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Pride Month: Celebrating Progress and Reflecting on Challenges

June is widely recognized as Pride Month, a time when the LGBTI community and its allies come together to celebrate diversity, equality, and the ongoing fight for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. While this month is filled with joy and pride for many, it is important to acknowledge that it can also be a time of reflection and increased awareness for various communities around the world.

Origin and Meaning of Pride Month

Pride Month has its roots in the Stonewall Uprising, a series of demonstrations that took place in June 1969 in New York City. At that time, LGBTI individuals faced widespread discrimination and were often subjected to police raids and arrests in gay establishments. The uprising marked a turning point in the LGBTI+ rights movement, as it ignited a wave of activism and paved the way for future advocacy.

Pride Month serves as a commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising and a tribute to the ongoing struggle for LGBTI rights. It aims to celebrate the achievements and contributions of LGBTI individuals, raise awareness about their rights, and promote acceptance and inclusivity.

Pride Month in North Macedonia: A Time for Reflection

While Pride Month is a time of celebration and empowerment for the global LGBTI community, it is essential to recognize the unique challenges faced by different regions and communities. In the case of North Macedonia, the situation highlights the need for progress and further efforts to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals.

According to the Rainbow Map and Index published by ILGA-Europe in May 2023, which ranks the legal and political situation for LGBTI people in 49 European countries, North Macedonia experienced a setback in the past year, dropping from the 31st to the 32nd position. This decline indicates that the country’s progress in LGBTI rights has stagnated.

Despite the increasing polarization and violence in public discourse against transgender individuals, which is also the case in our country, political determination to advance LGBTI rights has proven fruitful in some countries. Specifically, countries that have introduced legal recognition of gender based on self-determination and banned genital mutilation of intersex people have seen significant progress on the Rainbow Map. The advancement of legislation by including gender identity and sex characteristics in anti-discrimination and/or hate crime laws has also played a role in elevating the position of certain countries in the rankings.

For several consecutive years, there has been no progress in our country regarding the position and access to human rights for LGBTI individuals. Our nation has only achieved 29% of the necessary reforms to achieve full equality for LGBTI people, and among the countries in the region, only Bulgaria ranks lower than us with 20%. Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania have 35% each, Bosnia and Herzegovina has 40%, Slovenia has 46%, Croatia has 49%, Greece has 57%, while Montenegro is ahead of other Balkan countries with 61%. Romania has the lowest score with 18%, and Turkey with 4%.

We have made the most progress in the realm of civil society space (100%), followed by 45% in terms of equality and non-discrimination, 33% in the area of asylum, and 26% regarding hate crimes and hate speech. However, we fare poorly in terms of legal recognition of gender (6%), family rights (4%), and bodily integrity of intersex individuals (0%).

The Wake-Up Call: Rainbow Map Statistics

Examining the statistics of the Rainbow Map should serve as a wake-up call for North Macedonia to reevaluate its approach to LGBTI rights and prioritize necessary reforms. According to the joint report by ILGA-Europe and ERA published in April 2023, some of the key priorities outlined for North Macedonia are as follows: the government should reintroduce the proposed amendments to the Law on the Civil Registry in parliamentary proceedings, with the aim of enabling legal recognition of gender for transgender individuals based on self-determination. Additionally, it is important to adopt the National Action Plan for the advancement of LGBTI rights. The government should also incorporate a definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code that explicitly includes all forms of hate speech motivated by bias related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics. Furthermore, there is a need to align a significant number of laws to properly implement the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination. Restoring the budget for the National HIV/AIDS Protection Program, as initially planned, is of utmost importance. However, given the current climate and dynamics, it appears that LGBTI issues are not receiving the necessary focus and attention from the government led by Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski, who is currently preoccupied with pre-election activities and PR campaigns in anticipation of the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2024.

As Pride Month continues, it is crucial to remember that while progress is being made in many parts of the world, there are still challenges and inequalities that need to be addressed. North Macedonia’s ranking in the Rainbow Map serves as a reminder that there is work to be done to ensure full equality and protection of LGBTI rights. It is a time for North Macedonia to reflect on its current position, listen to the voices of the LGBTI community, and take meaningful steps towards enacting the necessary reforms. By embracing inclusivity, fostering acceptance, and advocating for equal rights, North Macedonia can create a society where all individuals can live with dignity and without fear of discrimination. Pride Month serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for LGBTI rights, and it is an opportunity for communities to come together, celebrate diversity, and stand in solidarity with those who continue to fight for equality worldwide.