Annual Conference: Developing new practices of social protection for LGBTI people

 

Council of the City of Skopje, 14th December 2018

 

This year, as a key area, we worked with the social workers in the Republic of Macedonia, their training for working with LGBTI people, as well as their involvement in the implementation of new practices in working with LGBTI people in the Republic of Macedonia.

The conference was opened with introductory words by Antonio Mihajlov (Subversive Front) who introduced us to the problems faced by LGBTI people in the Republic of Macedonia – according to research and findings by the international organizations for the Republic of Macedonia regarding its abilities to answer the LGBTI issues. According to Rainbow Europe (Index map which ranks European countries by the degree of adopted and implemented laws, regulations and policies for LGBT equality) Macedonia is found among the worst five countries in Europe on LGBT rights. The situation in the Republic of Macedonia is such that criminal acts and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity of one individual are not legally recognized and they are at risk of continuous and normalized violence.

With the entry into power of the new Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, it is necessary to train and sensitize the professional services for mutual respect of this new law, for its uninterrupted implementation. Because the laws in the Republic of Macedonia are not inclusive and do not protect the LGBTI people adequately, they especially put trans persons at higher risks of discrimination because of their inability to make a complete change of their personal documents. Namely, trans persons in the Republic of Macedonia can make a change of the name and surname, but the social security number and the sex marker remain the same – causing them fear, discomfort and feelings of insecurity when interacting in state institutions or with civil servants where a personal identification document is required. With the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination (LPPD), we have new fields for work in 2019 where we can work on training several state institutions for the needs of LGBTI and especially the trans community in the Republic of Macedonia.

In addition, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina remain as the last two countries in the Balkans that have not yet held a pride parade. In addition to the Skopje Pride Weekend and small events for the LGBTI community that take place in closed areas, a public event like the parade to showcase pride in individual identity and the need for equal rights and opportunities remains a plan and a hope for 2019.

According to a study by the World Bank in 2018 (The World Bank, 2018. Survey Results of the Experiences of LGBTI People in Southeastern Europe), from 282 respondents the following was received: 12% of them were open to one of their parents about their sexual orientation/gender identity; 13% to both; the rest of them were generally open only to friends or to no one. The key point of this research is that 94% of the respondents felt that they were discriminated on some grounds, while under all grounds 80% of them. 67% of them have not shared their LGBTI status at work.

In 2017, it was also recognized that the responsible institutions and authorities do not take adequate measures and solutions to prevent hate speech on the Internet nor have they acted on the hate crimes that occurred this year, but also before that. With the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, new opportunities have been created for protecting trans persons from domestic violence in the future by relevant institutions.

This year, the annual ERA conference was held in Skopje for the first time, the Republic of Macedonia managed to host an international conference on promotion of LGBTI rights in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Among other things, the conference passed without incident and Skopje as a host city proved to be in good light. Unfortunately, before the ERA conference, LGBT United Tetovo was the target of social media attacks for the iniative to organize Queer Iftar – an event for the LGBTI community during the Ramazan Bajram holiday.

Mr. Tomsic (Ministry of Labor and Social Policy) gave us a good introduction to the changes in the new Law on Social Protection that includes protection of LGBTI people in Macedonia under a social risk, and brings changes that will ease the work of civil society organizations in the system for social security. Accreditation of programs and service providers will be one of the novelties that will come with the changes in the Law on Social Protection; they will enable the civil sector to be an authorized social services provider, but also to apply for accreditation of programs such as our training for the centers for social work. With the accreditation of the program we would have an official entry into state institutions and easier access in future trainings.

What our trainers Elena Chikos and Jasmina Duric had noticed was that the trainees understood through the trainings what specific needs LGBTI people need to be able to function equally and in equity. Myths and misconceptions (which are included in the manual) were something that the participants in our trainings were asked to bring forward in order to give an opportunity to open discussions on these topics and to break the myths and misconceptions they have about the LGBTI community. Another thing that was noticed by the social workers was that the risks of exclusion and rejection are often unknown – and that’s a circle that we want to stop through training. Because of the voluntary involvement of the centers for social work and their interests in participating in the training so far, we believe that this will happen.

In 2019 we want to distribute the Handbook for Social Work with LGBTI people in the Republic of Macedonia with our future participants, but also with the stakeholders who have an interest in our work and goal. The second training module for trans and intersex persons, which will start in mid-2019, will provide an opportunity for upgrading the knowledge of already trained individuals. 2019 will be full of new opportunities for cooperation with state institutions as well as stakeholders in the implementation of our mission.