LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
I. Legal Landscape
Up to date the Constitution of the Republic of Albania offers no specific protection to LGBTI people. Article 18 which states grounds for prohibition of discrimination does not make mention of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Albanian Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriage. Article 53 states that “everybody has the right to get married and have children”. However the Family Code of the Republic of Albania clearly defines marriage between a man and a woman.
Albania legalised same-sex relations on 20 January 1995. Up until then homosexual acts were punishable with up to 7 years imprisonment.
Age of Consent
The age of sexual consent for same-sex applies equally to heterosexual ones, 14-15 years old. However there are differences between males (14 years old) and females which is either 14 years old or after the age of sexual maturation, whichever comes last.
In 2010 the Parliament unanimously adopted a non-discrimination law which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (among other attributed). The law explicitly promotes equal access to employment, education, goods and services, health services and housing.
As part of the Law for Protection from Discrimination a Commissioner is appointed and serves for a five year term and submits an annual report. Parts of the Commissioner’s competencies are: to examine complaints, take polls in connection with discrimination, publish reports, make recommendations and meet with civil society. As of 2016 Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination is Mrs. Irma Baraku.
Albania has also an Ombudsman that is required to address human rights, including LGBT rights. As of 2016 the Ombudsman is Igli Totozani. The Ombudsman can make reports on situation of LGBTI people, recommendations for legislative changes, and monitor the situation and treatment of LGBTI people by public institutions.
II. Surveys and Social Perceptions (homophobia and transphobia)
Albanian LGBTI individuals continue to experience discrimination from individuals as well as institutions. Public visibility of LGBTI individuals continues to remain very low, even though several individuals and activists have spoken up openly about their sexual orientation and gender identity in media and public forums.
Since 2010 with the adoption of the non-discrimination law and the organized work of LGBT CSO’s the situation has changed drastically. Public debate over this topic has been very present and Albanian government has made significant efforts in the inclusion and protection of LGBT people.
Despite these changes, homophobic and transphobic sentiments remain very high and a culture of heteronormativity and patriarchy is still pervasive. High ranking politicians have often made scandalous remarks against LGBT people. Following reactions and recommendations from civil society, government officials and equality bodies however, cases of hate speech from high ranking officials in the country have been much rare.
Polls and Surveys
In a 2011 survey on perceptions of Albanian youth it was concluded that “Albanian youth are generally tolerant and more open to different social groups, but they have a strong prejudice on homosexuals (they are homophobic). Specifically 50.6% would not like to live near a homosexual and 39.5% were “not interested”. Male respondents showed higher levels of antipathy (67%) than females (46%). Respondents from rural areas showed higher levels of antipathy (58%) than Tirana (45%). Only 8.6% of all respondents would welcome a homosexual neighbour.
The 2012 European Social Survey asked “should gays and lesbians be free to live as they wish” and 23% disagreed while 30% strongly disagreed. This was the highest level of antipathy of any country in the survey. It was also the only country in the Western Balkans that was included.
An opinion poll carried out by US-based National Democratic Institute, revealed that 65% of LGBTI people surveyed in Albania have been personally discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The survey also found out that 42% of the general public would try to help find a cure if they found out their son or daughter were homosexual. 58% said they would not vote for a political party that championed the rights of LGBTI people.
III. Equality and Non-Discrimination
On May 7th 2015 the Albanian Parliament passed a resolution entitled “On Protection of Rights and Freedoms of persons belonging to the LGBT community in Albania”. The documents details a number of legal and policy reforms that the Albanian government should undertake to improve the living conditions of LGBT people. Among the recommendations were the adoption of a national LGBT action plan, diversity training for teachers and greater support for the Ombudsman and civil society organizations. 75 members of parliament voted in favour, two voted against and one member abstained.
As of 2010 Albania has a Low for Protection from Discrimination which includes protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity,
Being new, the Law on Protection from Discrimination still requires to be fully implemented by state institutions and private entities while public awareness continue to remain low. Often LGBTI organizations have complained on the poor performance of the Commissioner against Discrimination for lack of substantial work on LGBT rights. Additionally, few victims report acts of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, due to fear of reprisal or lack of trust in public officials.
