Tolerance in Belgium towards LGBT people has been eroding in the last three to four years, suggested Elio Di Rupo, the country’s Prime Minister.
Speaking in Antwerp, Belgium (4 December) during a presentation about the upcoming World Outgames, a international gay sporting contest, Di Rupo acknowledged that his country was one of the first in the world to introduce marriage equality and anti-discrimination legislation.
As such, he stated, the country sets an ‘international example’
He noted on Twitter: ‘Life in Belgium, for LGBT people, is better today than it wasy 20 years ago. We can rejoice’.
However, the Prime Minister who is openly gay also noted: ‘I feel that different groups in our country against are opposed to freedom.
‘The last three to four years the atmosphere is less free. There were several victims [of anti-gay violence].
Pressed if he meant immigrants he stated: ‘That is too simple. We must continue with tolerance and remind everyone that we have laws’.
Di Rupo stated that he also expects a national action plan against homophobia.
It has been reported that each month sees a statistical rise in anti-gay hate crimes reported in Ghent, reaching an all times high.
The LGBT communities across Belgium have expressed their concern, some have blamed immigrants who come from backgrounds which are less tolerant to diversity others point out that many carrying anti-gay violence are not from immigrant or ethnic minorities’ populations.
The Belgian Prime Minister however stressed that the upcoming World Outgames can help inspire diversity and inclusivity.
He said: ‘The World Outgames is an initiative than can contribute to tolerance.
‘This is an opportunity to provide a good picture of our diversity, especially to young people.
Bart Abeel, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Outgames in Antwerp, said he was very satisfied with the position and the explicit support of the Prime Minister.
‘We are lucky that we have a homosexual Prime Minister and are very happy that he wants to be one of the faces of the games.
Abeel also noted that anti-gay hate is common in sport, saying: ‘Overt homosexuality remains problem for athletes.
‘We want to show everyone how good it can be with an open, tolerant, legislation for gays’.