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BIG ELECTION ISSUES: LGBTI RIGHTS

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HOW TO ENSURE EVERYONE IS TREATED EQUALLY

Although visibility has increased for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) movement in Kosovo, access to equal rights is rarely felt by the community itself. Reports and LGBTI activists have continually statedthat LGBTI persons are exposed to violence, widespread hate speech, and discrimination in all sectors of society from healthcare to education and employment.The country’s leaders mention their “support” of an inclusive society and LGBTI rights only in their meetings with the international community. Last year, in a meeting with the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, Randy W. Berry, departing prime minister Isa Mustafa said “Kosovo is dedicated to creating a society where human rights are respected and possibilities are equal for everyone.” In a separate meeting with Berry in 2016, former head of the Kosovo Assembly, Kadri Veseli, stated that “LGBTI persons will be respected in Kosovo.” But, neither Mustafa or Veseli have mentioned these duties before or since. In the same year, a leaked wiretapped conversation revealed Veseli using the homophobic slur ‘peder’ (faggot) to describe opposition leader Albin Kurti.

He’s not the only high ranking official recorded using the insult. Ramush Haradinaj, the current candidate for Prime Minister put forward by the pre-election coalition of PDK, AAK and Nisma, referred to the head of the State Commission for Border Demarcation with Montenegro, Murat Meha, with the same slur. LGBTI activists claimed that Haradinaj had added to the stigmatization and discrimination the community faces, to which he replied that “he apologizes if somebody feels offended but the vocabulary that he used was not offensive against any human category or the LGBT community.”

Three demonstrations against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have been held in Kosovo, with a few representatives from the political establishment in attendance, though usually as private citizens rather than representatives of their parties. 2016 saw Kosovo’s biggest political involvement yet, with President Hashim Thaci leading the march.

However, to date none of the political parties have come out with a common stance on supporting LGBTI persons. No political literature, be it a platform, program or manifesto, from any party has ever mentioned the LGBTI community, and deputies have never raised the issue publicly during their mandates in the parliament.

Because of this, K2.0 has approached this election issue a little differently. We contacted the five Kosovar Albanian parties represented in the last parliamentary term, asking them the same six questions, in order to try and establish a position for each party on LGBTI rights. These are their responses.

What actions would you take to regulate the issue of marriage between two persons of the same sex?

The Constitution of Kosovo states that everyone enjoys the right to marry and the right to create a family in accordance with the law (without mentioning sex), while the Family Law of Kosovo says marriage is a legally registered communion of two persons of different sexes, meaning the law is in contradiction with the Constitution.

Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK): No answer.

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK): No answer.

Vetevendosje: “All actions guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights documents are directly applicable in Kosovo. Laws can only be a logical result of the Constitution and relevant international norms applicable in Kosovo. It is the duty of the Assembly to harmonize laws with the spirit of the Constitution.”

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK): No answer.

Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma): No answer.

What would you do to stop discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons, to stop bullying at schools, carried out by both pupils and teachers against LGBTI pupils, and prevent the violence in the family that happens because of the sexual orientation or gender identity of a family member?

PDK: No answer.

LDK: No answer.

Vetevendosje: “The party respects and protects human dignity, human rights and freedoms by all means available to a democratic society. Preventing discrimination towards persons and vulnerable social groups is not only an issue of the political and legal culture of a society, but also an issue of the political culture that the society follows and cultivates. These are the political and legal actions of a democratic society with active citizenship. Active citizenship is the motto of Vetevendosje.”

AAK: No answer.

Nisma: No answer.

What do you plan to do with the proposal of civil society organizations to amend the criminal code, in order to criminalize hate speech and hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity?

In January 2017, organizations for LGBTI rights composed a proposal with concrete recommendations for amendments to the Criminal Code. This proposal was supported by a number of civil society organizations and was sent to the former Minister of Justice, Dhurata Hoxha and the official working group for amendments to the criminal code.

PDK: No answer.

LDK: No answer.

Vetevendosje: “Criminalizing certain acts twice is not permitted in democratic society, and produces more harm than good. Issues regulated by legislation can be changed if they aren’t in accordance with the reality. However, as for now, we must seek, with no exclusions or relativization, respect and implementation of the legislation against discrimination currently in force, specifically the Anti-Discrimination Law. This is a legal and political obligation of all institutions in the Republic of Kosovo. A state of justice is one of the three pillars of Vetevendosje’s governance model.”

AAK: No answer.

Nisma: No answer.

Would you attend the march against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia organized every year by civil society organizations?

PDK: No answer.

LDK: No answer.

Vetevendosje: “The right to protest is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.”

AAK: No answer.

Nisma: No answer.

Why, until now, has your party failed to come out publicly in support of LGBTI rights?

PDK: No answer.

LDK: No answer.

Vetevendosje: “This generalization is conjecture.”

AAK: No answer.

Nisma: No answer.

How would your party react to any of its members displaying discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTI persons that contravened existing legislation? What mechanisms would you use against this phenomenon in parliament or government?

PDK: No answer.

LDK: No answer.

Vetevendosje: “This is a hypothetical situation that has no concrete content. Vetevendosje aims to create a just state. The law is the same for everyone. No hypothetical situations are allowed when there is demand and determination for a just state.”

AAK: No answer.

Nisma: No answer.

For PDK, K2.0 contacted deputy for PDK in the last parliamentary term Mexhide Majku-Topalli, who served on the Commission on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions. Majku-Topalli acknowledged K2.0’s enquiries but did not provide answers to our questions.

For LDK, K2.0 contacted four LDK candidates for the Assembly in the upcoming elections: Sokol Havolli, a former adviser to departing Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, Arban Abrashi, the Minister for Labor and Social Welfare in the previous parliamentary term, Lirije Kajtazi, who served as the head of the Commission on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions, and Vlora Dumoshi, who was the Chief of Staff at the Prime Minister’s Office in the last parliamentary term. We received no response from any of the candidates.

Vetevendosje’s answers were provided by Sami Kurteshi, the former Ombudsperson for Kosovo and Vetevendosje candidate for the Assembly in the upcoming elections.

For AAK, K2.0 contacted Herolind Zariqi from the party’s media office. Zariqi acknowledged K2.0’s enquiries, but did not provide answers to our questions.

For Nisma, K2.0 contacted Valdete Bajrami, the chief of the party’s parliamentary group in the previous Assembly term. We received no response.

 

Article taken from: http://kosovotwopointzero.com/big-election-issues-lgbti-rights/

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