Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crimes Spiked in 2020, Israeli Advocacy Group Says, Partly Due to Lockdowns

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A person wears a pride flag in Ashkelon, two years ago.
A person wears a pride flag in Ashkelon, two years ago.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The number of reported hate incidents against LGBTQ people jumped by 27 percent in 2020, according to figures from the homophobia report of the Aguda – The Association for LBGTQ Equality, published on Monday. There were 2,696 incidents reported in 2020, compared to 2,125 in 2019.

There were 315 young people who were forced to leave their homes due to prolonged harassment or abuse due to their orientation or their gender identity, according to the report – an increase of 16 percent over 2019.

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The report states that the coronavirus pandemic led to a concentration of homophobia in the home, with 28 percent of reported attacks taking place within the family.

The report, which is published annually, combines all the incidents reported to the Nir Katz Reporting Center, named after a victim of the 2019 shooting at Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar LGBTQ youth center.

The Aguda notes that the frequent lockdowns increased the “pressure cooker” experienced by LGBTQ people facing harassment and abuse brought homophobia home, as reflected, for example, in demonstrations of hostility on the part of neighbors and family members.

There were 96 young LGBTQ Arabs who arrived at shelters after being removed from their homes due to their identity – 30 percent of them of all such cases. The report says that as opposed to previous years, when the issue of LGBTQs in Arab society was silenced, in the past year there has been a major change in Arabs’ attitudes.

In July, the Aguda, in cooperation with the Al Arz tahini manufacturer, established an Arabic-language hotline in Arabic to provide assistance.

The association says that the reports arriving from the Arab community in 2020 centered around a lack of acceptance and violence in the close family, causing psychological and financial distress that intensified during the pandemic.

According to the figures, 4 percent of all the reports in the past year concerned incidents of discrimination and homophobia in the workplace (compared to 3 percent in 2019). For example, one person reported his shift manager consciously mocking him over his sexual orientation, “accompanied by barbs, mimicry, and a specific reference to my sexuality. This was done in front of employees and customers, and I’m so embarrassed and hurt that I don’t know what to do.”

A further 7 percent of reports took place in the school environment, whether in virtual or in-person lessons, compared to 5 percent in 2019.

The report also finds a 60-percent rise in reported violence against LGBTQ women. Gay and bisexual women accounted for 48 percent of all the reports, while 27 percent were from gay and bisexual men and about 25 percent from transgender people.

As for incidents of transphobia, cases of harassment close to home, online bullying and discrimnation related to health care rights were reported. One transgender woman said that she had “finally managed to get a work interview, because until now I was turned away due to my trans appearance. When I went I was asked by the interviewer what I have between my legs. I had tears in my eyes.”

According to Ohad Hizki, the director of the Aguda: “The ugly hatred of the gay community reached new heights this year, when it is being legitimized by senior government officials ... We ask anyone who has had a homophobic experience to turn to us. Reporting can save lives.”

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