News & Politics

Country of contradictions: Albania and same-sex partnerships

http://historia-ime.com/en/english

PHOTO CREDIT: HISTORIA-IME

A country where a recent survey said 53% believe that “gays and lesbians should not be free to live as they wish” is not a country where you expect to hear about same-sex marriage legislation being introduced and supported by both government and opposition.

But, Albania is, at times, a  country of contradictions.

According to Historia-Ime, an Albanian website highlighting queer politics and other human rights, a high level conference began yesterday where draft proposals to legalize same-sex partnerships and to introduce a complete law for gender recognition were presented.  These proposals were created after consultations between the Council of Europe, the Albanian government, the opposition, the civil society, the Ombudsman etc. The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare and Youth, Ms. Bardhylka Kospiri, was present, as was Ms. Albana Vokshi, a member of the opposition and head of the Labor, Social Affairs and Health Commission.

To understand a little more about how Albania got to this point, I talked with Vincent who is responsible for the Council of Europe LGBT Project in Albania.

Me: Can you tell me a little about how Albania got to this historic point?

Vincent: Within the Balkan region, Albania is already quite exceptional because of the nearly total absence of religion from the public and political discourse. There are no religious parties, nor are there any religious leaders with any serious influence on the population, whether Muslim, Orthodox, or Catholic. This is a situation inherited from Communist times and proves to be very advantageous for the furthering of LGBT rights. In other countries, including EU-member states like Poland, Greece, Italy, or Croatia, there is a strong link between the Church and homophobic movements. Such movements are marginal in the Albanian public debate. Furthermore, the LGBT movement has grown slowly over the years, always keeping a good contact between the community and international donors, while actively reaching out to the government. This constructive approach is now yielding its fruits.

Me: Do you think that even just the discussion is changing the lives of queer Albanians?

Vincent: The current discussion on cohabitation contracts is only a small part of a much larger discussion of human rights. But as always, any public, open, and positive discussion of LGBT issues is at the same type a way of supporting a people that sometimes suffer in intense isolation. Any affirmation that comes from such a discussion can be life-changing in itself.

Me: What has been the reaction to the conference and the proposal in general?

Vincent: The conference takes place within the context of a cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, together with LGBT rights organizations, the National Ombudsman, the Commissioner for the Protection from Discrimination, and independent experts. Except for the legislative proposals we have presented all the results from the CoE LGBT project, ranging from trainings and workshops to websites and brochures developed in the fields of education, law enforcement, journalism, tourism, healthcare, etc. We have noticed that the response from the side of government to all of this has been very positive and supportive, and there is a considerable change in social attitudes toward the LGBT community that I have noticed since I moved here three years ago.

Me: Where do you hope Albania will be 5 years from now?

Vincent: I don’t think this has very little to do with hope. Many activists, scholars, and politicians work day and night to make this country a better place for all of us, and that work just needs to continue, without any time frame but day after day.

<span style="color: #888888;">Albania Gay Ride Against Discrimination (May 2013) </SPAN>

Albania Gay Ride Against Discrimination (May 2013) PHOTO CREDIT: CLARE MASSON

 

 

 

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