When it comes to the lives of LGBTI people, dialogue can save lives
21 Mar 2017 by Seda Karaca and John Macauley
It is not news that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity around the world. The situation is no better in Eastern Europe. An opinion survey from Western Balkans conducted in 2015 reveals staggering results:
· 50 percent of the respondents think “a child cannot become gay in normal families”;
· 25 percent of the surveyed say “gay people are no better than criminals”;
· More than 50 percent perceive homosexuality as a sickness;
· Around 30 percent admit that they would stop communication after discovering a friend to be LGBTI.
There have been several attacks against gay men in Prishtina. In 2016, 5 attacks happened in a row in Belgrade against LGBTI persons, including a prominent activist. It’s worth noting that only two of these attacks were reported to the police. This raises the issue of lack of trust in authorities among LGBTI communities.
Intersex individuals face a whole other set of challenges, being that they are not even visible in many societies. Gender assigning or “normalizing” surgeries with long-term complications are performed on babies and young children under the guise of “social and cultural reasons,” even though they are perfectly healthy otherwise. These practices constitute a clear violation of their right to health and physical integrity and can create a whole set of complications in adult life.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is some progress. The situation in the region is improving in terms of legal protection and equality. Albania recently adopted a national plan to work on LGBTI issues and inequality. Bosnia and Herzegovina advanced their anti-discrimination law providing full protection of LGBTI individuals from discrimination. Still, having laws and plans in place is one thing. Once we have them, the challenge is to make sure they are fully implemented.
New legislations are also needed in previously unregulated issue areas. Legislation for same-sex partnerships, intersex and trans persons particularly lags behind.
If we are truly committed to leaving no one behind, we must ensure LGBTI people participate equally in all areas of life and enjoy the highest standard of health.
From a development perspective, vast inequalities, exclusion and discrimination against people are holding all of us back. Here at UNDP, we strongly believe in local ownership. Local civil society organizations and legislators are already working actively to champion human rights of LGBTI people in the region. Our Being LGBTI in Eastern Europe initiative, therefore, works with these active champions to ensure they have access to the resources and opportunities they need in order to make a bigger impact.
In the lives of LGBTI individuals, silence can mean violence, and dialogue can save lives. That’s why this week UNDP is hosting a dialogue in Belgrade in collaboration with USAID and ERA. The event will bring together civil society, local and national politicians, activists, development practitioners to discuss the challenges facing LGBTI people in Western Balkans. This will provide a much-needed platform for sharing knowledge and experiences between civil society actors and decision makers to help assure a more meaningful engagement.
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