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Watchdog warns of rights setbacks in Balkans, Central Europe

Watchdog warns of rights setbacks in Balkans, Central Europe

Europe’s leading LGBT rights organisation, ILGA-Europe has criticised Serbia and Turkey for their handling of LGBT community rights in its latest Rainbow Map and Index.

The report says the pushbacks LGBT communities are facing in these countries “can also be seen in the challenge to freedom of assembly amid the rise of anti-democratic forces”.

“Serbia, which hosted a seriously compromised EuroPride march after last-minute attempts by the Serbian President and Minister of the Interior to ban the event, went down three places, while Turkey remains almost at the very bottom of the ranking after another year of crackdowns on Pride gatherings, showing that in 2023 the basic right to gather in a public space still cannot be taken for granted,” ILGA- Europe said in a press release.

While Serbia was criticised for handling of the march, it scored ahead of some EU members in the Balkans, like Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary which respectively 18, 20 and 30 per cent.

ILGA-Europe found that while the public discourse is becoming more polarised and violent, particularly against trans people, political determination to advance LGBTI rights is paying off.

The largest gains on the map are for countries that have introduced legal gender recognition, LGR, using a self-determination model.

According to the published map, in other countries in the region the situation is not that good, either.

Albania, Serbia and Kosovo scored 35 per cent, while North Macedonia scored 29 per cent and Bosnia and Herzegovina 40 per cent.

The report notes that during the vote on the much-debated draft civil code in Kosovo’s parliament, a ruling Vetevendosje party MP said that marriage must be between a man and a woman, otherwise, the union is “moral degeneration”.

It also notes that the head of the human rights parliamentary committee in Kosovo said that she cannot vote in favor of a code that allows same sex marriages because “I cannot go against the religion I belong to, the principles I live by, or against the family values I grew up with”.

On North Macedonia, the report says hate speech remained a serious issue, drawing little response from the authorities.

In Montenegro, “anti-LGBT and misogynistic political rhetoric continued to be a serious issue”. However, Montenegro is the highest ranked country in the region, with 61 per cent.

ILGA-Europe is an independent, international non-governmental umbrella organisation uniting over 600 organisations from 54 countries across Europe and Central Asia.

Rainbow Europe Map and Index noted that, “over the past 12 months bans on intersex genital mutilation (IGM) are also bringing countries up in the ranking”.

Greece moved up four places for its ban on IGM, and Croatia moved up one place with its introduction of adoption for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, Moldova jumped 14 places because sexual orientation and gender identity were “positively included in legislation covering employment, education, provision of goods and services, health, hate crime and hate speech”.

The map has been released every year since May 2009 and ranks 49 countries on a scale between 0 per cent (gross violations of human rights, discrimination) and 100 per cent (respect of human rights, full equality).

Malta (89 per cent) came top in the rankings for the eighth year, followed by Belgium (76) and Denmark (76). Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan came bottom with two per cent each.

Source: Balkan Insight