Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the Spanish interior minister, said the groups were targeting anyone who was “different”.
“Within these groups, the objective is being different due to a personal or social condition, such as race, ethnicity, ideology, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity. Yes it is taking place, yes it is being taken into account,” he told Cadena Ser radio station on Wednesday.
Police in Madrid are investigating the attack on a 20-year-old man in central Madrid on Sunday in which eight men forced their way into the victim’s home, held him down at knifepoint and cut his lip and carved out the homophobic slur on one of his buttocks.
The assault comes two months after the murder of Samuel Luiz, 24-year-old gay man, in the city of A Coruña in northwestern Spain.
The killing prompted a wave of protests across the country and calls for action to tackle hate speech and give better protection to LGBT+ people.
Spain has seen a more than nine per cent increase in hate crimes, including those related to sexual orientation, in the first six months of 2021, according to government figures, compared with the same period in 2019.
This year there were 748 reports of hate crimes up to July 31, compared with 610 in 2019 but research has shown in 89 per cent of cases, victims do not report attacks. Data was not available for 2020 because of the pandemic.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez will chair an anti-hate crimes commission on Friday to analyse the recent spate of homophobic attacks.
LGBTI groups have organised demonstrations in Madrid on Saturday to protest the recent assaults and call for more protection for gay and trans people.
Laia Serra, a human rights lawyer, said she believed the combination of LGBTI groups gaining a higher public profile and the recent rise of far-right organisations were responsible for a backlash against homosexuals.
All political parties condemned the latest attack in Madrid.
However, the far-right Vox party, which has 52 MPs and is the third largest force in parliament, has in the past opposed institutional declarations of support for the LGBTI community by regional authorities.
A YouGov survey published last month found that Spain showed one of the most liberal attitudes towards homosexuality people among eight developed countries.
Some 91 per cent of Spaniards said they would support a member of their family if they came out, compared with 85 per cent in the UK.
Boti García Rodrigo, the Spanish government’s director of sexual diversity and LGBTI rights, said despite a general attitude of respect towards gay and trans people there was a minority which were radically opposed to this community.
“Many studies show us that there remains a minority in society, which is young men, who do not only not accept or respect sexual diversity but are very much against this and respond with aggressiveness,” she said.