According to the Interior Ministry, hate crimes have grown by around 9 percent every year since 2014.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez chaired an urgent meeting with ministers, community leaders and police after a man said he was violently attacked last weekend in Madrid. The 20-year-old said he was attacked by eight masked assailants who carved the word “maricon” (faggot) on his buttocks with a knife.
While the man later retracted his statement, it came as the country was still in shock after the brutal killing of Samuel Luiz, a nursing assistant who was beaten to death in July, allegedly over his sexual orientation.
Spain is generally a country with an open approach to sexuality: a recent YouGov survey showed that 91 percent of people would be supportive if a family member came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
It became just the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2005.
But the rise in homophobic violence in recent months has worried rights groups and led to demonstrations.
Hundreds gathered in the centre of Madrid on Saturday to call for the protection of LGBT rights. Banners read “touch one of us, touch us all,” and “we are being killed”.
Discriminatory violence against the ethic Roma is also on the rise. In 2018 the Council of Europe Anti-racism Commission (ECRI) urged Spain to “establish a strong independent equality body to promote equality and prevent discrimination”.
On Friday, the committee agreed to increase hiring for the National Anti-Hate Crime Unit. More details about a new three-year plan are expected to be announced later on.