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Letter from Brussels: Denial

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 18 September 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Dear Neighbors to the North, It is forbidden by law to deny that the Holocaust ever happened during the Second World war. And with reason. The denial of very different forms of violence, physical or mental, however, is not penalized. In this case: gay bashing.

In recent weeks, the Flemish press reported on cases that can certainly be classified as gay bashing, with injuries and hospitalization of the victims as a result. What always stood out in these cases, is that although the homophobic character of the attack is extremely apparent, in their response, local politicians speak in ambiguous terms about the homophobic nature of the aggression. “The police investigation will have to bring this to light,” it often sounds.

The mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont, responded similarly on the umpteenth case of a serious homophobic attack on a couple in Ghent. The closer we get to the municipal elections of October, the more diplomatic the official reactions of politicians are, particularly worried about the possible consequences of their possible statements.

And those consequences can indeed come true for Daniel Termont for the following reason. The straight couple that attacked the gay couple on the street were of Bulgarian and Kosovan origin, but living in Ghent. More than 7,000 people of Bulgarian origin live in Greater Ghent. They can exercise their municipal voting rights during the October local elections, and of course Termont does not want to lose those 7,000 possible votes knowing that his socialist party will not score very well according to polls. He therefore has an electoral interest in being “understated” about the Bulgarian community in Ghent.

Therefore, Mayor Termont was particularly cautious in his statements, hoping he would not upset the Bulgarian community. Anything goes when it comes to reeling in the votes, even weakening the seriousness of a clear homophobic act. They are especially afraid to point out the underlying reasons.

“The subject is a sensitive one in their culture or religion,” one often hears in response to a homophobic attack. Where someone with half a brain would rightly ask why these politicians are playing the devil’s advocate. Often, religion is to blame, but it is still a person actually doing these horrible things. If the aggressor cannot make a clear difference between religion and his or her actions, then a society will run into trouble.

This “political correctness” is responsible for not tackling problems at its roots. This also holds true for gay bashing. By avoiding these causes, they are wiping these problems under the carpet, which speaks of contempt for the victims. The fact that there are so few politicians speaking out about gay bashing, is a disgrace.

However, it is a reality the gay community will have to deal with. We ourselves should speak out in the media, instead of leaving it to the politicians. And keep reporting these incidents, whether mental or physical. We should tell it how it is (preferably in the media) and should not refrain from doing so because of certain sensitivities. You can leave that to the politicians.

Yours sincerely,

De Ket



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