Today, over 300 people marched and then partied to celebrate Pride 2019. The annual event drew more participants than previous years.
Pride marches are events that take place in most major cities of the world and serve as demonstrations for legal rights and an end to discrimination of LGBTI individuals. Usually held around June, they also commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots that took place in New York City- a pivotal moment in the LGBTI movement both in America and internationally.
This year’s event started at Rinas Park in the centre of Tirana. Those in attendance marched along the main boulevard before returning to the starting point to enjoy music and festivities.
Attended by the British Ambassador, the Albanian Ombudsman, members of the EU delegation, and large numbers of Tirana’s international community, this year also saw an increased number in Albanian LGBTI individuals as well as allies of the community. Notably, only one person was seen with their face covered to hide their identity when compared to previous years where the number was much higher.
One of the organisers, activist and founder at Aleanca LGBT Xheni Karaj spoke to Exit.al.
“This was the best pride ever for me- there were so many young people from the community showing their pride and need for freedom, as well as raising their voices. It was great to be surrounded by such a young and new energy- young people are tired of being forced to live in the closets- they want to be free.”
“It is a new era, not only for LGBTI people, but also for Albanian society”, she added.
LGBTI individuals are still very much stigmatised and discriminated against in Albanian society. A recent report from Aleanca LGBT, STREHA, and PRO Lgbt found that out of 421 cases of assault, harassment, abuse, and hate speech last year, only five were reported to the police and none resulted in a prosecution. Those individuals that reported to the authorities were mocked, harassed, and dissuaded from pursuing their right to file a complaint, by the police that are supposed to be there to protect them.
The report also found that members of the community continue to be ostracised by society, their family, employers, the government, and authorities and regularly find it impossible to even access basic services such as healthcare.