The Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination was adopted 16 May 2019, which resulted in widespread international praise from the international community. On 14 May 2020 however, it was repealed by the Constitutional court.
“We are disappointed that this important law was repealed”, says Mina Skouen, Head of the Equal Rights Section in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and continues:
“Despite the country having made significant progress the past few years, very much as a result of an agile and brave civil society, it is still considered as the worst country for LGBTI people in the Western Balkans. We expect that authorities clearly state how they will fulfill their human rights obligations and ensure legal protection for this community”.
On the same day as the repeal ILGA Europe presented its 2020 Rainbow Index on the situation for LGBTI persons in Europe, where North Macedonia was moved up from place number 44 to number 33 in the ranking of 49 European countries. One important aspect was the many positive legal developments.
The law ensured increased professionality of the work of an already existing Commission for Protection against Discrimination, by increasing its independence and mandate, it explicitly recognized the protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and it fulfilled the obligations that the North Macedonia has undertaken in front of international and regional human rights bodies. Implementation of the Law faced significant challenges, and as to date, the Commission has not been formed, leaving the citizens of the country without an official body to protect them against discrimination.
Failing vulnerable groups
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee partner organization Subversive Front has been working to ensure legal protection for LGBTI persons for a long time. Together with other NGOs in the National network for fight against homophobia and transphobia they released a statement to their authorities saying:
“The message you have sent to LGBTI people, and to the other groups of vulnerable, different, humiliated and disenfranchised citizens such as the Roma people, the poor, the political misfits, the people with disabilities, the women, and the working women, is that their rights and lives are irrelevant. We have no political power, we have no money, we cannot bring you votes in the election, but we do not consider it a precondition for you to provide us with a dignified life which you owe us with the very fact that we exist”.
Urgent need for action
“North Macedonia’s authorities should clearly state how they will ensure legal protection and safety for their LGBTI citizens from now on”, says Skouen.
“This is an obligation they have, regardless of this law, and there is no time to lose. We know that LGBTI persons are facing particular difficulties during the ongoing pandemic crisis, and there should be left no doubt by the responsible institutions that LGBTI persons should be able to count on support and protection”.
North Macedonia’s authorities should clearly state how they will ensure legal protection and safety for their LGBTI citizens from now on
The law is repealed only three days prior to the International day against homophobia and transphobia, IDAHOT on 17 May.
Antonio Mihajlov from Subversive Front says the day will be used to put pressure on the authorities.
“We have no reason to celebrate 17 May, but to further press the new, soon-to-be-elected composition of the Parliament of North Macedonia to immediately come up with a plan to adopt an efficient and effective legal framework for protection against discrimination”.