LGBT people, one of Albania’s most victimized in access to justice

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 30, 2017 15:05

LGBT people, one of Albania’s most victimized in access to justice

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  • In a nationwide survey with more than 1,700 people, 37 percent of respondents believe employers should fire gay people if they make them feel uncomfortable. The gap is wider when it comes to sexual orientation at work with about three-quarters of the respondents saying that gay people shouldn’t be open about their sexuality at work

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TIRANA, Nov. 30 – Lack of protection by the police and the justice system as a whole from systemic and widespread violence is one of the most pressing issues facing the gay community in Albania, considered one of Europe’s homophobic countries, a survey has found.

Members of the LGBTI community are vociferous in their belief that they are being persecuted by police officers who are either indifferent to their plight or are openly hostile to them, says a UNDP-commissioned survey measuring access to justice in Albania among members of disadvantaged groups including the poor, the Roma and domestic violence victims.

“Police departments persecute us. They [police officers] look at us like we are different creatures. Even when they try to comfort us, they don’t do anything. There are even instances when they say to perpetrators, ‘Bravo for what you did,’” a gay person is quoted as saying on condition of anonymity.

Community members say the police have a habit of humiliating LGBT people and that their treatment of sex workers and transsexuals is even more brutal.

Research shows LGBT people’s right to privacy is often violated as a means of dissuading them from their activism or from pursuing their complaints, with police officers disclosing sensitive information to the media and commonly using the victim-blaming practice.

LGBTI citizens that are not assisted by the police rarely have avenues for seeking justice. Their support networks are small and friends and family often shun them, says the UNDP report.

“If police officers do not respond, we don’t do anything. The family doesn’t provide help; friends neither,” another gay is quoted as saying.

In addition, common obstacles faced by all Albanians such as high court tariffs and expert fees, lack of a functioning legal aid system, the length of court proceedings and widespread perception of a corrupt justice system further hamper the LGBTI access to justice.

“The justice system is corrupt…. As a community, we see corruption everywhere. To obtain any kind of service, we have to pay. If you pay, the person doesn’t care if you are gay or not. All they care about is the money,” says another LGBT person.

Research shows that attitudes and practices by police and other justice system stakeholders have to drastically change in order for LGBT people to fully enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

“Due to the widespread discrimination against the LGBTI community, both in the justice system and in society as a whole, the LGBTI community cannot avail itself of the services of the justice system or exercise its rights under the law,” concludes the research, suggesting strengthening the legal aid system and raising awareness among justice system workers and LGBTI community as a measures that would improve their access to justice.

A nationwide survey conducted as part of the research has shown most Albanians remain homophobic when it comes to LGBTI rights, especially at work and that the Albanian population is not prepared to broaden its conceptions of justice to include the LGBT population.

In a nationwide survey with more than 1,700 people, 37 percent of respondents believe employers should fire gay people if they make them feel uncomfortable. The gap is wider when it comes to sexual orientation at work with about three-quarters of the respondents saying that gay people shouldn’t be open about their sexuality at work.

However, only a quarter of high-income earners holding university degrees were in favor of firing gay people for making employers feel uncomfortable.

LGBT organizations in Albania have been regularly staging gay pride parades in the past six years in downtown Tirana, demanding equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who are often victimized and neglected because of their sexual orientation despite legislation already in place banning all forms of discrimination toward them.

Activists say young gay and lesbian Albanians face discrimination at school, and they are often kicked out of their homes when they come out to their families. In many cases, young LGBT people fall prey to violence, abuse and are not given the opportunity to live freely and with dignity, they add.

The LGBT community has been demanding amendments to the Family Code so that partners of the same sex can legally marry or cohabit, paving the way for adoptions and inheritance rights for same sex couples, a request that was not taken into consideration in the justice reform package that Albania adopted in July 2016.

Homosexuality has long been a taboo subject in conservative Albania, like in most of the Balkan region.

Under the communist dictatorship until the early 1990s, homosexuality was a criminal offence punishable with up to ten years of imprisonment.

It was decriminalized in 1995, and since 2010 it has been illegal to discriminate against solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 30, 2017 15:05