From: Alice Taylor
One in Two Albanian LGBT Experienced Psychological Violence in 2020

50% of Albanian LGBTI persons have experienced psychological violence and bullying, and one in five have been sexually harassed. This is according to data amassed by Aleanca LGBT and published in the IGLA Europe Annual Review.

Additionally, there was an increase in the number of violent attacks and instances of discrimination, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. They reported on 16 cases of rape and 33 cases of physical violence during 2020. Furthermore, 25 people reported being blackmailed over their LGBT status and 16 said they were fired from their jobs for this reason. Only 7% took legal action.

Also in 2020, LGBT activist Xheni Karaj was physically attacked while on the beach with her partner. The alleged attacker was a doctor who told her that he should have left “people like you” to die when he had the chance in hospital. It was reported to the police but the Prosecutor said there were no grounds for a hate crime and the case was dismissed.

Instances of discriminatory language were also noted in public discourse, especially in the media and in comment sections. In June 2020, Kujtime Gjuzi, head of the Conservative Party used discriminatory language on television. Nothing was done.

A study conducted by Streha found that 80% of LGBT Albanians had considered leaving the country due to issues they faced because of their status. In 2019, at least 17 LGBT filed for asylum abroad.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a number of problems for the marginalized LGBT community. Between March and December, Streha and Aleanca supported 117 people with 800 food packages. One in four said they struggled to cover their basic needs such as food, medication, clothes, and shelter.

The pandemic also led to job losses with half of the 47% who are out of work, losing their job during the state of emergency. Trans sex workers found themselves struggling as lockdowns and a heavy police presence on the streets meant they were unable to make money to cover their basic needs.

Some LGBT individuals had to move back in with family due to economic issues and there were reports of increased psychological, verbal, and physical violence due to the family’s non-acceptance of their status.

Those diagnosed with HIV were also not able to travel to Tirana for medication and treatment. This led to a number having to stop treatment during the pandemic.

But it wasn’t all bad news. In May 2020, the Albanian Order of Psychologists banned conversion therapy. The decision is legally binding on all therapists in the country. 

Then in July, the Albanian Ministry of Health announced a new protocol to protect intersex individuals from unnecessary and non-consensual surgeries. It provides guidance for medical professionals and parents and essentially makes it illegal and unethical to provide such treatments.

Aleanca also carried out training with police officers, holding a number of events and sessions in collaboration with the Helsinki Committee and COC Netherlands.

In October, Parliament amended anti-discrimination law to include sex characteristics and HIV status as protected grounds.

2020 was also a year that a number of calls were made on Albanian authorities. These included providing legal recognition for same-sex couples, anti-discrimination protections in the Electoral Code, further funding and implementation of the National Action Plan on LGBTI Persons, and further strengthening of the protocol to protect intersex individuals.