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How can we promote respect for LGBTI rights in Albania?

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Gay Pride Parade in Tirana. Photo: UNDP Albania

A gay friend of mine recently told me that he is finding it difficult to find a job and he says this might be due to his “gay looks.”

The pride parade organised in Tirana last year generated monstrous headlines in the local media, asking “Why should this be allowed to happen in Albania?”

Two days after our office UNDP in Albania built a garden called “Garden of Diversity” in Tirana, we were informed by the police that it was destroyed. (We’ve rebuilt it since.)

When one of my best friends found out I was writing this blog, she was shocked. “Go ahead,” she told me. “But know that people will take you for a gay person.”

I’m going ahead.

 

Since the political and social transformation of the ‘90s, Albania has been working to put in place a system to secure human rights for all.

As a candidate country for EU membership, one of the five priorities set for Albania entails re-formulation of the Criminal Code provisions regarding hate speech, discrimination, as well as the amendment of the Family Code.

Among measures undertaken to comply with EU requirements is the adoption by Parliament of a comprehensive non-discrimination law that includes the protection of sexual orientation and gender identity.

But in my country, implementation of laws is always under constant need of improvement. Statistics speak louder:

·         25 percent of the Albanian teenagers say they don’t want LGBTI people in their schools.

·         76 percent of LGBTI have experienced psychological violence from their families, society and friends.

·         Only 17 percent of businesses in Albania includes terms such as sexual orientation and gender identity in their employment policies with equal opportunities for all. Only 3 percent of companies have facilitating policies in the employment of LGBTI people.

·         68 percent of businesses do not have mechanisms in place to report discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As UNDP in Albania, we recently partnered with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to implement their Global Free and Equal campaign together, which is being implemented in 27 other countries across the world. The campaign carries a simple but powerful message: LGBTI rights are human rights.

We developed 10 infographics to highlight facts about the situation facing LGBTI communities in Albania and we shared them on social media. Not to my surprise, though our FB posts reached quite far, the interaction, likes and shares were very few. People are even reluctant to show support because they worried they might be read as being LGBTI.

But some good things did happen. A full house joined our launch event. NGO representatives, LGBTI community members, public opinion makers spoke loud and clear: Human rights cannot be negotiated. A video produced as part of our initiative was presented. Our NGO partners used a common platform, reaching around 15,000 people.

 

 

When the event was over, several young people from the LGBTI community turned to me asking not to have their faces show up in media reports. They confessed they were LGBTI, but had not come out to their families.

In Albania, media is not doing its part to shape public opinions and increase public awareness on LGBTI rights. So we produced a short media training guide on gender-sensitive reporting and trained around 40 reporters. The training also includes an in-depth look at the legal landscape surrounding LGBTI rights in Albania.

As I write this, university lectures about LGBTI rights are also on the way.

Our campaign had a life span of three months. I know change is going to take a lot more. But after a long time wondering how to make a difference, at least I can now see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. This community needs you, me, and all of us.  

LGBTI people cannot fight them alone. At UNDP in Albania, we have joined their fight. Join us! Join me!

 

Blog post Albania Human rights LGBTI