Two Italian men have recounted a harrowing tale of a homophobic attack in Valencia, Spain, renewing calls for stronger hate crime protections.
Details are still scant, but according to Italy's Gay Center, two men named Andrea, aged 19, and Luca, aged 25, were exiting a gay nightclub in Valencia when the altercation occurred. The Gay Center claims that attackers shouted homophobic slurs while beating them, and that the victims were able to escape in a taxi.
The men reported the incident to the Gay Center's help line, and plan to make a formal complaint to the Italian Consulate upon their return home.
Gay Center spokesperson Fabrizio Marrazzo called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the young men and seek their attackers.
Spain is fortunate to have robust protections when it comes to bias-based violence. Hate crimes and speech based on sexual orientation and gender identity have been illegal since 1995. Despite that, incidents of homophobia still occur.
Earlier this year, a viral video showed a man in Barcelona berating another during Pride for wearing what was perceived as feminine clothing. "I'll beat the gay out of you," the man shouts.
Also this year, a sculpture of one boy kissing another on the cheek was destroyed by vandals in Valencia. In 2015, Madrid's Metro system came under fire after an internal memo recommended that fare inspectors single out "homosexuals, musicians, beggars and sellers." And in 2014, efforts to pass hate crimes legislation in the autonomous region of Catalonia were met with strong resistance from conservative politicians.
In contrast, Italy, as a country, has few protections for LGBTQ+ citizens. "Spain has protected homosexual persons since 1995 in its penal code," Marazzo noted, "while in Italy there is no law against homophobia. ... What happened in Valencia, happens every day in Italy, in the deafening silence of politics."
Efforts to pass hate crime legislation in Italy stalled in 2009, with the Italian Chamber of Deputies rejecting the proposal.
Hate crimes have surged in recent years in some parts of Europe. In England and Wales, reports of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have doubled over the last five years. Nearly half of crimes targeting trans people were violent offences during that time.
What's more, a 2012 survey by the Fundamental Rights Agency found that 66% of respondents across EU Member States were afraid to hold hands with a same-sex partner in public.
Other reports indicate that only about 17% of incidents of homophobic violence are reported to police.