This article is based on the statements from ERA member organisations - National Network for fight against Homophobia and Transphobia and Coalition Margins
Not even this parliamentary composition was able to protect the LGBTI people
The Decision of the Constitutional court will not deter us from our demands and efforts
With great disappointment, albeit expecting it, the National Network for fight against Homophobia and Transphobia received the news on the Decision of the Constitutional court to repeal the Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination, adopted at the session on 14 May 2020. This Decision of the Constitutional court comes after the initiative submitted by the previous composition of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination to assess the constitutionality and the legality of the Law, as the Law was adopted without the required majority as regulated by Article 75 of the Constitution.
Namely, the Law was adopted on 11.03.2019 with 51 votes of the total number of MPs and delivered to the acting president at the time, Gorgje Ivanov, to sign the decree. However, the president refused to sign the decree due to the name dispute, and returned the Law to the Parliament. The disputed Law was once again placed on the Parliament’s agenda on 16.05.2019 and re-reviewed pursuant to Article 75 of the Constitution. It was voted with 55 votes the same day, and consequently adopted without the necessary constitutional majority of 61 votes. By failing to provide the constitutional majority of votes necessary to vote and adopt the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia only confirmed yet again how irrelevant it considers the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized categories and how unworthy of protection.
The fault and the responsibility for this Decision lies with the MPs, especially the ruling majority who based their election campaign on building a society for all, and made promises for improvement of the rights of the LGBTI people. The President of the Assembly, Talat Xhaferi, and the President of the state, Stevo Pendarovski, also hold responsibility for this Decision, as they had to know that the Law was adopted in violation of to the Constitution.
The new Law for the first time explicitly prohibited against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which was supposed to finally provide greater protection and legal recognition of the identity of the LGBTI people. The adoption of this law was a result of our many years of work, tireless commitment and perseverance, all in to provide a better life for LGBTI people, a reason for pride and hope that one day, the state and the fellow citizens will treat us as equals. However, we do not think that our efforts are in vain, despite the disappointment.
We would like to remind that the reforms and improvements to the legislation and the system for prevention and protection against discrimination were an electoral promise made by the ruling party and the ruling majority. The Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination was stuck in a parliamentary procedure for more than 10 months before it was placed on the agenda for voting. A year has passed from the day the Law was voted and adopted for the second time by the Parliament until it was repealed by the Constitutional Court, during which the Parliament failed to form a Commission for the Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, despite its legal obligation to appoint Commission members and thus allow the implementation of the Law and functionality of the crucial body for the promotion of equality of all citizens. The Parliament’s frivolous and disinterested approach during the voting and adoption process, as well as the lack of political willingness for the Law’s implementation and the appointment of members to the Commission for the Prevention and Protection against Discrimination shows the authorities’ lack of interest in human rights and equality, particularly of marginalized groups such as Roma, LGBTI, people with disabilities, women, the poor and all others surviving on the margins of society.
The civil sector has been advocating for the adoption of the repealed Law for 10 years through various campaigns, experts’ reports and recommendations, advocating and meeting with all political parties, organizing protests and press conferences. The international public and European Commission has demanded the adoption of the Law and implementation of an efficient discrimination protection system on numerous occasions. The countless assurances and promises have resulted yet again with the defeat suffered by the most vulnerable citizens for whom this Law is crucial.
The message you have sent to LGBTI people, and to the other groups of vulnerable, different, humiliated and disenfranchised citizens such as the Roma people, the poor, the political misfits, the people with disabilities, the women, and the working women, is that their rights and lives are irrelevant. We have no political power, we have no money, we cannot bring you votes in election, but we do not consider it a precondition for you to provide us a dignified life that you owe us with the very fact that we exist.
The ultimate goal of an efficient and effective protection against discrimination should be to curb the unlawfully acquired privileges, and to provide equal access to human rights for the most marginalized, as key resources in democracy. We do understand, therefore, that it is unlikely that you will put yourself in our shoes from the perspective of your privileged position, and work with us to promote the advancement of our rights, yet, our rights are not a matter of your empathy or mercy but rather a matter of your obligation and duty.
We will continue to remind you even more of your duties and obligations. Our diversity has enabled us to develop support networks, and safe spaces where some of us can live freely and with dignity. Our marginalization has enabled us to show solidarity with all disenfranchised communities, and through our fight, to continue advocating for the emancipation of the whole society.
We remind the institutions that despite the repeal of the Law, they have an obligation to protect LGBTI people against discrimination, and to treat them equally and with dignity. We call on all LGBTI people to join our fight to strengthen our political power. We demand that after the next parliamentary elections and the election of the new parliamentary members, regardless which coalition shall constitute the parliamentary majority, the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination finds its place among the first points of order on the Parliament’s agenda. We demand that the necessary parliamentary majority for voting and adopting the Law be provided, followed immediately by a procedure for appointing new members to the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, in order for the citizens to finally receive better, more professional and effective protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms.