ERA condemns the hate speech and discrimination against LGBTI+ people in Albania

We at ERA, together with our member organizations in Albania, condemn in the strongest terms the discrimination, abuse and public lynching that the LGBTI community has been subjected to in the last few weeks. Similar to the media frenzy caused in 2018 over lectures in the country's high schools, again we witness the LGBTI community being cornered by prejudice, ignorance, miss-information which aims nothing other than to further marginalize and alienate the LGBTI+ community.


The last few weeks, a new discussion around recognizing a lesbian couple as lawful mothers of their recently born children, has led to a new wave of miss-information, discrimination and hate speech. Earlier this year, the two mothers faced a legal challenge after the Albanian Civil Registry denied them to both register as mothers to the children and allowed that option only for the birthing mother.


For years, hate speech in Albania has taken disturbing proportions. Civil society organisations from Albania based on their monitoring and research work are reporting on the increase of hate speech. For example, monitoring work conducted by PRO LGBT in 2020 revealed that the widespread hate speech is particularly targeting women and marginalized communities. 


When local LGBTI activists started the conversation on parental rights in the media, they were faced with the homophobic slurs and insults such as those of journalist Blerta Tafani. During this specific debate, where activist Xheni Karaj was explaining the situation of the new family in Tirana, whereby only one of the mothers can be legally recognized as such by the authorities, Tafani went on and called same-sex couples a “degenerate society” adding that “it is a great misfortune that [an LGBTIQ person] gives birth to a child”. She then continued that same-sex couples “should not start a family” and “cannot have a family” and that “life with two fathers doesn’t work, life with a gay family ends, this is offensive” adding also that “an adopted child isn’t a healthy child”. Adding fuel to the fire, psychologist Marsela Lekli who, was also present at the debate, said that children raised by same-sex partners will grow up to be LGBTIQ: “I think that a child will grow up with that spirit, having two mothers or two fathers… they will be like them in the future”. You can view the whole debate in Albanian language, here.


In the recent case, the initial debate was followed by yet another media storm, where different media (primarily online) published and shared fake headlines such as “LGBTI community aims to remove the word MOTHER”. While these two mothers have asked nothing but to be recognized as such by the state, irresponsible media outlets managed to fabricate yet another scandal where the community is portrayed as enemies of family and society. These headlines were followed by wide-spread social media debates where again hate speech and calls for violence against LGBTI people got out of control. LGBTI organisations have made several statements and media appearances in the last several days, clarifying that under no circumstances has the community asked for the removal of the terms mother and father from the legislation. 


We join our members in their call on the Albanian Union of Journalists, the Albanian Media Council and Albanian Media Authority as well as the “No-Hate Speech Alliance” led by the Ombudsman, the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and the Albanian Media Authority itself, to immediately start an investigation on the case of hate speech by journalist Blerta Tafani and to condemn as well as sanction hate speech and missinformation by the media towards the LGBTI community. 


We call on the Albanian Order of Psychologists to clarify immediately their view and position on the comments made by psychologist Marsela Lekli, who suggested that children raised by LGBTI people will become LGBTI too, something which is absolutely not proven by any study or statistics anywhere in the world.


We call on the Albanian media to show restraint, to be professional, ethical and compassionate in their reporting towards the LGBTI community, without causing further marginalization, discrimination, misunderstandings, hatred and violence against the community.


We call on the Albanian Government to address such public debates and to show the currently non-existent yet much needed leadership that would help society to grow and show respect for their minorities. 


Finally we call on the Albanian public, not to fall victims of media scandals, sensationalization and miss-information, and to try and understand the challenging position of two mothers who are fighting for the right to raise their children safely and with the acceptance, love, respect and dignity that they deserve.