by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
Albania’s Parliament banned discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity Feb. 4.
The law covers employment, housing, provision of goods and services, education and access to public places. It also specifically mentions health care, banking, transportation, entertainment and social protection.
The vote was 71 to 0. Prime Minister Sali Berisha strongly backs the measure.
“It’s a pretty strong law and covers both ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ discrimination,” said Tirana activist Mindy Michaels from the Alliance Against Discrimination of LGBT. “In general, all forms of discrimination are prohibited unless they are ‘justified on the basis of reasonable and objective criteria, without violating the essence of the right and when it aims at achieving a lawful purpose for a public interest or to protect the rights of others.'”
The law’s language guarantees every person “equality before the law and equal protection by law; equality of opportunities and possibilities to exercise rights, enjoy freedoms and take part in public life; and effective protection from discrimination and from every form of conduct that encourages discrimination.”
The measure establishes an independent Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination to monitor implementation of the law and accept and investigate complaints.
“We’re definitely celebrating tonight!” Michaels said.
In a press statement, the LGBT alliance called the law, which also protect numerous other groups, “a powerful and solid legal instrument for the protection against any form of discrimination.”
Countries that want to join the European Union are required to specifically protect LGB people from discrimination – and citizens of member nations that procrastinate in doing so are denied the perk of visa-free travel within the EU.
“This law is not simply a fulfillment of requirements that Albania has undertaken for EU integration and visa liberalization,” the alliance said. “Above all, this law is a victory for democracy and for human rights for all Albanians. (We) take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Sali Berisha and to encourage him to keep his promise for legalizing same-sex marriages.”
Announcing support for the law last July, Berisha also said that Albania will legalize same-sex marriage.
The new law also bans discrimination based on gender, race, color, ethnicity, language, political beliefs, religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, economic status, social status, education level, pregnancy, parentage, parental responsibility, age, family or marital condition, civil status, residence, health status, genetic predispositions, disability, affiliation with a particular group – or for any other reason.