The president of the OCH assures that it is necessary a "political will" and "more gasoline" to develop the tools in defence of the LGTBI collective.
Rodríguez would like the next president of the government of Catalonia to "take a blow at the table and decide to implement real LGTBI policies"
ANNABEL SAAVEDRA AND CLARA DE MELO.–The Observatori contra
l'Homofòbia (OCH) is an entity that was born in Catalonia in 1991 following the murder of a transsexual by a group of neo-Nazis in Barcelona: "That is when we give ourselves account that there is a need to implement an organisation that deals with the aggressions received by the collective of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (LGTBI)’’, affirms its president Eugeni Rodríguez. Twenty-seven years later, Rodríguez claims that after "intense work" ‘’many tools and mechanisms have been developed, even organisms have been created" in order to end this scourge, but warns that "gasoline is necessary for the engine to work: if there is no political will and resources are not invested to develop these tools, little progress will be made ". And would like independent organizations to be created, but he would like this organizations to depend on the Parliament of Catalonia, and not the current government."
QHE- The Observatori contra l'Homofòbia was born in 1991 following the murder of a transsexual by a group of neo-Nazis in Barcelona. Is this your response to impunity against the aggressions suffered by the LGTBI collective?
It was back then when we realized that there was a need to implement an organization that would deal with aggressions against the LGTBI collective. We were born in 1991 and we have evolved until today: we are an entity that combines the voluntary, with the activism and the professional.
QHE- Was there any institution or area of Public Administration that protected them? And now, in 2018, do they exist?
In the 90’s we had a tool that has been used a lot until today, which is Article number 14 of the Spanish Constitution. It affirms that nobody can be discriminated because of race, sexual condition, among others. In addition, we also have the Síndic de Greuges –Defense Of the People in Catalonia-, and the support given by some parliamentary groups in the Parliament. In 1995 the Penal code was expanded with hate crimes related to homophobia; the egalitarian marriage also went ahead; and in 2014, in Catalonia, the first law against LGTBIfobia was developed. However, in 2017 we have many tools, many mechanisms and agencies so to put our engine to work, little gas is used: there is no political will or resources for these measures to be developed and implemented.
QHE- What is the balance of the OCH in all these years of work?
The balance is absolutely positive. I believe that the Observatori has put on the table the constant, daily work, without rest, with hardly any economic means and with a single purpose: that LGTBIfobia cannot be free and that we cannot allow impunity. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid aggressions, but we do demand that at the time this happens, this person has all the necessary assistance.
QHE- You offer counselling and service to victims who have suffered any kind of aggression or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. What results are you getting? How many people have you helped so far?
The services are giving a very positive feedback. We are the only entity that, in a universal and freeway, address the entire collective and offers professional assistance to the victim. Each week we give attention to two or three people. In 2017 we managed a total of 110 complaints of LGTBIphobic origin.
QHE- How is the OCH financed?
We finance ourselves with public money: from the government of Catalonia, the Barcelona City Council, the Deputation de Barcelona and other community councils. We also have a small private financing. In addition, in 2018 we want to implement a part of our community's financing: we will incorporate contributions from partners.
QHE- From the Observatory they recommend that the victims report all cases to the Mossos d'Esquadra so that the Administration has proof, so they can act and end with the message that LGTBIphobia discrimination is free. What effects do these impeachments have?
It is absolutely crucial that when a person belonging to the LGTBI collective suffers an assault, both verbal and physical, it is brought to the attention of the police. Once the facts are qualified, we recommend that they be transferred to the court or the competent body of the government and also that they inform the Observatori through our website (www.och.cat), in the "online report" section. In this way, our legal team gets to work on it.
QHE- Do you also receive complaints through social networks?
Yes, on Facebook and Twitter, but in this way it is harder for us to handle all the complaints. In facts like those it is needed to give all the seriousness this matter deserves, because a person has been attacked or discriminated. We need that the facts are contrasted and we demand that people always inform in writing and by e-mail because we want to give maximum rigor to the complaints.
QHE- Following the latest reform of the Penal Code, entities such as the OCH have stated that the concept of 'freedom of expression' violates the rights of the collective in some autonomous communities such as Catalonia. How is it understood that this varies according to the community?
There is a lot of confusion with this topic. A LGTBI law has been drafted, which improves the different laws that exist in some autonomous communities because currently, in the autonomous communities we are seeing that hate speech is not being sanctioned and it is being justified by saying that it is 'freedom of expression'. Obviously, we are in favour of freedom of expression, but we believe that there comes a time when freedom of expression is not to be rude and isolate a person because of his orientation, identity, expression or sexual behaviour.
QHE- Despite your work, on September 5th, 2017 you reported an increase of 30% of LGTBIphobia cases in Catalonia. What do you think is failing?
We believe that it is not being done: the law has been three years old. It has two major parts: guarantee collective rights and eradicate LGTBIphobia. In the first law, things have been done, but nothing has been done to end the LGTBIfobia, and a sanctioning mechanism and a regulation are needed - the regulation is drawn up but it has not been approved or implemented. Therefore, one of our demands is that in Catalonia we have a specific regulation and an independent body that is the one that elaborates and coordinates LGTBI policies and also its possible translation of eventual sanctions against LGTBIphobic events.
QHE- Unfortunately, you have been in the news for campaigns such as the "Hazte Oír" bus or the Bishop of Solsona in a mass. How do you act against this?
Before any hate crime or action that may infringe any right or freedom of an LGTBI person, we register it and bring it to the notice of the government, the City Council, the Síndic de Greuges, etc. We always take note and inform, and try to have an exit with an official response or, at least, our public complaint.
QHE- Spain was the fourth country in the world that recognized homosexual marriage. Do you think we are a pioneer country in defending the rights of the LGTBI collective? What gaps do you think exist?
Yes it is true that Spain was the fourth country to do something as impressive as wallowing the egalitarian marriage, in a brutal way. Zapatero had the best of formulas: he considerate that we all have the same rights in that area. But this was started by the roof and the foundations were homophobic: you could get married but could you ask for 15 days at work? It turns out that you could not. Spain is of the average up, but still there are big deficiencies, especially in terms of protection by the administrations.
QHE- What solutions do you propose to end LGTBIphobia? Do you think that a possible solution would be based on education at school?
It is necessary for the next president of the government to knock on the table and decide to implement real LGTBI policies. That means a lot of money and a lot of preparation and training of the health services, police and education professionals. It is necessary to work in all areas.
QHE- In Spain there are many areas or neighbourhoods of cities with places, clubs and even hotels exclusively for this group. Do you think that opening a place exclusively for this group is a good way to achieve equality in society?
I respond by formulating the phrase backwards: we have places of environment because outside of the places of environment you can be beaten for holding hands with your partner.