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news 17 May 13

Croatia Leads Balkans on Gay Rights Legislation

Croatia leads the Balkans in providing the best legal environment for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, while Macedonia offers the least protection, new research says.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Croatia scored 48 per cent on a checklist of laws that include rules on non-discrimination, gender recognition and hate speech, making it the regional leader, according to the research published ahead of Friday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

"Croatian officials continued to gradually improve the human rights situation for LGBTI people," the study said.

It was also noted that the Croatian authorities had ensured there was adequate police protection for participants at the Split Pride demonstration, which saw violence in 2011, and the event was even attended by five government officials.

"The government also expressed its intention to remove the degrading and offensive references to homosexuality identified in biology and religious education textbooks, while LGBT specific content was included in official curricula of the police academy," it continues.

The survey was conducted by ILGA-Europe based on data on developments at a national level in 49 countries in Europe.

Albania came second in the Balkans, scoring 38 per cent.

"Albania continued to make progress at the institutional level towards greater recognition and protection of LGBTI people," the survey said.

"At the same time, homophobia and transphobia remained widespread," it continued.

Romania was the next best ranked in the Balkans with 31 per cent.

The survey warned however that the risk of discrimination or violence targeting LGBTI people remains high in the country.

According to the survey, Montenegro scored 27 per cent, and the country is still dogged by hate speech and violent attacks.

Serbia came in fifth place in the Balkans with 25 per cent.

The study said that despite some improvements, the situation remains difficult.

"The right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI people was violated this year as the Belgrade Pride was banned by authorities,” the study said.

"The risk of physical attacks and threats against members of the LGBTI community also continued to be high," it said.

In Bosnia, which scored 20 per cent, homophobia and transphobia remain common with limited or no action taken by the authorities to address discrimination, harassment or violence.

"Positively, [Bosnia’s] blood transfusion institute amended its blood donation regulations by deleting the discriminatory provisions," the study said.

Overt homophobia and transphobia expressed by government and religious leaders as well as by extremist groups remained common in Bulgaria, which scored 18 per cent.

Rampant homophobia also remains a serious threat for LGBTI people in Kosovo, which scored 14 per cent.

"While anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation is in place, the impact of the law remains very limited in the absence of any proactive policy to ensure its effective implementation," the study said.

Macedonia was ranked the worst in the Balkans with 13 per cent.

The survey said that discrimination against the LGBTI community remained widespread in the country, often fuelled by homophobic rhetoric from officials.

"Journalists also contributed significantly towards the stigmatisation of the LGBTI community through sensationalist and inflammatory articles," the survey added.

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