150 Albanian police have been trained in identifying and addressing hate crimes towards LGBTI individuals in the country.
Despite laws existing on paper to deal with discrimination and hate crimes of this type, the reality is that reports are rarely, if ever followed up.
Some 421 cases of physical and psychological violence were reported by members of the community last year, yet at the time of writing, none had been investigated by the police. According to a PR issued by local LGBTI NGOs, the police failed to correctly categorise hate crimes as such, something that is in direct violation of the EU framework of integration.
The majority of LGBTI individuals do not come out (as little as 1%) and due to fear or discrimination from family, friends, employers, and the state. Homophobic and transphobic sentiments remain very high and even high-ranking politicians have made offensive and discriminatory statements in public.
In a 2013 survey, over half of respondents stated they believed that gay and lesbian individuals should not have the right to live as they choose- the highest level of antipathy of any country in Europe. A further 58% said they would not vote for a political party that supported LGBTI rights.
The CoE Horizontal Facility, which has been taking place across the whole Balkan area, has suggested a new framework to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Albania.
Its objectives include improving the rate of investigation and prosecution of hate crimes towards LGBTI people, increasing public awareness on discrimination suffered, and improving the government’s implementation of the National Action Plan on LGBTI People.
In addition to this, the training that members of the police force received was designed to provide assistance and information, as well as to increase the knowledge of the police on hate crime against members of the community.
The training will be included in the curriculum of the Faculty of Crime Investigation of the Academy of Security, as a part of its bachelor and continuous training.
A member of the community, who wanted to remain anonymous due to safety reasons, commented on the initiative:
“It is good that they have done this, but I don’t think training 150 officers is enough. The problem of homophobia in our institutions runs so deep, it needs to be more in depth and ongoing training to ever have a chance of changing thing.”
“I was beaten up in the street 18 months ago when I was walking with my partner, I was also kicked out-with force- of my rental apartment when my landlord realised I was gay- the police refused to help me and asked me to leave the station. We need more than just workshops to solve the problem.”
Tirana will host its annual Pride march on 18 May. Last year’s event was attended by around 300 individuals, but most Albanian LGBTI attendees covered their faces with balaclavas, sunglasses and hooded tops to prevent themselves from being identified.
— Alice Elizabeth Taylor