Macedonia has failed to adopt an anti-discrimination law that is completely harmonised with European norms and standards, with explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation a crucial missing element, local human rights experts commented after the country’s parliament adopted its first law on the subject.
Instead of promoting equality and justice, the law promotes homophobia and discrimination, Zarko Trajanovski, a human rights expert, told local media.
“Generally speaking, the law does not meet the EU recommendations where the premise of different sexual orientation is mentioned as one of the six key bases for discrimination,” he told A1 TV.
Macedonia’s controversial anti-discrimination law passed last week with the backing of the main ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party. The opposition left the session in protest after the majority remained deaf to the recommendations to include provisions barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Margarita Caca Nikolovska, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights and founder of the Macedonian NGO Institute for Democracy, argued that the country might find itself under scrutiny from the EU for ignoring its recommendations.
"A serious state must have this in mind and have a legal explanation for everything it does. Are our arguments going to be that people with different sexual orientation are sick, like some from the ruling party try to portray!?"
Slavco Dimitrov from the NGO Macedonia without Discrimination told local media that this will most certainly be a “black stain” in the next European Commission report for Macedonia, which is due to be published in autumn. He said that the law will have to be changed “sooner or later”.
One day before the passing of the law the EU ambassador to the country, Erwan Fouere, urged legislators once again to gather strength and openly add this type of discrimination in the law. Many local NGOs and human rights movements share the same thoughts.
"I appeal once again to the government and the parliament to use the chance on Thursday and vote for a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, harmonized with European norms and criteria," Fouere said.
Trajanovski argued that the ruling conservative VMRO DPMNE party used the adoption of the law for its own political interests.
“The fact that we witnessed a constant anti homosexual campaign prior to the passing of the law shows that in practice the party in power abused the law to boost its own popularity among its voters,” he said.
Several VMRO DPMNE deputies were active in the past months in explaining to the public that they would not let a provision on sexual orientation be included in the law.
“This provision would mean the first phase towards introducing homosexual marriages and letting homosexual couples adopt children,” VMRO DPMNE party legislator Vlatko Gjorcev said in late February during one of the open debates on the topic held in the parliament.
The government has boasted that the law is one of the most comprehensive in Europe, and that failure to mention sexual orientation does not mean that homosexuals and other marginalized sexual groups will be left without protection as they are listed in the section “others”.
Human Rights Watch sent an open letter to the Macedonian prime minister in February this year to push for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the anti-discrimination law.
"Silence equals inequality," said Boris O. Dittrich, advocacy director in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender program of Human Rights Watch. "Vague references to ‘other grounds' simply aren't good enough."