National Action Plans
In July 2015 Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth of Albania held the biggest consultative meeting on LGBTI rights with the participation of one international expert, two national experts, all LGBTI organizations and more than 30 human rights organizations in Albania and all relevant ministries and equality bodies, to present and provide inputs on the action plan for non-discrimination of LGBTI people 2015-2020. By October the Ministry sent the final draft for final comments. The NAP is still expected to be launched. What is of concern is the effective implementation of the action plan, allocation of budget, monitoring and evaluation etc.
One of the main challenges of LGBTI CSO’s continues to remain poor funding by state and regional entities. As the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index points out in the Albania Country Report, LGBT progress is not exclusively legal advances. “Existing discrimination and de-facto marginalisation of vulnerable groups such as gays, lesbians and Roma do not primarily constitute a problem of legal rights. They also reflect insufficient resources and social services to support such groups”. Funding of LGBT organizations should be better tracked and scaled-up by aid agencies.
IV. Hate crimes and hate speech
In 2013 the Albanian Parliament amended the Criminal Code to specifically define crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity as “hate crimes”. The same year Parliament passed a new law prohibiting the dissemination of homophobic information, with a punishment of a fine and potential jail time.
Albania has no official data collection on hate crimes.
According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights transgender individuals – especially transgender women – are particularly vulnerable to violence due to their visibility and presentation of self.
Violent attacks are underreported in Albania in part due to police abuse or ridicule.
Since 2010 LGBT organizations in the country have successfully organized trainings and presentations with the State Police and several Law Enforcement agencies including the Police Academy. However a lot remains to be done and more awareness needs to be increased with prosecutors and courts.
An opinion poll carried out in 2015 by the US-based National Democratic Institute revealed that 76% of LGBTI people surveyed in Albania have been verbally harassed or abused because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The poll also revealed that 32% of the LGBTI people surveyed in Albania had suffered physical violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As part of its five-year monitoring cycle, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published a report on Albania in June 2015. ECRI requested that national authorities start gathering systematic data on attitudes towards LGBT people and the discrimination that they suffer. To combat hate crime, ECRI recommended that the police build stronger links with NGO’s and the LGBT community.
V. Family Rights
While the Albanian Constitution recognizes that “everyone has the rights to marriage” the Family Law of Albania prohibits gay marriage and there is no legal recognition for same sex unions.
LGBT organizations in the country have asked the Albanian government to recognize same-sex couples and their right to enter into civil unions. The request has been to amend articles 163 and 164 of the Family Code to allow for gender neutral cohabitation and to recognize the rights of same-sex couples in related to property, inheritance and health/social insurance. Until now the Albanian government has failed to approve this request and take it to Parliament.
Adoption (joint adoption and second parent adoption) and family planning
The Family Law does not guarantee the right of LGBT couples to adopt or have children via artificial insemination.
Official surrogacy for gay couples
Legal restrictions (Constitution etc)
Family Code defined marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
In its latest decision, on the Oliari vs. Italy case the European Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex partnerships are covered by the provision on protection of family life and that states have to guarantee at least the same level of legal protection to same-sex partnerships that they offer to heterosexual civil partnerships, in order to ensure compliance with this right.
VII. Trans and Intersex rights
Current legal and social situation
Currently the only law that offers some degree of protection to trans and intersex people is the Law for Protection from Discrimination. However, no other legislation offers the possibility for gender reassignment procedures. In December 2014 the Ombudsman and Council of Europe held a peer exchange workshop for Albanian officials on legal gender recognition. This was followed by a first draft law of Legal Gender Recognition. So far the Albanian government has failed to submit an official draft proposal in Parliament.
Article 113, Section VIII of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania criminalises sex work by a fine or up to three years of imprisonment. Article 114 punishes exploitation of prostitution [encouragement, mediation or receipt of compensation by two to five years of imprisonment.
As many Trans individuals have no other choice of survival but through sex work, this law makes their lives more difficult. They are forced to take more risks and several have already paid the consequences of this law.
In its 2015 report the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) called for the introduction of legal gender recognition measures.
Access to gender reassignment procedures
Albania’s health system does not cover medical operations for transgender people and hospitals are ill-equipped to handle any trans related operations. This forces trans individuals to go abroad for surgery and/or treatment. It is unclear how the healthcare system currently supports this surgery and treatment, following the non-discrimination law.
