Belgium and its LGBT+ community are reeling from the country’s first homophobic murder in nine years.
The victim, a 42-year-old man, was lured to a park before being brutally beaten to death by three youths using Grindr to snare the victim, according to the police.
He has been named by Belgian media as “David P”.
David’s body was found by a cyclist in the early hours of Sunday at a park just outside the northern port of Antwerp, East Flanders. Local police are still in the early stages of their investigation.
Three people have been arrested on suspicion of murder, all of them considered minors under law in Belgium.
A 17-year old boy from Antwerp and two boys from Beveren, aged 16 and 17, are currently in custody under interrogation according to a statement by the public prosecutor of East Flanders on Monday.
Belgian politicians have since condemned the brutal hate crime among them, including Europe’s first openly trans minister and deputy prime minister for the Belgian Federal Government, Petra De Sutter.
De Sutter tweeted: “Disgust. Grief. Compassion. What drives people so far in their hatred that they kill a man just because he likes men.
“Let’s condemn this cowardly murder in the strongest possible terms. And get rid of homo- and transphobia completely, also here with us.”
Jarfi’s body was found days after he was abducted outside a gay bar, showing signs he had been tortured to death for hours.
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The case resulted in aggravated sentences for the killers due to the homophobic nature of the attack, the first to see homophobia recognised as an aggravating factor since it was ratified in 2003.
Jeremy Witgens, Jonathan Lekeu, Mutlu Kizilaslan were handed life sentences, and Eric Parmentier was jailed for 30 years over the killing.
This week’s murder has sent similar shockwaves through the Belgian LGBT+ community, which has been facing a steady rise of homophobic verbal and physical violence since 2012, according to the latest report from Unia, an independent human rights institution.
It reported an increase of 38 per cent over the past five years alone
“It is clear that when we talk about the acceptance of LGBT+ people, we must remain vigilant. There remains an undercurrent of negativity towards LGBT+ people.” the report stated.
Flemish advocacy group for LGBT+ people, Çavaria, has since launched a civil action in order to closely monitor the investigation of recent hate crimes.
In a statement, Çavaria said: “It is particularly poignant that this happened. Not only for those directly involved but for the entire LGBT+ community in Flanders.
“After all, a hate crime is an attack on an entire group of people, based on an identity characteristic of that group.”
General coordinator of Çavaria, Yves Aerts, added: “We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the victim.
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“We hope they find support from each other in these difficult circumstances. We hope the whole LGBT+ community can find warmth and love from each other in these difficult times.”
Grassroot LGBT+ activist, Laurent James, 26, has reacted to the events on social media stating: “Despite laws and our reputation as an ‘openminded and liberal’ country, queer people remain at a huge, disproportionate risk of verbal and physical violence.
“We strongly urge secretary of state for gender equality, equal opportunities and diversity Sarah Schlitz and minister of justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne, to not only strongly condemn these attacks but prevent future LGBT+ violence from happening in more than one way.”
Laurent James was inspired to create his social media platform for any queer related content by his own personal experiences of homophobic verbal violence and the lack of outright honest criticism.
“I do feel that there is a rise of homophobia in this country, the community is absolutely shocked by such an act of violence,” he said.