LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Annual LGBTI Enlargement Review Published

ILGA-Europe alongside the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey, have published their documentation of developments in the recognition and respect for the human rights of LGBTI people in each EU accession country during 2020.

ILGA-Europe and the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA), have worked with our member organisations in the accession countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, to compile the annual LGBTI Enlargement Review. The Review is a detailed documentation of developments in the recognition and respect for the human rights of LGBTI people in each accession country during the period from January through December 2020. 

In addition to outlining key developments and challenges on the road to LGBTI equality, the Review also highlights gaps in legislation and policy for the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBTI people, and the priorities which authorities in each country should tackle in the coming year, as identified by LGBTI activists in the respective countries.

In light of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most marginalised LGBTI people in the region, and the upcoming deepening economic crisis that the region faces, each country chapter also includes recommendations on how the EU Delegations can better support LGBTI civil society. These recommendations aim to show the priorities and needs of LGBTI civil society, especially in situations in which governments are unable to support them, for example as regards COVID-19 response or support for specific legislation in the current context.

2020 saw the LGBTI community being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with state support services failing to reach the most vulnerable LGBTI people. As a result, LGBTI NGOs have had to adapt their previous plans and budgets to cover humanitarian aid gaps within the State response to the crisis, providing food, hygiene kits and shelter to LGBTI people who have lost their jobs or been rendered homeless. In addition to this, the lived reality for LGBTI people is still starkly different to the legal protections which exist on paper. Implementation of existing legislation remains a prominent issue, while hate crime and hate speech against LGBTI people remains widespread.  

On a positive note, 2020 also saw some significant positive steps forward in the region as regards legislation. Montenegro became the first accession country to adopt same-sex partnership legislation, creating momentum towards this goal in other accession countries such as Serbia, which in February 2021 established a working group and published a public consultation for a draft same-sex partnership law. We saw renewed political commitment to the adoption of legal gender recognition in North Macedonia, and in Albania the Parliament amended the anti-discrimination law to include sex characteristics and HIV status as protected grounds. 

The annual LGBTI Enlargement Review acts as an LGBTI submission to the Enlargement Progress Reports of the European Commission. These reports are a detailed annual assessment of the state of play in each candidate country and potential candidate country, detailing what has been achieved over the last year. These assessments are accompanied by recommendations and guidance on the reform priorities. Each year, the human rights of LGBTI people continue to feature notably in the reports, assessing progress to date and setting out recommendations for the authorities to implement in the future.