In 2013 Albania amended its Labour Code prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status.
Surveys and data
A study conducted by GISH in 2006 reveals that “as regards the employment of LGBT persons, the hiding of the sexual orientation can be explained with an inner fear of potential loss of the job, the discriminatory treatment in the working environment or difficulties with finding a new employment”. #
In 2010 the Danish Institute noted that LGBT individuals are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, out of fear of being fired or facing discrimination. It is unclear how prevalent this fear is following the non-discrimination law as data on the topic still needs to be collected.
Transgender individuals have lower employment opportunities and often utilise sex work to survive. This line of work increases their likelihood of contracting STI’s and makes them more vulnerable to violence.
Article 13 on the Law on Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS/STIs provides that the Ministry of Education and Science is obliged to include curriculums and text books regarding the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the national education program on sexual and reproductive health.
LGBT education in schools (current findings and resources)
While as of now Albania has no content on LGBTI rights, except for a few fragments on homosexuality, the Ministry of Education and Sciences and public Universities have held open lectures and presentations on LGBTI rights regularly.
LGBTI organizations have travelled across country and have held lectures with high schools teachers, university and high schools students. Experiences with these lectures have been mostly positive.
In April 2015 the Ministry of Education and Sciences signed a cooperation agreement with PINK Embassy. This cooperation allowed for the organization to hold lectures, presentations and other awareness raising activities in high schools across country.
Homophobic and Transphobic bullying (if there is data)
Reports reveal that the use of homophobic slurs in addition to bullying against LGBT students is frequent in Albania.
According to a 2013 study conducted in Albania no law regulating health-care makes specific reference to LGBT individuals. Due to the fact that almost all legislation has no categorisation for different groups nothing specific can be found for LGBTI people. The Law for Protection from Discrimination offer protection also in the field of health. However no specific amendments have been made so far in subsequent legislation.
In a survey conducted in 2013 only 27% of surveyed LGBTI people in Albania would feel comfortable to share their sexual orientation, gender identity or same-sex experiences with a doctor. The identified factors influencing the hesitation are related to lack of relevance, lack of trust in confidentiality, prejudices suffered in daily life and expectation that health practitioners would do the same, presumption of heterosexuality etc.
Access to health services
In 2011, the Commissioner for Protection against Discrimination heard a case brought forth by Pink Embassy. Pink Embassy issued a formal complaint against a Member of Parliament/Chairman of the Commission of Labour, Social Issues and Health after he publicly stated homosexuality was a disease and homosexuals should be given hormones for treatment. The Commissioner upheld the complaint and issued a letter to the Member of Parliament in reprimand . (However, the sanctions were ignored since the commissioner’s ability to enforce is weak ).
In the above mentioned 2013 survey, 41% of Albanian LGBTI people were not satisfied with the quality of health care in their country. Among reasons they included prejudices of health practitioners, lack of knowledge or information on the specific health needs of LGBTI people.
HIV/AIDS and MSM
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria operates in Albania through its Ministry of Health. In the 2007-2015 disbursement, the government has been allocated close to $7 million, $5,459,867 of which goes to fighting HIV/AIDS. This specific grant maintains low HIV prevalence among vulnerable groups, including MSM and transgender individuals (also female sex workers, Roma, and injecting drug users). As of 2014 the grant has been rated as “meeting expectations”.
Statistics and research
In 2011 an abandoned building which housed 5 transgendered individuals and 7 Roma people was set on fire. The transgender inhabitants claimed it was the work of a transphobic group.
Since December 2014 Albania has one LGBTI residential centre “STREHA” which started as a pilot project by two LGBT organizations in the country Alliance against Discrimination LGBT and Pro LGBT. The centre is a temporary transitional service for young LGBTI people (18-25) years who have been evicted from their homes or are under threats of violence and need shelter. The shelter is sponsored through varied donors and food is provided by Albanian government.
XII. Public Events
Albania held the first Pride in the capital on May 2014. The Second Pride in June 2015 went on without incidents.
An opinion poll carried out by the US-based National Democratic Institute revealed that 76% of LGBTI people surveyed in Albania felt that Pride parades have improved the position of the LGBTI community in society.
