Podgorica, PR press service – One third of citizens of Montenegro do not want to live in the same country LGBTI people live in while almost 43 percent of them believe that LBGTI people should not have the same rights as all other citizens – found in study by the European Union and Council of Europe conducted by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM).
The research, conducted from September 11 to 19, was presented at a panel discussion on patterns and levels of discrimination in Montenegro in 2020, organized by the European Union and the Council of Europe, in cooperation with CEDEM. The complete report can be downloaded in Montenegrin and English, and analytical reports have been prepared and can be downloaded here – English version and Montenegrin version.
Author of the Research and CEDEM’s Chief Methodologist, prof. Dr. Miloš Bešić, said that the data on the attitude towards the LGBTI community in Montenegro are alarming, and that they indicate a serious problem in our country.
“It is simply astonishing that every fifth person in Montenegro has the opinion that LGBTIQ people are no better than criminals and that they should be severely punished. This hard line of every fifth person in Montenegro tells us about a very negative attitude towards LGBT people,” said Bešić.
Research has shown that the degree of perception of discrimination is most pronounced when it comes to employment.
“More than 50 percent of citizens see employment as the biggest problem. We should pay attention to the mechanisms that currently exist, and see how they protect against discrimination in employment, and what could be done to combat it,” said Bešić.
He explained that in the past ten years, every research has shown the same value when it comes to the perception of discrimination in employment.
Director of CEDEM, Milena Bešić, reminded that CEDEM has been conducting research which shows the perception of citizens about the patterns and degree of discrimination for more than a decade now, and that it directly refers to the derogation of human rights and freedoms.
“Unfortunately, we are also witnessing that the results of our research are most often viewed as a mere indicator of the situation. That is why I believe that we are obliged to open a space for discussion that includes all relevant social actors, at all levels and areas, in order to focus on the causes and find mechanisms to prevent and suppress these negative phenomena,” Bešić said.
Head of the Sector for Cooperation in the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Hermann Spitz, said that respect for fundamental rights, non-discrimination and protection of vulnerable groups are important elements of the political criteria for EU membership.
“States wishing to join the EU must show results in order to protect the integrity and dignity of all persons and to ensure that fundamental rights are respected in practice,” Spitz said.
He added that LGBT people deserve special attention because of the disturbing findings from the research, emphasizing that the European Commission will present an initiative to expand the list of so-called EU crimes in Article 23 of the Agreement, which will include crimes targeting the LGBTI population.
Head of Operations of the Council of Europe Program Office in Podgorica, Evgenia Giakoumopoulou, said that the epidemic of the new coronavirus not only highlighted previous vulnerabilities but also generated new ones and unfortunately increased the stigmatization of already marginalized groups.
“That’s why research like this is an important tool to see what the perception of victims is, to make recommendations to different institutions and stakeholders to give their answers to these challenges,” Giakoumopoulou said.
Deputy to the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms, Nerma Dobardžić, said that the institution of Ombudsperson records a far higher number of complaints in the field of protection against discrimination compared to previous years.
“In the period from January this year, the Protector had 140 complaints at hand due to discrimination. This is the largest number since the establishment of the Protector’s institution. In the same period last year, there were 80 cases in progress, and in 2018, 82 cases,” said Dobardžić.
Member of the Parliament of Montenegro, Božena Jelušić, said that the fact that more than a quarter of the respondents did not trust the Parliament is a serious indicator and consequently assessed that this points towards the fact that the Montenegrin Parliament had lost its control function in the previous period.
“What can be demanded at the level of the parliament is to insist on control hearings, to show whether the whole issue is bureaucratized. The only thing that encourages me in this research is that young people still show less distance and less rigid attitudes towards LGBT people, and Roma,” said Jelušić, adding that the research is a good diagnostic tool and a confirmation that Montenegrin society is stagnant in the social sense as well as in terms of values.
Director General of the Directorate for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Blanka Radošević Marović, assessed that much has been achieved in the legislative part, but that implementation is always a stumbling rock.
“I am pleased that this series of research has continued and that we have results again that will help us in our plans for the development and improvement of human rights. When it comes to Montenegro, and when it comes to LGBT people, despite the negative phenomena, especially hate speech through social networks, the fact is that in the strategic, and in the legislative part, but also in the minds of citizens, significant progress has been made,” said Radošević Marović.
Executive Director of Phiren Amenza, Elvis Beriša, emphasized that, although there have been developments compared to previous years, hate speech against Roma is at a very high level.
“State bodies should be open to all citizens, and non-governmental organizations should be there to help point out a certain problem and propose solutions, but state bodies are the first actors in front of whom everyone should have complete freedom, trust, and an easier access,” Beriša said.
He believes that the education system can significantly reduce ethnic distance by enabling young generations to learn about the history, culture and language of the Roma, “because only by learning about something that is unknown to us we can make a judgment that will not be at the level on which it is today.”
President of the Board of Directors of Queer Montenegro, