The Czech President Miloš Zeman has sparked anger after calling transgender people “disgusting,” amid growing tension over anti-LGBTQ legislation in some EU countries.
Speaking to CNN affiliate CNN Prima News on Sunday, Zeman said: "If you undergo a sex-change operation you are basically committing a crime of self-harm.”
“Every surgery is a risk and these transgender people to me are disgusting."
The comments came during a discussion over Hungary and its recent implementation of anti-LGBTQ legislation. The country has imposed a law that restricts any LGBTQ material in schools or on children’s TV, a year after it effectively banned adoptions by same-sex couples.
Hungary risks legal action from the EU if it does not roll back its laws and has faced condemnation from other member states such as Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte went as far to say that Hungary “has no business being in the European Union any more.”
Speaking about Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Zeman said: "I do not see a reason not to agree with him.”
Zeman also made disparaging comments about other social rights movements. “I am completely annoyed by the suffragettes, the #MeToo movement and Prague Pride," he said.
Despite many EU states condemning Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, few leaders have spoken out against Zeman’s attack on transgender people.
Nancy Kelley, CEO of LGBTQ charity Stonewall, told VICE World News: “At a time when leaders across the EU are condemning actions in Hungary, Czech Republic President Zeman’s statements about transgender people are entirely unacceptable and deserving of condemnation. His remarks are another sign of the continued efforts to undermine the rights of LGBTQ+ people – particularly trans people – around the world. We urge all world leaders to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ hate and fight for a world where every lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer person is free to be themselves, wherever they are.”
VICE World News has contacted the EU Commission for comment.