LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

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An mpox resurgence in the European Region this spring and summer? To prevent that, key measures must continue

Press Release of WHO Regional Office for Europe on the response to monkeypox for the summer of 2023. Source:

New WHO/Europe mpox campaign spells out what everyone – from health authorities to the most impacted communities – can do to control and eventually eliminate mpox for good.

Copenhagen, 17 May 2023: One year since its biggest ever mpox (monkeypox) outbreak, the WHO European Region – covering 53 countries across Europe and central Asia – is celebrating success in controlling the spread of the disease as the number of cases continues to decline. In the initial months of the outbreak, the European Region had the vast majority of cases globally. But strategic collaboration between health authorities and the most impacted populations – including timely risk communications and community engagement, along with a focused mpox vaccination campaign in some of the hardest hit countries – helped bring numbers down rapidly to practically no cases being reported at all, in a relatively short time. 

Now WHO/Europe is calling for vigilance amid concerns that spring and summertime could see mpox cases flaring up once more. Pre-empting this, and coinciding with the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, WHO/Europe is launching a new mpox campaign today, to remind people that even though it is no longer defined as a public health emergency of international concern, mpox has not gone away; anyone can be infected; and that we have, and must use, the tools to further control and eventually eliminate it. 

The new mpox campaign leverages the European Region’s year-long experience in responding to this outbreak, including growing evidence on the disease and measures to control it. The campaign will: 

  • Highlight what everyone – including especially the most affected communities, health authorities, health workers and event organizers – can do to help control mpox and eventually stamp it out.  
  • Provide a platform for especially vulnerable communities, including underserved populations, to talk about their mpox-related experiences, needs and insights. 
  • Shine a light on the critical contribution of organizations who represent gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, trans people, sex workers and migrants. These organizations have played and continue to play a crucial role in fighting mpox. Some of their work and successes are illustrated in a compendium – a collection of case studies – launched as part of the campaign.  

The campaign is timely. According to the latest data, at least 17 more people have contracted mpox in eight countries in the WHO European Region, in the four weeks up to 4 May 2023. While the numbers remain low, as does the risk to the broader population, it is vital that health authorities keep monitoring and responding to mpox outbreaks. A possible rise in mpox cases over the coming months could be triggered by:  

  • people gathering for spring and summer events, including Pride-related festivals, given the likelihood of sexual activity occurring;  
  • a lack of access to testing and vaccines, especially for underserved populations like sex workers, trans people, migrants and homeless people; 
  • people infected with mpox arriving from countries outside of Europe and central Asia.   

“Our efforts to control the mpox outbreak appear to have paid off, and that’s great news. I commend health authorities and the most-impacted communities for their strong partnership in controlling mpox, including vaccine rollout, community outreach and actions to safeguard individual and wider community health, along with concerted efforts not to stigmatize those affected,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Elimination is within our reach, but let’s not forget that mpox is still circulating, as we’ve recently seen in our region. Mpox cases could resurge this spring and summer as festivals and events – where sexual activities might occur – get under way. Some countries in the European Region are still seeing persistent, low levels of transmission. Beyond our region, localized spikes remind us that this outbreak is far from over. Let’s renew our collective efforts to ensure we remain on track towards eventual elimination – it can be done.”  

A package of new WHO/Europe publications – including an mpox policy brief, a compendium of case studies and a risk communication toolkit – outlines the recommended actions that communities, health authorities and providers, and event organizers can take (see below). 

“Mpox should still very much be a concern to health authorities and the most impacted communities alike in the WHO European Region,” said Dr Richard Pebody, High-threat Pathogen Team Lead at WHO/Europe. “Cases might be on the rise again this year. And even if we are lucky, and this doesn’t happen, mpox could pick up again the following year. We simply cannot be complacent. WHO/Europe’s latest mpox policy brief offers a roadmap to countries on how to control and ultimately eliminate the disease in our region in the long run.” 

“I’m concerned that mpox could come back, you know, the sequel, but I’m hopeful we’ve learned a lot and we have shown that we can come together as a community and really protect ourselves,” said Martin Joseph, a United Kingdom-based broadcaster and host of a podcast about mpox. “As someone who went through mpox, it was one of the most testing and life-changing experiences from a mental health point of view, and it really impacted me and I’ve had to do a lot of work since then to look at my life and look at everything that led to that point.”

“It is important that the most affected groups – predominantly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men – as well as health authorities and health providers remain on high alert,” concluded Dr Kluge. “As we celebrate diversity and inclusion on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, as well as Pride just around the corner, let’s also remind ourselves that we still have a long way to go to stamp out shame and stigma related to sexual health. It’s critical that we normalize talking about seemingly sensitive or uncomfortable topics in the interest of our health and well-being. Let’s not allow our success in controlling mpox over the past year to be overshadowed by another wave of infections this spring and summer. Be informed; protect yourself and others; and if you can, get vaccinated.”   

Key recommendations to control and eliminate mpox

For health authorities:

  • Promote and bring testing and vaccination closer to the most affected communities, with transparent information on availability and criteria for eligibility. For example, provide testing and vaccination in a sexual health clinic or on the premises of a community-based organization. 
  • Reach underserved groups (trans people, sex workers, men who have sex with men including those who are also migrants or refugees, as well as younger people, the homeless and people in rural areas) with health advice, testing and vaccination. 
  • Develop vaccination plans.
  • Build the skills of health workers to be able to identify mpox signs and provide advice and care. 
  • Declare mpox a nationally notifiable disease to detect mpox early, respond to outbreaks efficiently and allocate resources where most needed.
  • Make mpox response part of national sexual health programmes. 

For the most affected communities in particular – gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; trans and gender-diverse people; and sex workers:

  • Stay in the know about mpox by accessing trusted sources of information and advice. 
  • Check yourself regularly for symptoms. If in doubt, get tested. If you experience mpox symptoms, take a break from sexual activities until you are well, and talk to your partners about symptoms. The most common symptoms are an evolving rash and blister-like lesions, which can appear anywhere on the body.
  • Find out where to access care. 
  • If vaccination is available, get vaccinated. Vaccination offers an extra layer of protection and can reduce severity of the disease – alongside other preventive measures. 
  • Keep protecting yourself and others – even after you are vaccinated.  

For organizers of mass gatherings:

  • Make information about mpox available before, during and after an event. 
  • Extend mpox information and advice to side events (i.e. night clubs, bars and others) and businesses where sex may take place on the premises (i.e. saunas and sex clubs). 
  • Share local information on where to get tested, and where to get vaccinated (if vaccines are available). 
  • Encourage people who develop mpox symptoms or are close contacts to skip the event and be reimbursed for their tickets, ensuring a ticket refund policy is in place.
  • Consider offering spaces to community organizations working with key affected populations and support their communications, such as adding information about their services to your website and social media channels.
ALL COUNTRIES Access to Health, Access to healthcare
Joining the fight against mpox - WHO Campaign is here with plenty of information

On May 17th of this year the WHO Regional Office for Europe office launched a new mpox (monkeypox campaign), with a series of social media posts, a video, a series or resources, including the RCCE compendium and toolkit, a press release, and brought people together at two live social media events. 

Below, we are sharing with you all of these resources, which we encourage you to disseminate further with your communiities, health authorities and other stakeholders. 

1. Compendium: Eliminating mox in the WHO European Region - a response with communities at its heart, a case studies compendium. It shares experience on emergency preparedness, surveillance, risk communication, and the adaptation of community-based services that cover sexually transmited diseases to meet the demands of the mpox outbreak. 

2. A video message by Dr. Richard Pebody, WHO Regional Officer for Europe.

3. A risk communication, community engagement and infodemic management toolkit for mpox elimination. The toolkit offers a comprehensive resource for community-based organisations, event organizers and health authorities to use RCCE-IM tools as part of their elimination efforts. This version includes a new section on community engagement, with tips to ensure the inclusion of groups that might have been left out from the response, such as the trans community, sex workers, and sex-on-premises venues. It also features revised and updated public health adivce. 

4. A conversation on mpox with WHO/Europe's Dr. Richard Pebody, Amanita Calderon-Cifuentes, Researcher and Advocacy Officer, TGEU; Dr Will Nutland, Co-Founder PrEPster, the Love Tank. The events were moderated by Martin Joseph, comedian and broadcaster (UK). See Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter links. 

5. Ways how to get involved: 

6. WHO Press Release: An mpox resurgence in the European Region this spring and summer? To prevent that, key measures must continue.

7. Webstory: A summary of resources. Cautiously celebrating our success in combatting mpox: new and updated resources offer inspiration and guidance on eliminating the disease. 

ALL COUNTRIES Access to Health, Access to healthcare mpox, monkeypox, Health, Access to Health
May 17: International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia celebrated with events all other the world

This year’s theme (“Together always: united in diversity”) focuses on the need for cross-movement solidarity to keep bringing about positive change

Access data about the legal situation for LGBTI people: globally | in your country/jurisdiction


GENEVA, 16 May 2023 - From the Cook Islands to Lesotho, Jamaica, and Canada, thousands of initiatives will be held across the planet on May 17 to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Events registered on currently span from over 50 countries and territories, and more are being added in the upcoming days.


The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans persons, and more broadly against all people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. Thanks to the coordination of a global Working Group and the initiatives of thousands LGBTQIA+ activists and allies, the day is celebrated every May 17, marking the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Data available in the ILGA World Database show how true equality continues to be very far from reach for many LGBTQIA+ people worldwide: 6 UN member States legally impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts, and there is no legal certainty of its application in 5 more States. As many as 64 UN member States criminalise consensual same-sex relations: 62 of them criminalise de jure (laws criminalising consensual same-sex sexual acts); 2 criminalise de facto (in practice, relying on other laws.) At least 51 countries have restrictions on freedom of expression related to sexual and gender diversity issues, including in educational settings.  


And yet, progress is happening across the world. To date, 11 UN member States have moved to ban so-called ‘conversion therapies’ at the national level. 7 have introduced nationwide restrictions to unnecessary interventions on intersex youth, and 20 allow for legal gender recognition based on self-determination. Marriage equality is now a reality in 33 UN member States. Laws that protect people from hate crimes on the grounds of their sexual orientation exist in 58 UN member States, but only 37 do so based on gender identity, 9 on gender expression, and 5 on sex characteristics.


Despite this progress, history has taught LGBTQIA+ communities that hard-won advances can be easily taken away. This is why the theme of this year’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia - decided through a large consultation with LGBTQIA+ organisations and networks from around the world - focuses on the power of solidarity across movements, identities, and borders to keep bringing about change. 


Together always: united in diversity” is a response to times where progress is increasingly at risk: when we unite, in all our beautiful diversity, we can really bring about change!




For further comment, contact: 

Lukas Berredo, IDAHOBIT Campaign Coordinator: [email protected]

Daniele Paletta, Communications Manager at ILGA World: [email protected]

Mariano Ruiz, member of the IDAHOBIT Global Committee: [email protected]


ALL COUNTRIES Discrimination, Non-Discrimination IDAHOBIT, 17 May,,,,,
This May 1st we look closer at LGBTIQ+ worker rights

This May 1st, we look closer at the labour rights situation of LGBTIQ+ people in the Western Balkans and Türkiye. 

While all Western Balkans countries offer legal protection from discrimination in employment, the situation on the ground is far from ideal. 

Our 2022 regional poll in six Western Balkans countries revealed that 18% of the public would stop communicating with a colleague if they found out they were LGBTIQ+. 

A striking 26% would try to help them find a cure, believing that being LGBTIQ+ is a sickness. 

The study shows, however, an improvement in terms of acceptance.  Compared to 2015, when only 8% would fully support a colleague for being LGBTIQ+, that percentage has increased to 23,8% in 2022, showing that, albeit slowly, society in the Western Balkans is moving towards more acceptance. 

In Türkiye, the labour rights of LGBTIQ+ people are not only not protected by the state, but they are currently under vicious attacks and oppression. 

Such statistics, however, are further proof that most LGBTIQ+ people are afraid to come out in their workplace, and those who do not have the privilege of being invisible or want to live out proud face numerous challenges, from discrimination, harassment, and many other challenges. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, "Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and protection against unemployment."

Until LGBTIQ+ people are perceived and treated as equal to the rest of society, discrimination against them will prevail, including in the workplace and the labour market. So the fight for equality extends also to socio-economic rights, which are as fundamental as all other human rights.

ALL COUNTRIES Employment Labour Rights, Worker Rights, Employment, Workplace, Inclusion
LGBTI Enlargement Review 2023 is out

ERA and ILGA-Europe worked together to produce our annual LGBTI Enlargement Review, assessing gaps in legislation and policy for the protection and advancement of the human rights of LGBTI people in the enlargement countries, and identifying priorities the EU should insist authorities in each country need to tackle in the coming year, as identified by LGBTI activists in the respective countries.

2022 was an historic year for the enlargement process, as the EU expanded its promise of a perspective for EU accession to include Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, following the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine on 24 February 2022. All three countries are now included in the EU’s annual enlargement reporting process. As ILGA-Europe has member organisations in all of the newly added countries, this year’s LGBTI Enlargement Review covers the perspectives of LGBTI civil society from all ten countries: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. 

This year’s LGBTI Enlargement Review also follows a new format. We wanted to particularly highlight the importance of implementation of already existing policy and legislation, as it has become commonplace for Enlargement countries to adopt a legal framework aligning with EU standards, but not actually implementing it. As a result, each country chapter is divided into the below headings:

  • Main legislation/policy to be drafted/adopted to ensure non-discrimination and access to justice for LGBTI people (priorities for the coming year)
  • Implementation of already-existing legislation/policy
  • Legislation/policy in process
  • Feedback on the European Commission’s 2022 Enlargement Report (where applicable)
  • Recommendations to the EU 

These headings are then complemented by a section linking readers to the respective country chapter of ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review 2023, in order to understand the reality on the ground and more nuanced context, which often varies significantly from legislative frameworks. The chapter on Turkey is structured in a different way, in order to present the current state of play prior to the elections in May, and will be updated to reflect the priorities that emerge after the elections.

In all of the enlargement countries, we can unfortunately identify a clear trend of rule of law being challenged, foreign influence being exerted to challenge advances on human rights, including the rights of LGBTI people, and an increase of hate speech translating into violence on the ground, as well as ongoing challenges to freedom of assembly and association.

In this context, LGBTI topics are being used to polarise society, often to distract from a broader undermining of democracy and the rule of law in these countries and other more important socio-economic and political issues.

It is thus important that the EU renews a clear prospect for EU enlargement, not only for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, but most importantly in the Western Balkans. The commencement of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is an encouraging step in this regard. It is important that the EU places LGBTI rights firmly into all its considerations, and that demands on advancing the protection of the human rights of LGBTI people are put on the same footing as important processes on fighting corruption and advancing the rule of law.

To donwload the Enlargement Review report click here

ALL COUNTRIES Access to Health, Access to healthcare, Access to Justice, Access to social protection, Advocacy, Asylum, Bullying, Business, Civil Society, Discrimination, Education, Employment, Enlargement, Freedom of Assembly, Gender Identity, Hate Crime, Hate Speech, Homophobia, Housing, Human Rights, Law, Non-Discrimination, Political Participation, Rule of Law, Trans, Transphobia, Violence European Union, EU Integration, EU Enlargement Review, Rule of Law, Fundamental Rights
Violent attack against LGBTIQ+ activists in Banja Luka, following inflammatory rhetoric by Republika Srpska leaders

On March 18th, LGBTIQ+ activists were violently attacked by a group of hooligans in Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The attack happened after local police banned the film screening and a panel discussion about the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people, citing security concerns. Following the ban, activists held a closed meeting at the local offices of Transparency International in Banja Luka. After being told by the police that they should leave the city as they could not guarantee their safety, activists left the venue and, while on the streets, were violently attacked by groups of hooligans in what appeared to be a horrifying man-hunt. Several activists were physically injured, and many others were traumatized. 


In a press conference today in Sarajevo, activists called the attack a hate crime based on SOGIESC identity. They called out on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Banja Luka’s Mayor Draško Stanivuković inflammatory language ahead of the Saturday events. This was further shown in a recent tweet by Banja Luka’s Mayor’, who offered very little consolation to the victims of the attacks or the citizens of Banja Luka, boasting about his “patriarchal values” instead. President Milorad Dodik of Republika Srpska also showed no remorse about the incident saying that “people were told not to gather.” 


ERA condemns in the strongest terms this attack which was fueled by local authorities and allowed by them to escalate to such a degree. We call on the authorities to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and, equally importantly, to guarantee to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina their constitutional freedoms and rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.


BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA Hate Crime, Violence Hate Crimes, Violence, Mobbing, Incidents, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, Homophobia, Transphobia
JOIN Albania's LGBTIQ+ Shelter Annual Charity Gala

Albania's first and only LGBTIQ+ shelter, "Streha," is hosting its 7th Charity Gala to support at-risk LGBTIQ+ youth. The Gala is taking place at the Plaza Hotel on 13 April 2023. 


To support this event, you can join in person or online through the EVENTBRITE platform. That means that you can buy the ticket in person or online. To learn more about ticket options, click on this link


The price of the ticket is 100 Euros.


Please complete the registration form on this link if you wish to attend the event in person. If you buy the ticket via EVENTBRITE, the platform will automatically generate a ticket for you with a QR code. Simultaneous interpretation in English and Albanian languages will be provided. If you buy your ticket in cash, Streha will deliver the ticket to you at the address you choose. 


Albania's LGBT Shelter is a story of success. Throughout the years, it has helped hundreds of at-risk youth from Albania and a few neighboring countries survive very challenging situations caused due to homophobia and transphobia, including housing and other services to empower LGBTQ+ people (primarily those aged 18-29).


Based in Tirana, Streha supports LGBTIQ+ youth from Albania and, occasionally, LGBTIQ+ youth from neighboring countries.


Streha supports LGBTQ+ people by providing:


  • safe accommodation and meeting their basic needs;
  • individual and group psycho-social counseling;
  • legal aid;
  • health services (educational sessions, health analysis, dental services, mediation for obtaining health care, support with medication, etc.);
  • mediation for the benefit of professional training;
  • life-skills training (maintaining personal hygiene, managing personal finances, efficient communication, drafting a CV, preparing for an interview, living in the community, etc.);
  • employment mediations (professional needs assessment, employment plan drafting, labor market information, incentive to be an active job seeker);
  • socio-cultural and entertainment activities;
  • capacity building training for service providers;
  • advocacy campaigns and awareness activities.

If you want to stay updated with news from Streha, please subscribe to their newsletter.


ALBANIA Community, Community Work, Housing Shelter, Community Empowerment, At-risk youth, LGBTIQ+ Shelter, Streha, Albania, Community Work, Charity Gala, Charity Event
Launching of Regional Public Opinion Poll Survey Report

"Attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people in the Western Balkans. Public opinion in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia." 

29 March, 14:00-16:00 CET, Zoom Platform


In December 2022, ERA - LGBTI Equal Rights Association for the Western Balkans and Turkey, in partnership with IPSOS Strategic Marketing and with the support of the European Commission and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, conducted an opinion poll on LGBTIQ+ rights with the general population in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, 


The data was collected from 20 December 2022 until 12 January 2023 and targeted adult persons 18+. The sample was collected via telephone as well as online. The survey aimed to understand public attitudes in the Western Balkans region, with a particular focus on the following: 


  • Personal experience, attitudes, and prejudices toward the LGBTIQ+ population
  • Public attitudes towards rights of LGBTIIQ+ persons
  • Public attitudes and opinions on pride parades
  • Attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people and political choice 

One of the most interesting aspects of this public opinion poll is that we can compare the general public's attitudes in 2015 to those in 2022-2023. We managed to ask many of the same questions that were asked to the public in 2015. The findings are most revealing of a social change in the Western Balkans region. 


If you are keen to learn more about the data of this report and the comparison of attitudes between 2015 to 2023, we encourage you to register for this event and to join us via Zoom on 29 March, 14:00-16:00 CET


The event will host a panel of regional and international guests and present the report's data and a comparative analysis with the findings of the 2015 poll. 


If you wish to attend the event, we invite you to register at this link.


For any questions or comments, please send an email at [email protected]

ALL COUNTRIES Public Opinion Poll, Survey, Public Attitudes, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia
Two separate hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ People in Belgrade shock the local community.

Member organisations of ERA recently reported that in the night between 27 and 28 February, three young men were attacked in Manjež Park in Belgrade. The reason for the attack was their sexual orientation. A group of men belonging to the "Skinheads" stabbed one of the victims with a knife, and attacked the others with a broken bottle. The victims were hospitalized, and one of them has serious injuries. Meanwhile a day later the security guards of a Belgrade nightclub inflicted injuries on a gay man, an attack which seems to have been also due to the victims’ sexual orientation. 


Local LGBTIQ+ organisations have expressed outrage and concern for the increase in the number of hate crimes and attacks against the community, as state authorities continue to remain silent and not address or prosecute these crimes properly. According to local organization Da Se Zna!, which collects data on hate crimes and incidents in Serbia, 68 incidents motivated by homophobia and transphobia have been recorded since August of last year alone. Almost 90% of the victims of homophobic and transphobic incidents reported to the competent authorities do not have any information about the cases they reported. They also add that “as a rule, LGBTIQ+ people who have suffered violence are exposed to secondary victimization, and such cases rarely result in the initiation of court proceedings”. 


For the above reasons, local LGBTIQ+ organisations are organizing a protest at Mark Manjež Park on Friday, 3 March at 18:00 under the slogan “Hate Kills” to demand that those responsible for the attacks are identified and adequately punished. They have also requested an urgent meeting with the Minister of Interior, Bratislav Gašić. 


ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe and Central Asia finds that 2022 was the most violent year for LGBTI people across the region in the past decade, both through planned, ferocious attacks and through suicides in the wake of rising and widespread hate speech from politicians, religious leaders, right-wing organisations and media pundits. 


We at ERA wish to express our deep concern about the rise in hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people in our region. The unhinged derogatory language of the clergy, right wing political parties and other so-called “activists” is not only causing harm to the mental well-being of LGBTIQ+ people but is also directly leading to more cases of discrimination, attacks, violence and other crimes. 


We demand for the state authorities in Serbia to take the cases of hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people with utmost seriousness and to promote a language of tolerance and respect for the LGBTIQ+ community, who have become the punching back of nationalistic and fascistic rhetoric in Serbia as well as other countries of the region.


We encourage all LGBTIQ+ people in Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans and Turkey, not to remain silent in cases of violence and attacks and to report those attacks directly to local organisations, who can assist them with psychological and legal counseling. We also encourage them to directly report incidents on our regional platform, You Are Heard, available in all local languages. The portal provides also information on local organizations that provide services to victims of hate crimes and incidents in the respective countries.

SERBIA Crime, Hate Crime, Law Enforcement, Rule of Law hate crime, Belgrade, Serbia, Hate Incidents, Attacks, Skinheads, Homophobia, Crime
The Ministry of Interior of Montenegro discriminates against children because of the sexual orientation of their parents

Children of same-sex parents, one of whom is a Montenegrin citizen, cannot obtain Montenegrin citizenship, even though they have a legal right to do so, because the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MUP) has not decided on this process for five years.

This discriminates against these children the MUP compared to other children who live in families with parents of different genders or with one Montenegrin citizen parent, as well as their parents based on their sexual orientation. Therefore, the family has filed two lawsuits against the state of Montenegro - the MUP to competent courts, with the support of the Queer Montenegro organization.

The Executive Director of the ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for the Western Balkans and Turkey, Danijel Kalezić, said that over the five years, they had tried all formal and informal communication channels to resolve this case.

"Unfortunately, we have not encountered understanding and willingness to respect the laws of this country when it comes to the last three governments. This proves deep-rooted institutional homophobia and the absence of the rule of law. As we know, Montenegro grants a huge number of citizenships every year to people who have a lot of money, many of whom have dubious biographies," Kalezić said.

He explained that the law is very clear and that children meet the requirements of the law.

"The fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not made a decision in the administrative procedure initiated for five years and does not grant Montenegrin citizenship to these children while hundreds of privileged foreigners receive Montenegrin citizenship through very questionable procedures is evidence of the erosion of the rule of law and gross violation of human rights," Kalezić believes.

