A working conference organized by H.E.R.A – Health Education and Research Association and the Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities was held last week in Skopje, Macedonia on improvement of protection against discrimination, with a focus on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
Since ratification, in 2010, Article 3 of the Macedonian Law for Prevention and Protection from Discrimination leaves out sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics from grounds of protection. The only protection guaranteed to LGBTI people is generally based on other laws and on interpretations of Article's 3 clause: “...any other grounds established by the law or by ratified international agreements”. The non-inclusion of SOGI in 2010 has created a legal vacuum for LGBTI people in Macedonia and a huge disadvantage in terms of legal protection from discrimination and legal advancements in other spheres of life.
At the conference, which was attended by all LGBTI NGO’s in the country as well as the Ombudsman, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, local governments of Stip, Strumica and Kumanovo and UN agencies the following important conclusions were reached:
- The Law for Prevention and Protection from Discrimination needs to be amended in line with recommendations from the multi-sectorial working group of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. Among other things, sexual orientation and gender identity should be included as grounds of discrimination;
- The work of local mechanisms for protection from discrimination should be strengthened. As positive examples are the newly established local bodies for protection against discrimination in the municipalities of Stip, Kumanovo and Strumica;
Macedonia is the only country in the Balkans which still does not offer explicit protection from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. In the previous years, the Government, led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski launched a wide homophobic campaign against the LGBTI community and organizations, leading to several attacks against LGBTI community centers and venues as well as LGBTI people and activists. The majority of these attacks went unpunished and investigations were almost inexistent.
The lack of support from the Government as well as the legal vacuum has created a sense of impunity among homophobic and transphobic groups and individuals which has made the living conditions of LGBTI people very difficult. Civil society organizations, human rights institutions, equality bodies and the international community have continuously reiteratedthe need for the Law to be amended accordingly.