Homophobia soared in Israel amid coronavirus lockdowns

by Rachel Savage | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 17:19 GMT

ARCHIVE PICTURE: A Jewish youth waves a flag as he participates in a march marking "Jerusalem Day", near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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The Aguda LBGT+ rights group recorded a surge in reports of abuse in the home during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Feb 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Homophobia and transphobia surged by 27% in Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns trapped gay and transgender people at home with abusive families, one of the country's oldest LGBT+ rights groups said.

The Aguda received a record 2,696 reports in 2020 - up from 2,125 the previous year - with sharp increases among people in their 30s, women and incidents that took place in the home.

"This ugly hatred towards the LGBTQ community has reached an all time record in 2020," Ohad Hizki, chief executive of The Aguda, said in statement accompanying the report.

"Hatred ruins the lives of thousands of LGBTQs who are asking to live their life with dignity and safety."

Israel is the most liberal country for LGBT+ rights in the Middle East and one of a handful, along with Jordan and Bahrain, where same-sex relations are legal. However, many Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel oppose LGBT+ rights.

Israel introduced three national lockdowns in 2020, from late March to early May and two shorter ones in September and December. Curbs have been eased following the rapid vaccination of about half the population.

The rise in homophobic and transphobic incidents could also be due to more LGBT+ Israelis being willing to come forward, Hizki told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Tuesday.

In 2019, reported incidents rose even more steeply, by 36%.

The study found that 55% of reports last year were made by women, up from 34% in 2019, and those by people aged 31 to 40 doubled to 14% from 7%. Incidents taking place at home accounted for 25% of cases, up from 8% the previous year.

"Since women are generally placed in a weaker state than men are within society, the COVID crisis has weakened them even more," Hizki added via text message.

More than 300 LGBT+ 13 to 18-year-olds were forced to leave their homes last year, a 16% increase from 2019, due to violence and discrimination from their families.

Around 30% of teenagers in LGBT+ safe houses were Arab Israelis, who make up around 20% of Israel's population, the report said.

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(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro and Hugo Greenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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