In April, Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA) in cooperation with the Parliament of Albania hosted the first civil society forum on LGBTI rights. The event was chaired by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vasilika Hysi and by the Executive Director of OMSA Arber Kodra, and was attended by a considerable number of participants from the Parliament itself, state institutions, NGO’s, media and others.
For the first time were together 40 politicians, 11 Ambassadors, civil society activists etc.
In her speech Mrs. Hysi emphasized the increasingly worrying trend of hate speech, discrimination and racism which is affecting many countries across Europe, including Albania. Thanks to technology and increased forms of communication hate speech is now prevalent in social media and other such spaces.
She added how in its mandate ECRI has updated its 15th recommendation to add combating hate speech as a priority and has asked states to take measures including more awareness raising work with law-makers. “As parliamentarians, in our work as lawmakers, we have discussed and debated on issues concerning the LGBTI community and non-discrimination”. She also made mention of several initiatives undertaken by the Parliament such as ratification of international and Council of Europe conventions, legal improvements to tackle online crimes, setting up independent human rights institutions such as the People’s Advocate and Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination etc. She also mentioned the recent Code of Conduct approved by the Albanian Parliament which prohibits discriminatory language based also on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The forum opened, for the first time, a broader dialogue between politicians and the LGBTI community in Albania. Presenting the conclusions and recommendations from the recently and the first conducted research “Political Participation of LGBTI People in Albania”, the forum was a gathering place of representatives from the political parties in the country, members of parliament, government, youth political forums, LGBTI activists from Albania and from the region, as well as representatives of the international community operating in the country. Members of the public and media are also invited. Participants discussed relevant topics such as same-sex marriage,
gender recognition laws and other issues, to raise the debate in the Albanian Assembly of Albania and strategize towards feasible next steps towards advancing LGBTI rights in Albania.
Present at the Forum was also the Minister of Health and Social Protection Mrs. Ogerta Manastirliu. Her ministry is now in charge – among other things – also of the National Strategy on LGBTI rights 2016-2020. In her speech she welcomed this Forum and pushed for concrete policies that need to be undertaken to further guarantee the protection of the rights of lGBTI people. Attending the event was the Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Lindita Nikolla, Minister of Culture, Minister of Economy and other ministers and vice ministers.
While such forums and meetings are crucial for further dialogue between civil society organizations and law-makers, the passing of new legislation as well as implementation of the LGBTI National Action Plan is lagging behind in Albania. The draft law on registered same-sex partnerships and the draft law on legal gender recognition have never been discussed or taken into account by the Albanian Parliament despite working groups of several previous ministries having prepared them several years ago.
Meanwhile, the National Action Plan 2016-2020 which was even budgeted more than a year ago and approved with a decision of the Council of Ministers, is yet to be reviewed and its still unclear how many activities have been implemented.
Hate speech among law-makers has been problematic on more than one occasion in Albania, including the debates of 2017 when sexual orientation and gender identity were taken out of the final draft of the revised constitution.