Shock turns to division after shooting at Slovakian gay bar

Despite the immediate shock and outburst of solidarity following the recent terrorist attack by a 19-year-old far-right sympathizer, Slovak society seems to be caught up in even deeper ideological divisions over gender and gender issues. sexual orientation.

Two young men were shot dead and a woman was injured on October 12 as she sat at a table outside a gay bar on Zamocka Street in the capital Bratislava. The assailant escaped and committed suicide early the next morning.

  • An LGBTQI rally in the predominantly Catholic country (Photo: Lucia Šubíková)

Before his suicide, the teenager revealed what he had done and said he had no regrets on his Twitter account.

He also published his motivations in a 65-page manifesto, inspired by foreign extremist sites and social networks, expressing racist views and hatred against Jews, the LGBTI community and existing political institutions.

Several Slovak politicians, including Prime Minister Eduard Heger, were on his list of “high-value” targets.

Lost for the (good) words

The murder sparked a strong reaction among the Slovak public, with thousands of people taking part in marches against violence and in support of the LGBTI community.

But the country’s leading politicians have apparently struggled to communicate on the subject – in the face of a largely conservative and highly polarized population, under the relatively strong influence of the Catholic Church.

Heger, of the ruling conservative OLaNO (Ordinary People and Independent Persons) party, apologized himself under public pressure for his initial “choice of words” in a Facebook status in which he claimed that no one should be attacked for his lifestyle”.

“It is absolutely unacceptable in a free and democratic country for people to die or be attacked because of their sexual orientation, race, gender or religion,” the revised version said.

Heger also announced that the Justice Department had been tasked with preparing legislation to address practical life issues for the LGBTI community, such as property rights for same-sex couples.

Slovakia is one of six EU member states that offer no legal recognition to same-sex relationships, along with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

However, OLaNO leader and Finance Minister Igor Matovic ruled out approving a registered partnership as part of the move, stressing that it would go beyond the Slovak government’s manifesto.

In September, the liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party left the ruling coalition. The three remaining centre-right parties in the minority government – ​​OLaNO, the We Are Family party and the For the People party are largely conservative.

Most opposition parties also express conservative views, including the social democratic party Smer-SD, a member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament.

“They know their voters and will not deviate from the attitudes that got them those votes,” Michal Cirner from the political theory department at Prešov University told EUobserver.

“Most of their supporters don’t want to see any major changes or gestures towards the LGBTI+ community – so expect minimal changes, without fanfare. There may be progress eventually as we live in the 21st century, but almost nothing crucial or provocative towards the conservative majority,” Cirner said.

Deeper still in the trenches

According to the 2019 Eurobarometer, 31% of Slovaks agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people, the lowest proportion in the EU.

The Zamocka Street shooting could affect some of their perspectives on the subject, says sociologist Michal Vašečka, from the media faculty of the Pan-European University in Bratislava.

Liberal-minded Slovaks see the tragedy as proof that their country has failed to protect the rights of all its citizens and must act accordingly, while others were shocked by the intensity of the problem, Vašečka said.

On the conservative side, he added, some who agree with the protection of human rights but do not see LGBTI rights as part of the package have begun to actively defend their views – while the more radicalized and conspiratorial parts of the population seem even more united in targeting the queer community as their main enemy.

“Conservative groups tend to accuse liberals and generally the West of advancing what they call the sick agenda against human nature,” Vašečka noted.

“At the end of the day, there’s a pressure for everyone to take sides with one of the two larger opinion camps, the trenches get deeper and things get dangerous because black and white opinions shift from hatred to conflict… like never before in history.”

As a member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) established by the Council of Europe based in Strasbourg, Vašečka underlined that improving the situation of the LGBTI community had been one of the main recommendations to Slovakia – but too little or no effect.

“What might possibly work with some people is the economic point,” he said (adding that it’s his least favorite argument.)

“Not a small number of Slovaks leave their homeland because of the quality of life of the LGBTI community, and foreign companies think about the issue before deciding to come and invest in Slovakia,” Vašečka said.

EU law does not oblige member states to adopt the same rules on same-sex unions, but discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited.

But amid ideological debates after the shooting, a Slovakian regional court ruled that a same-sex couple, married in Argentina, should have been granted the same permanent residency that applies to married couples – throwing out a ruling of the Slovak Aliens Police as discriminatory.


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