Other visible public events (bike ride, festivals with high impact)
Albanian LGBT organizations have held public events quite successfully since May 2012. Activities such as “Diversity Festival” and Tirana Gay (P)ride are now regular annual events and the number of participants have increased significantly. On several occasions there have been minor incidents, however protection and cooperation with State Police has been very positive. Awareness events have been attended by high-ranking government officials and supporters.
LGBTI people leaving the country
In the last years all LGBTI organizations in the country have reported an increasing number of LGBTI people (especially youth) asking for help to leave Albania and seek asylum in EU countries, US and Canada. This worrying trend reveals the continuous frustration of LGBTI people in Albania who have to leave the country mainly due to homophobia and transphobia as well as poor economic situation. In its 2016 resolution for Albania, the European Parliament urged the Albanian government to dedicate particular attention to improving prospects for young people and to invest in modernising and reforming the education system in order to increase employability and professional prospects, particularly for young people.
LGBTI people seeking asylum in the country
Albania does not recognize asylum seekers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
XIV. LGBTI rights movement
Short history of movement
First attempts of a gay movement in Albania were made in the early 1990s. Some common activities were organized in secret and efforts were made to form an organization. In 1994 an Albanian newspaper published for the first time an interview with a homosexual man. During early 2000s two organizations “Gish Albania” and “Alga” specifically included LGBT people in their statute and made serious efforts in the promotion and protection of LGBT people. However in 2007 GISH closed without being able to continue it work.
During these years the Albanian Group for Human Rights and several human rights organizations would offer some support for LGBT people.
By early 2009 groups of young LGBTI people formed in Tirana to start what is now known as the Albanian LGBTI movement. These groups held first awareness grass-root actions. By 2010 Alliance against Discrimination LGBT, PINK Embassy and Together for the LGBT Cause were actively working for promotion and protection of LGBTI rights in the country.
XV. Organizations present and active in the country
Aleanca kundër Diskriminimit LGBT (Alliance against Discrimination LGBT - Aleanca): Active since 2009 Aleanca was formed by a group of volunteers and later registering as a non-governmental organization. It works proactively with the LGBTI community in the country, manages one social centre, the LGBTI shelter (the only one in the country) as well as lobby, advocacy and awareness raising programs at national level.
Ambasada PINK / LGBT Pro Shqipëri (PINK Embassy / LGBT Pro Albania): Works for promotion and protection of LGBT rights. Mainly focuses on advocacy and lobby, capacity building with public institutions and awareness raising activities. Since 2012 it organizes the “Diversity Festival” and since 2014 the Tirana Pride.
Te Bashkuar Pro Kauzës LGBT – (United for LGBT Cause – Pro LGBT): Works on advancement of LGBT rights especially through alternative media and progressive public displays.
Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA) – Promotes legal and social protection of marginalised groups including LGBTIQ. Works with parents and families of LGBTI people.
XVI. Role of the European Union
Albania has been a potential candidate to join the European Union since 2003 and was granted candidate status in 2014. In its annual report for 2015 the European Commission noted that while human rights laws are broadly in line with European standards, implementation of existing laws is insufficient. Despite events such as Pride walks and IDAHOT, overall public awareness of LGBTI people remains low. The Commission also noted that provisions that discriminate against trans and intersex people should be removed from legislation.
XVII. Albania internationally
International agreements, declarations and resolutions
Albania has signed the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 2008. It has signed and ratified Protocol 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for a General Prohibition of Discrimination.
Albania has ratified Protocol 12 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. While this Protocol does not mention LGBTI rights or SOGI-based discrimination specifically, the Court has ruled they are incurred directly.
Albania was among one of the co-signatories of the join-statement of the Ministers of the region at the 2015 IDAHOT Forum in Montenegro.
Cooperation with international partners (CoE, UN on LGBTI rights etc)
Albania is an active member in the Council of Europe LGBT project and has cooperated twice in the setting up on National Action Plans.
The 2015 ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map places Albania in the 19th position (out of 49 countries) with 42% of the index which reflects the national legal and policy human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe. This ranking however does not reflect social or public perceptions about LGBTI people or their living conditions overall.
28 April 2016