Skopje, 14 August 2019 (MIA) – Prime Minister Zoran Zaev can make up for his blunder only by better protecting the rights of LGBTI people, who are being called names and suffer exclusion, stigma, and violence every day, according to the National Network Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
“The LGBTI people hear the word ‘faggot’ on a daily basis: in schools, on the street, in state institutions, restaurants, barbershops, and police stations. To be ‘a faggot’ in North Macedonia means to live in an environment that dehumanizes you,” the civil society group wrote in a public letter to the Prime Minister.
“Being a ‘faggot’ has cost some of us even more: violence that the police never resolved, families that hurt us and didn’t accept us, abuse that left deep wounds […] ‘Faggot’ is not a trait, ‘faggot’ symbolizes a society that fears, hates, and despises us,” the letter adds.
The human rights network—founded by 15 organizations, including the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the LGBT Support Center, and the Women’s Alliance, among others—points out that public scrutiny and ridicule of Bojan Jovanovski’s supposed sexual orientation, instead of his actions, has caused great damage to the entire community.
“We probably should not explain that Boki 13’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his illegal activity.
“LGBTI people are not a homogeneous group, just as heterosexuals can be conservative or liberal, religious or atheistic, belong to different ethnic communities, engage in criminal activity, or earn their living honestly.
“If a heterosexual committed a crime, no one would mention it or attribute it to his heterosexuality; but if a gay man did so, the whole public and even the prime minister would emphasize his sexual orientation,” the letter reads.
This results in double standards and perpetuates myths “designed to intimidate and mobilize the public against the equality, freedom, and dignity of LGBTI people,” according to the human rights network.
Acknowledging Zaev’s contribution in promoting laws, programs, and landmark events for the LGBTI community, the activists add that government officials have to face their failings, as well.
“We cannot remain silent on the mistakes you make: Health Minister Filipche’s two statements that caused immense damage to transgender people; the fact that the Interior Ministry still does not prosecute or recognize hate crime based on SOGI; unsolved cases of attacks against the LGBTI Support Center; the Birth Registry Office refusing to enforce the European Court of Human Rights ruling on changing a transgender man’s personal documents; numerous hate speech reports stuck somewhere between the police and the prosecution office, etc.
“The problems we face are numerous, and such statements by state officials do not help solve them,” the letter reads.
While urging the Prime Minister to apologize again, the letter adds that only by “seriously promoting the rights of LGBTI people” will Zaev be able “to make up for the exclusion, stigma, and violence that this community experiences, and to build one society for all.”
Commenting on the Racket case, Zaev told reporters on Tuesday evening he would not allow “a few criminals, a vain journalist, and—with apologies to the LGBT community—a fag, to bring this government down.”
The gaffe sparked a backlash against bigotry and homophobia across the country. mr/