LGBTI Rights are human rights

May 17, 2014

LGBTI march in Tirana


Op-Ed by Zineb Toumi-Benjelloun

Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes, often combined with a lack of adequate legal protection, expose many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people  in all regions of the world to violations of their human rights. They are discriminated against in the labour market, in schools and in hospitals, mistreated and disowned by their own families. They are singled out for physical attack – beaten, assaulted,   and killed.

Concerns about these and related human rights violations have been expressed repeatedly by United Nations human rights mechanisms since the early 1990s. Yet, the legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are already well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are agreed to in international human rights treaties, to which Albania is also signatory.  
All people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

In recent years, many States have made a determined effort to strengthen human rights protection for LGBT people. An array of new laws has been adopted – including laws banning discrimination, penalizing homophobic hate crimes, granting recognition of same-sex relationships, and making it easier for transgender individuals to obtain official documents that reflect their preferred gender. Training programmes have been developed for police, prison staff, teachers, social workers and other personnel, and anti-bullying initiatives have been implemented in many schools.

At the inter-governmental level, the Human Rights Council adopted in 2011 the first United Nations resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity – expressing “grave concern” at violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. This paved the way for the first official United Nations report on the issue prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This in turn led to the formal incorporation of the rights of LGBTI in the deliberations of the Council.

In Albania, too, homosexuality was decriminalised after the fall of the socialist regime. Modern anti-discrimination legislation discourages any form of discrimination, harassment and hatred language against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
The Offices of the Albania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner and the People’s Advocate have progressively applied international law obligations to specific situations in Albania with regard to LGBTI rights.  For example, the Commissioner issues formal decisions regarding homophobic hate speech; the People’s Advocate formally supported legislation for same-sex unions;  the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth and Albanian State Police have developed action plans to promote LGBTI rights and diversity in Albanian society and police ranks.

Albanian LGBTI groups are claiming their rightful space in the national public debate sphere; and, work to empower the members of their community and their organisations for intensified advocacy, and to celebrate gender and sexual diversity. 

Last year, we marked International Day Against Homophobia in an open and supportive environment enabled by Government authorities and joined by our partners.  The Garden of Diversity in Tirana’s central park lost some of its colourful flowers to the city’s flower lovers, but it is a mark of Tirana’s spirit towards LGBT rights as well as a training ramp for toddlers who are learning to walk!

This year will, no doubt be the same.  We are, each one of us, so unique. Diversity is the only thing we have in common. Let’s celebrate it this 17th day