President Zeman Receives International Condemnation For Transphobic Comments
Comments by Czech President Miloš Zeman in an interview on Prima TV on Sunday have received international attention and condemnation for transphobia. Zeman made the remarks while defending a new law in Hungary designed to outlaw discussion of sexual diversity in schools, which has also been widely criticised around the world. Photo Credit: Hrad.cz.
Czech Rep., June 29 (BD) – President Zeman has again made international news for his controversial comments, after an interview with Prima TV on Sunday in which he expressed transphobic sentiments. Zeman told interviewer Terezie Tománková that, while he could understand homosexuality, he considers transsexual people to be “utterly disgusting” and compared gender reassignment to “self-harm”. He also criticised feminism, the #MeToo movement, and events taking place as part of Pride Month.
The comments were met with strong criticism from the opposition and LGBT rights activists in the Czech Republic. “Such unsolicited attacks on people who are already encountering enough hurdles from the state are very inappropriate,” said Adéla Horáková of the Czech organisation Jsme fér (“We are fair”), talking to Bloomberg News. “These are people who live among us and they wish to have the same respect from the state as anyone else.”
The president’s remarks have subsequently made international news, reported around Europe, in Australia, and the United States. The coverage was overwhelmingly negative, with several reports discussing Zeman as part of a wider regional pattern of hostility to sexual minorities. Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde described Zeman on Twitter as “a social democrat turned far right, who has a long record of alcoholism, bigotry, and Putin-services. Fortunately, he does not hold much power. Unfortunately, many Czechs will either support or not mind his remarks.”
One exception to the negative coverage was Russian state broadcaster RT, which reported that: “The Czech leader was not ashamed during Sunday’s interview, and shared his views on issues of gender identity.”
The comments themselves were made during a discussion of a new law in Hungary banning the discussion of sexual diversity in schools, which critics say will be used to suppress LGBT rights, as has been the case with similar legislation in Russia and other countries. The Hungarian legislation was the subject of an emotionally-charged meeting in Brussels on Thursday, as many other EU leaders warned Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban that the actions of his government are in breach of EU non-discrimination standards and undermine human rights. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte went as far as questioning Hungary’s future in the EU, though Orban did receive some support from a few other member states, such as Slovenia and Poland. The European Commission has now initiated legal proceedings against Hungary.