Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital city, on Thursday passed a controversial law to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB) from homophobic attacks.
Calling it the ‘world’s most pioneering laws against homophobia’, the state-run Catalan News Agency (ACN) reports that it includes fines for homophobic behavior at the work place and positive discrimination measures, such as having to prove one’s innocence if accused of homophobia.
‘This positive discrimination measure is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove,’ the ACN report said.
The new provisions will punish those who attack gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with fines of up to €14,000 ($17,700).
The report says 80% of the Catalan Chamber has backed the new law and the only group who voted against the law was the conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, while the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Government, split its votes.
One of the most vocal defenders of the new law, Catalan Socialist Miquel Iceta said, ‘I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering.’
‘They speak derisively of a gay lobby. But look at this room! This is not a group of people working undercover to achieve illegitimate goals. This is a group working to defend the rights of everyone.’ Said Iceta who is one of the first Spanish politicians to come out as gay.
Spain is one of the more progressive countries in the world on gay rights. It legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 under the former Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
The country is however seeing a rise in homophobic attacks yet only a fraction are reported to the authorities, according to gay rights groups.
According to a study on hate crimes, the first of its kind, published by the government, it showed that out of the 1,172 hate crimes recorded in 2013, a majority (452) were based on the victim’s sexual orientation, followed by race (381) and disabilities (290).