Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki
The President of the Czech Republic has sparked anger and concern after describing transgender people as “disgusting”.
Miloš Zeman was speaking during a TV interview on Sunday (27 June 2021) with CNN Prima, an affiliate of the American broadcaster CNN. He also discussed (and supported) Hungary's recently introduced anti-LGBTQ legislation banning pro-LGBTQ content to under-18s.
He also criticised EU leaders for their response towards Hungary; Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda did the same last week.
“I do not see a reason not to agree with him”
Referring to his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán who’s ruling Fidesz party introduced the new law, Zeman said: “I do not see a reason not to agree with him.”
The law in Hungary amends an existing law punishing paedophilia. It has been fiercely condemned by other members of the EU, with the head of the body’s commission saying they will investigate.
Zeman went on to say: “I can understand gays, lesbians and so on. But do you know who I do not understand at all? These transgender people.”
As reported by The Independent, Zeman added: “If you undergo a sex-change operation you are basically committing a crime of self-harm. Every surgery is a risk and these transgender people to me are disgusting.”
A 2020 EU report found that trans people in the Czech Republic have to go through sterilisation in order to transition.
“This is worrying to see”
Zeman’s position has rightly alarmed LGBTQ organisations in the country. Speaking to the Independent, Daniel Zikmund, from the Prague Pride Association said Zeman’s statements will worry LGBTQ people.
“Although the majority of the Czech population supports equal rights for LGBT+ people, transgender people remain the group most discriminated against," Zikmund said. "And only a few weeks ago, a gay couple were openly attacked in Prague. This is worrying to see.”
The advocacy group, ILGA-Europe, has cited concerns that the Czech Republic will follow neighbouring countries such as Poland and Hungary in introducing more illiberal legislation.
Speaking to Attitude, the organisation's Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel, said President Zeman's comments come at an "alarming time when the human rights of LGBTI people in Europe are at stake. [...] we’ve reported on a rise of hate speech in Europe for a few years now, that often translates into increases in violence against the community in the street.
"As seen in our Annual Review, in 2020 in the Czech Republic, bias-motivated speech against LGBTI+ people continued to be a serious issue, by politicians, religious leaders, anti-LGBTI+ activists, and the media. Hateful and LGBTI-phobic comments from political leaders have an impact on LGBTI people’s lives, and should be held accountable. Furthermore, the reform on the country’s legal gender recognition is long due as sterilisation is still required to access the procedure."