The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has been analysing the inclusion of LGBTI rights into the agendas of political parties in Montenegro and has noted that Montenegrin political parties either avoid or ignore LGBTI issues, with the exception of only one explicitly mentioning it within its political agenda. This fear of political parties that dealing with this issue will reduce the amount of voters has wider negative impact and should be changed if the political parties really aim to build Montenegro as society of culture of human rights.
Over the past years, the “LGBTI agenda” (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- and Intersexual) has gained support throughout various political systems. Particularly in the EU, political parties continue to involve the “LGBTI agenda” into their party manifestos, thus providing the LGBTI community with a political outlet through which to advance their interests, as well as to secure equal opportunities and the respect of human rights. This principle is laid down in series of EU and UN documents stipulating that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.
Still, as it has been assessed in the analysis “Politicizing sexual orientation: the inclusion of LGBTI rights into political party agendas” homophobia is deeply rooted in Montenegrin society. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) people in Montenegro experience discrimination, do not enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals, and are at a disadvantaged position in comparison to them. The high level of homophobia is a direct consequence of social norms, the lack of knowledge on sexuality and gender identity and an inadequate legal and institutional framework. Another cause of discrimination and violence towards LGBTI people is the low capacity of institutions to protect the rights of LGBTI people, which results in a significant lack of trust of LGBTI people in institutions, as well as with the fact that violence and discrimination cases are rarely reported and documented.
Furthermore, out of all the parliamentary parties and those having representatives in the Parliament within the Club of Independent MPs only one of them – the LPCG (Liberal Party of Montenegro) explicitly mentions rights related to sexual orientation as well as specific measures on how to proceed politically concerning this issue. The overall political discourse on LGBTI rights remains quite limited. The ruling party DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists) does not mention the word “discrimination” in its manifesto at all. The SDP (Social Democratic Party) mentions that it aspires to achieve freedom and equality for all minorities, but does not explicitly mention the LGBTI population. The same refers to the Bosniak Party and Positive Montenegro, as well as the Democratic Front, which states that discrimination against various social groups must be stopped but does not mention LGBTI rights in any elaborations. When it comes to smaller national parties like the New Democratic Power (FORCA), the Albanian Alternative (AA) as well as the Croatian Civic Initiative (HGI), discrimination is only mentioned towards ethnic minorities. Compared to other European countries – where most political parties have taken an official stance towards LGBTI rights, there still remains a long road to go before LGBTI rights are officially recognized and advanced in the political discourse in Montenegro.
Although, certain measures are in place regarding the LGBTI population in Montenegro, such as the Law on Anti-Discrimination and the Strategy of advancement of quality of life of LGBT persons for period 2013-2018, political parties seem to avoid the LGBTI question due to fear of losing a large part of the electorate, aligning with the general negative social attitudes of the public instead of changing these into more tolerant direction. Contrary to the researches indicating that the majority of Montenegrins would not consider voting for another party even if LGBTI rights were mentioned, it seems that political parties in Montenegro are still not ready to face this challenge. One of the biggest barriers when it comes to political participation of LGBTI people is the fact that political parties do not understand or work towards understanding the LGBTI community and its needs.
In addition to the Montenegrin example, five other European countries have been analyzed: Croatia, Austria, Italy, Poland and Serbia. Although the public views towards the LGBTI communities differ strongly in these countries with Western European countries faring far better in terms of equality and anti-discrimination measures, almost all political parties have taken an official stance on LGBTI rights and generally tend to support anti-discrimination standards. It seems that Austria has made the most progress when it comes to this, with even the Christian Conservative Party ÖVP viewing homosexuality positively and including equality measures into Austrian legislation.
The analyses has put forward recommendations for political parties in Montenegro to:
• Publicly condemn all forms of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people, signalizing to the public that any violation of the LGBTI human rights is not allowed;
• Clearly refer to the LGBT rights within their party manifestos;
• Promote preventive measures to combat violence and discrimination against LGBTI people through governmental institutions, strategies and action plans;
• Through governmental institutions and with no restrictions, guarantee all the rights, including the freedom of assembly, in case of the initiative for organizing public protest marches (pride parade);
• Support legislative initiatives that abolish discrimination of LGBTI people, such as adopting legislation that will enable same-sex couples to enjoy the rights that derive from their cohabitation (the right to inheritance, the right to a pension inheritance, the right to health insurance through a partner, etc.) or enable medical support for sex adjustment when it comes to transsexual persons;
• Through media, education and other channels, promote tolerance towards all minorities, including LGBTI persons, for the purpose of creating better living environment/conditions that will not force LGBTI people to live in anonymity or even leave the country; intolerant social climate has enormous consequences on the economy, considering the fact that a lot of well-qualified persons tend to leave their home countries, including LGBTI people.
Complete publication is available on https://media.cgo-cce.org/2015/06/cgo-cce-politicizing-sexual-orientation-1.pdf
Wanda Tiefenbacher, programme associate