There is growing international condemnation of a Hungarian law that bans the depiction or promotion of homosexuality to those under 18. The measure taken by the Hungarian government has been widely criticized across Europe and has angered human rights groups. Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir, chair of Samtökin ’78, The National Queer Organization of Iceland, is of the opinion that the Icelandic Government should publicly condemn Hungary’s new law, thereby sending a clear and necessary message.
In light of happenings in Hungary – and The Czech Republic where the president has backed the legislation – are Samtökin ’78 planning some kind of protests?
“So far we have been sending a clear message about the unacceptability of the new law passed in Hungary, both in the media and in our call to the Icelandic government to condemn the laws. We have not yet spoken out as an organisation about the Czech president’s remarks and are not, as of now at least, planning an in-person protest – although we are certainly brainstorming ways to highlight the direness of this situation and draw attention to it.”
“The push to drive a wedge between trans people and gay people in an attempt to dismantle queer solidarity is happening everywhere, it appears.”
Have you heard what the president of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, recently said about trans people, describing them as “disgusting”? How do you feel about his remarks?
“Yes, I have. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the news was ‘hate is contagious’, the second thing was ‘trans people are brave and beautiful’. The Czech president’s words are very alarming, obviously, and point to the disturbing reality that powerful people in Europe seem to actually be listening to leaders like Viktor Orbán (Prime Minister of Hungary). This is dangerous speech coming from an individual in power, and as such it can have a very negative impact on both attitudes toward trans people and on the mental well-being of trans people – in the Czech Republic and beyond.
An alarming aspect of the president’s remarks is the fact that he claims to understand gay people while calling trans people disgusting. The push to drive a wedge between trans people and gay people in an attempt to dismantle queer solidarity is happening everywhere, it appears. It is very important that these efforts do not succeed. We are one community and we must stand united.”
Some say there is a backlash against LGBTQAI+ rights in Eastern Europe, what’s your opinion of that? If so, why do you think that is?
“Yes, there is dangerous backlash against queer rights going on in several countries in Central and Eastern Europe – as well as backlash against trans people especially in countries like the UK and multiple states in the US. The reason for this certainly differs between places, but a mix of a conservative societal reaction to increased visibility mixed with concerted, determined efforts to undermine queer rights.”
Have Samtökin ´78 been in touch with the LGBTQAI+ communities in Hungary, Poland and The Czech republic? What about queer people from those countries based in Iceland?
“Not in connection to the most recent developments, no. We did an event with Polish members of our community in March, however, and are part of a grant proposal in cooperation with a Polish organization. When it comes to international cooperation in general, we are proud members of ILGA-Europe – who certainly work closely with people in the countries where rights are being trampled.”
“There is dangerous backlash against queer rights going on in several countries in Central and Eastern Europe – as well as backlash against trans people especially in countries like the UK and multiple states in the US.”
What do you think of the reactions of the Icelandic government to the things taking place in these countries?
“The Icelandic government and Ministry for Foreign Affairs has done a great job in the past few years in calling for increased acceptance and rights for queer people worldwide, and Iceland is member of the UN LGBTI core group. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, our Minister for Foreign Affairs, has publicly expressed concern over the new law in Hungary. However, Iceland has not yet condemned the new Hungarian law – which I believe would be a very clear and necessary message to send.”