of minority groups within Europe.
We cannot stand by as passive observers as ideologues take aim at the hard-won freedoms of our continent.
Camille Ogoti is a human rights activist currently leading Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration’s (ORAM) humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis from Berlin, in partnership with the Alliance for Gender Equality in Europe.
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