Last week Kristi Pinderi, executive director of the Albanian group PRO LGBT, announced his organization would file a lawsuit requesting recognition of same-sex partnerships.
For almost ten years Pinderi has been a staunch and dedicated human rights defender working on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In Albania that requires a lot of perseverance and patience.
Pinderi’s interview brought back memories of my first visit to Albania in 2009.
At the time, several human rights defenders in the capital Tirana were sceptical when I told them I had received an invitation to speak with their prime-minister Sali Berisha. Why would he listen? they asked. Nevertheless, Pinderi and other LGBT activists identified five requests I should make on their behalf, including legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. At the time the Family Code only acknowledged rights of opposite-sex relationships.
On the day, Berisha welcomed me in his office, I presented him with the Yogyakarta Principles, a guide to international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. Berisha acknowledged the principles of equality and non-discrimination and said he wanted to improve the rights of Albanian LGBT people, including revising the Family Code. In July 2009 he organized a press conference where he promised to introduce marriage equality legislation. This was unexpected. None of the Albanian activists nor I, in my meeting with the prime minister, had asked for marriage equality. As it turned out, nothing happened, despite the promise.
However, some legal improvements have been made since my visit. In 2010, an anti-discrimination law including sexual orientation and gender identity was implemented. A 2013 amendment to the criminal code puts hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on par with an offense against gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, and disability. Parliament also passed a law punishing the dissemination of homophobic information.
Yet, to this day, the Family Code still does not attribute any rights to same-sex couples. It is now time to press for that important recognition. Let’s hope Pinderi’s move to ask for the Albanian Court’s help in establishing the rights of same-sex relationships lead the way to the fulfilment of the long-delayed promise.