He emphasized that there was an expectation that Prime Minister Dritan Abazović would make efforts to comply with the law and that children would obtain the citizenship to which they are entitled.

"I informally talked to him and the Minister of Interior Affairs, Filip Adžić. Despite the promises that the case would be resolved, we also had a formal meeting at the MUP, where we were told that a decision regarding this case would be made. Unfortunately, we have to state that this did not happen," Kalezić explained.

According to him, this is a strategically important case for the overall rule of law in Montenegro, stating that ERA will continue to monitor this case and provide support with international partners and the international community to resolve this case.

"This case must be resolved by admitting children to Montenegrin citizenship and holding accountable all those who have acted illegally in this case," Kalezić added.

The executive director of the organization Queer Montenegro, Miloš Knežević, emphasized that this case is yet another indication that Montenegrin institutional systems are not ready to accept legal changes happening when it comes to LGBTIQ individuals and their families. In doing so, they deny the legal regulation and acceptance of same-sex families as such.

"Today, when you have full acceptance of LGBTIQ families in all modern societies, in Montenegro, we are living in a moment where our institutions remain silent and thereby show us that they are not ready to change the law and, therefore, adapt its protective instruments to the newly arisen changes and social relations," Knežević stated in a statement to PR Centar.

He pointed out that institutions refuse to provide LGBTIQ individuals and their families with the rights that belong to them, which is nothing more than the right of any other citizen of Montenegro.

"This is a clear message to all LGBTIQ individuals in Montenegro that Montenegrin society still denies our basic human right - the right to family - thus pushing us to the margins of existence," Knežević said.

He emphasized that Queer Montenegro will continue to monitor this case "because it is a very open and clear discrimination based on sexual orientation."

Attorney Marijana Laković-Drašković, the family's legal representative, stated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had not decided on the application for Montenegrin citizenship, which indicates "administrative silence," "so we have filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court."

"However, it is necessary to point out that the provision of Article 29 of the Law on Montenegrin Citizenship is imperative, as it prescribes the obligation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to decide on citizenship acquisition within one year from the date of initiation of the procedure, as well as a legal remedy for the protection of the rights of the applicant, so we expect someone to be held responsible for illegal behavior, i.e., for not deciding for more than five years," Laković-Drašković stated.

She explained that, as the family's legal representative, she had submitted a proposal for mediation proceedings to the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, which the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not accept.

"In this way, procedural prerequisites for initiating a lawsuit for protection against discrimination have been met, which I, as the family's legal representative, have done," Laković-Drašković said.

She pointed out that the plaintiffs' discrimination is reflected in other children and parents in the same or similar situation regarding the regulation of citizenship status.

"By refusing to register the children in the appropriate registers, the Ministry of Internal Affairs violated the human rights of the plaintiff-children, prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Citizenship, and positive legal regulations of Montenegro, thus preventing equal access of children to education, health care, and social security, as well as grossly discriminating against the plaintiff-parents based on their sexual orientation," Laković-Drašković said.

According to her, the fact that national legislation at the horizontal level is still not harmonized with international agreements and the Law on Life Partnership of Same-Sex Persons and the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination should not produce further legal consequences concerning the plaintiffs.

"The state's failure to fulfill its legislative obligations must not result in violating the human rights and basic freedoms of both children and parents," added Lakovic-Draskovic.

As she stated, expectations are that competent courts will apply the legal standpoint from the rich case law of the EU Court of Justice, given that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not done so, especially considering that national case law is aligned with the practice of the EU Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

"This would provide protection against further implementation of discrimination, which has undoubtedly occurred, primarily towards children in relation to other children who acquire Montenegrin citizenship by origin under the same legally prescribed conditions, and the consequence is reflected in the prevention of equal access to education, healthcare, and social security," said Lakovic-Draskovic.

She claims that the Ministry of Internal Affairs' actions have also led to discrimination against prosecutors - parents based on their sexual orientation.

"It was precisely this basis that determined the Ministry of Internal Affairs not to carry out the actions for which it is authorized, and which it would otherwise carry out in any other case where the legal conditions are met," Lakovic-Draskovic concluded.

MONTENEGRO Family Rainbow Families, Family Rights


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