LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey is a Regional Association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer organizations from Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. Twenty-five LGBTI organizations from the region founded the Association on 15 September 2015 and granted to ERA the mandate to function as an umbrella organization at the regional and international levels. The seat of the Association is in Belgrade, Serbia.
ERA’s mission is to inspire positive change in the society, promote and advocate for human rights of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics, by facilitating cooperation and providing resources and capacity development for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI) movement across the Balkans and Turkey.
“ERA’s mission is to inspire positive change in the society”
The LGBTI movements in the countries of the region have gone a long way from almost complete invisibility in the 1990’s to bringing the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the mainstreams forums and platforms of public and social debate. While until 10 to 15 years ago there were only a few groups and organizations operating in some countries of the region, today we can say with confidence that the LGBTI movements in the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey are strong, reliable and real agents of change. The movements have given a face to the LGBTI communities and a voice to their needs. Organizations and activists across the region speak almost on a daily basis to politicians, decision makers and to the larger public by answering questions, providing information and changing the hearts and minds of everyone they meet. They are now the faces in front of cameras, students in classrooms, politicians in round tables with civil society organizations. They organize Prides, write petitions and demonstrate in front of Parliaments and Government buildings.
By giving a face to their communities, however, LGBTI activists and organizations from across the region have been targets of the deep homophobia and transphobia that still affect our societies. Hate crimes and hate speech are always an issue across the region. National governments and Parliaments often fail to respond to the new realities and to the threats. Fearing votes and their own reputation they are not able to make a difference when needed. Policies are often inefficient, unrealistic and slow. Equality bodies have a long way to go before fully promoting the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment. LGBTI people face big problems and challenges in the areas of security, employment, health, family, education and many aspects of their everyday lives, both private and public.
Being aware of the fact that these two realities co-exist and that there is still a lot to achieve we were inspired to come together. We want to improve our efforts in engaging with all stakeholders who have a role in shaping and improving our future. We are here to create and provide resources, give a united voice to our common challenges, identify opportunities, respond to threats and build a common platform for advancing our rights.
Our overall objective is to advance the rights and equality of LGBTI people in the Western Balkans and Turkey region, by: