In March of last year, the Assembly of Kosovo did not pass in the first reading the Civil Code, which contained the article that would enable the registration of civil unions between persons of the same sex.
Its adoption would convey the message that the highest legislative institution supports, protects and promotes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) to live and establish relationships between them, just like any other another citizen of our republic.
The Civil Code can be further interpreted by lawyers and human rights advocates. However, for the purpose of this editorial, it must be said that the failure of its passage in the Assembly clearly revealed even at the institutional level the hateful language, discrimination and stigmatization that our society feels and shows for this community, to a large extent, and then reflects it through its representatives.
While this code was being talked about, throughout the time the session was being held, as well as days and weeks after its failure to pass, social networks and media highlighted the extremely hateful and inciting language towards people of the LGBTQI+ community.
This hateful language was found in comments on social networks, casual conversations between people, and also headlines and media texts.
The report of the Civil Society on Human Rights for the year 2022 in Kosovo, among other things, emphasizes the language of hatred used during the discussion session of the Civil Code in the Assembly of Kosovo. According to this report drawn up with data and contribution from a total of 37 civil society organizations working in the field of human rights throughout Kosovo, this hateful language suggests how deep is the discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in Kosovo.
Furthermore, the report notes that this discussion has already worsened the already weak position of LGBTQI+ individuals, undermining active efforts to achieve a more open and equal society for all members of the community.
The media, quite sensational headlines as well as various negative and homophobic comments referring to LGBTQI+ persons as persons with ‘mental problems’, ‘mentally ill’, and ‘morally degenerate’, are among the most “frequent” expressions that were used during this period. Of course, such language further stigmatizes the mental health of everyone without exception, and not only LGBTQI+ people, but that would send us to another topic.
One way that this community to enjoy the space and rights it deserves is to have a decent place in the public discussion. Language has a great importance in the extension and respect of our rights and the rights of others.
How can we expect respecting the equal access of others in the public sphere, when we hear and use expressions full of hatred, contempt and stigmatization towards someone because of their orientation and expression of sexuality.
For the sake of argumentation, if we simplify to the essence, then we can say that the constitution and laws are agreement and obligation for our rights put on paper through a specific language. Language acceptable to all with all that it represents in practice.
Therefore, hate speech is something that must be discussed in order to prevent the real consequences that it brings to the people of this community. This language does not remain only online or somewhere in space. It paves the way for further violence and stigmatization of the LGBTI community in Kosovo. This language must be removed, and very importantly, it must also be punished through the mechanisms that the constitution and laws define.
In general, the legal framework in Kosovo, from the Constitutional aspect, recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis for protection. In practice, the free and equal life of the LGBTQI+ community is endangered and violated in several ways, starting from the language with which society speaks about this community.
The institutions do not have data divided into separate categories regarding cases of discrimination or violence against the LGBTQI+community. This definitely complicates the real knowledge of the situation as well as the punishment of these crimes. Violence against the LGBTQI+ community in Kosovo, according to the representatives of the Center for Equality and Freedom (CEL), is often fueled by hateful language for this community, who, seeing this dominant language, feel afraid and close in on themselves.
When we talk about the hateful or even wrong language used towards this community in the media, we should mention that CEL has also published the Manual for journalists: how to cover the LGBTI community (2019).
Civil society and activists for the rights of the LGBTI community are increasingly paving the way for the institutions and the wider society towards the full acceptance, much needed for our democracy, of the LGBT community in every sphere of our socio-political organization.
It remains for us, each and every one of us, to take our step towards the society and environment we love. In our power, let us give each day to others what we undoubtedly want for ourselves – respect, equality and the freedom to be ourselves in the public sphere.
*This editorial was written as a reflection of the discussion held on June 27, 2023, which you can also read HERE.
This article was written with the financial support of the European Union within the project “Against Discrimination, hate speech and gender-based violence”. Its contents are the sole responsibility of ATRC, IKS and D4D and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.