Even though this was not the first public outdoor event of the country, today Kosovo marked its first Pride Parade, with LGBTI activists and supporters marching from the capitals Skanderbeg Square to Zahir Pajaziti Square.
LGBTI organizations – including here ERA members CEL and CSGD – and other human rights organizations, organized the march in the framework of Pride Week under the slogan “In the name of love” (nê emêr tê dashnis). Published a few weeks ahead, the planned pride attracted also the expected hate speech from several religious clerics and many hate slogans and messages particularly on social media. According to reports one threat was made in social media threatening people and asking them not to join the march.
The event was however held successfully, with police protection and many supporters. As Agim Margilaj from CSGD who responded to ERA’s questions said “the whole event was very positive and emotional. The march was open to the public without any barricades”. Prior to the march, President Hashim Thaci joined and greeted the participants stating in his speech that state institutions will not tolerate violence or discrimination against LGBTI people.
Public events play an extremely important role in the advancement of LGBTI rights in the Balkan region. As LGBTI people continue to remain largely invisible and in the closet from fear of violence, discrimination and expulsion from family circles, such widely publicized events remain very important.
Research conducted in 2015 by the National Democratic Institute and in 2017 by the World Bank in partnership with ERA and the Williams Institute, reveals that homophobia and transphobia is very high in Kosovo and that LGBTI people are extremely reluctant to report such cases to the police or other relevant authorities.
The 2017 survey was filled in by 127 LGBTI people in Kosovo only. Their feedback revealed that social acceptance of LGBTI people in Kosovo, is the lowest in the whole Western Balkans region (only 1.43 out of 4) and that 90% of LGBTI couples avoid showing any form of affection in public from fear of repercussions.
The survey shows also that more needs to be done by state authorities in terms of policy and building awareness among the public on the needs and issues of LGBTI people. In fact LGBTI people in Kosovo have very little information on public policies serving their community which shows how much work state institutions need to do in this regard.
This is the third consecutive LGBTI Pride held in the Western Balkan region in the last two months, with Belgrade Pride on 17 September and Podgorica Pride on 23 September.
Photo Credit: Agim Margilaj