Czech President Milos Zeman called transgender people “disgusting” in an interview on CNN affiliate CNN Prima News on Sunday, during a discussion of a controversial new law in Hungary.
The Hungarian law bans all educational materials and programmes for children that are considered to promote homosexuality, gender reassignment and the concept of sexuality deviating from the one assigned to a person at birth.
The law has been met with fierce criticism from other members of the European Union.
Zeman said interference in internal affairs of any EU member country is a gross political mistake, and he defended Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“I do not see a reason not to agree with him,” Zeman said. “I can understand gays, lesbians and so on. But do you know who I do not understand at all? These transgender people.”
Zeman described transgender people as “intrinsically disgusting to me”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week denounced the Hungarian bill as “clearly” discriminatory, saying “it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union, and this is human dignity, it is equality, and is the human fundamental rights”.
Zeman’s comments came as several cities around the world celebrated Pride with parades and marches aimed at gaining visibility for the LGBTQ community. Prague’s Pride festival is planned for the first week of August.
According to ILGA-Europe, an advocacy group, local rights activists fear the Czech Republic could follow in the path of its increasingly illiberal neighbours Hungary and Poland.
A Czech LGBTQ activist quoted by local media condemned the president’s comments, claiming that they could incite hatred against the country’s sexual minorities.
Zeman insists Orban is not anti-gay, but rather is fighting against the “manipulation” of parents as well as children when it comes to sex education.
He noted that he himself was “annoyed by the suffragettes, the MeToo movement, and Prague Pride”.
Zeman stressed that he had nothing against sex education, including on LGBTQ issues, but insisted that children are too young to understand such topics.
The Czech leader routinely makes headlines with his colourful comments.
In 2016, he came under fire after insisting that it was “practically impossible” to integrate Muslim migrants into Europe.
Two years later, he was confronted by topless Femen activists at a polling station in Prague. He later said he “felt privileged” to have been targeted by the breast-baring feminists.