Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination continuously postponed and blocked in Macedonia

The National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia in Macedonia has informed the international community about the obstacles that the Republic of Macedonia is facing in the process of adoption of the new Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination. Namely, the adoption of the Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination is continuously postponed and blocked in the parliamentary procedure for nine months, without viable prospects of adoption in the foreseeable future. Additionally, on 22 January 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Bujar Osmani, made a statement in which the LGBTI community was noted as a ‘disputed category’, thus, casting doubt on whether the Law will be adopted.

In all progress reports of the European Commission for Macedonia, it is noted that the country has a responsibility to provide effective protection against discrimination to all citizens, including LGBTI people, by including sexual orientation and gender identity as discriminatory grounds in the Law on Prevention of and Protection Against Discrimination. For these reasons, the adoption of a new law was part of the reform priorities of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia as part of the Plan 3-6-9.

The process of the drafting of the law was exceptionally inclusive and as a result a legal solution that fulfills all the conditions and recommendations for ensuring adequate and effective protection against discrimination was created, and it was positively assessed by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Despite all this, the Law on Prevention of and Protection Against Discrimination has been in procedure in the Parliament since May 2018 and has not yet been passed by the Committee for Labour and Social Affairs, as a committee responsible for the adoption of this law. The adoption of the law in the Committee for Labour and Social Policy is persistently postponed by the chairman, President Vlatko Gjorchev, while other laws prepared and submitted to the Committee later, are passed by the Committee. Opposition MPs, as well as the MPs from DUI in the Committee voted against the bill to be the first item on the agenda of the Committee.

While blocking the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the MPs did not find it problematic to vote in favor of adopting amendments to the Criminal Code that provide distinct protection against acts of hatred by explicit mention of sexual orientation and gender identity. MPs from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE also proposed an amendment to the Law on Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services to introduce sexual orientation and gender identity in the grounds for protection from hate speech in the media, while DUI supported it. From here, it remains unclear why the MPs from both DUI and VMRO-DPMNE would vote in favor of introducing sexual orientation and gender identity in some laws, while blocking the process of adopting the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination for the same reason.

Additionally, the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani officially confirmed the doubts and worries that the obstruction of the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination in the Parliament is indeed because of the negligence and rejection of the promotion of human rights for all citizens, amongst which the LGBTI people in Macedonia:

“There are certain differences among the political parties in terms of certain categories that should be included in the Law [on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination], there are talks with the political parties because there is probable prejudice among the political parties, or perhaps they think that the electorate they represent holds prejudice and that could reflect on them, however I believe that with dialogue we will manage to include all categories because those are the values of the European Union...”.

When asked which citizens fall under those categories, his answer was:

“Well I am talking about the LGBTI community, but also about other disputed categories which I cannot recall at the moment”.

This statement confirms the perception that despite the governmental change in June 2017, the policies and attitudes of the institutions towards LGBTI people remain unchanged.

The National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia in Macedonia is particularly concerned that this statement comes from Deputy Prime Minister Osmani, whose mandate is leading the euro-integration of the country, who instead of promoting democratization, the rule of law and protection of fundamental human rights, regretfully, promotes negative stereotypes and prejudices against the LGBTI people.

The Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination is not a law aimed just for the LGBTI community, but a comprehensive legal solution that aims at building an effective system for prevention of and protection against discrimination for all citizens.