Albania amends its Law for Protection from Discrimination: HIV status and sex characteristics are now protected grounds

The Parliament of the Republic of Albania has finally made the much anticipated amendments to the Law on Protection from Discrimination, which after 10 years required several improvements and additions. 

With the new amendments, the Law will now provide protection from discrimination based among others also on grounds of sex characteristics and HIV status. The law provides now protection on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, meaning that from now on intersex people are also protected by the law. 

This important legal change comes only a few months after the Ministry of Health and Social Protection approved a protocol aiming to stop medical interventions on intersex babies and children. 

Changes have also been made to categorize repeated or persistent discrimination or discrimination motivated by more than one reason as a “serious form of discrimination”. It will also consider whether the target suffered serious consequences based on the discrimination against them. The fine for a serious form of discrimination has also been increased to double the amount given for other types of discrimination.Public authorities will now be obliged to promote equality and to actively prevent discrimination during the exercise of their functions.

With the new amendments the position of the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination has also been strengthened. As per the new amendments, all public institutions and private entities are obliged to support their work by giving all information requested and guaranteeing access to information promptly.

With regards to the burden of proof, when the complainant presents facts on which they base thee allegation of discrimination, the accused is obliged to provide facts that this does not amount to discrimination.

Cross-sectoral discrimination has also been defined as a form of discrimination that can be due to several factors and is targeted at the same time in such a way they are inseparable.

The Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination is the main institution responsible for the implementation of this law. Over the years, even though communication and dialogue between the Commission and LGBTI+ organizations are very good, the latter have frequently reported on the issue of under-reporting of discrimination from the community as well as difficulty in following up cases due to the community’s fear of losing their anonymity and further discrimination and harassment. According to the World Bank and ERA 2018 surveymost common reasons for not reporting incidents of discrimination were a) a strong belief that nothing would happen or change (60%), b) a reluctance to reveal their SOGI status (39%) and c) fear that they would be subjected to further discrimination or ridicule (38). 

An additional challenge remains the fact that not all LGBTI+ are aware of the existence of this law or an institution that works for their protection from discrimination. According to the same research only 48% of LGBTIO people know of the existence of both, showing that much more work needs to be down to raise awareness and empower members of the community to report. Many challenges have been reported also with regards to many state institutions not implementing the rules and regulations as laid out by the law.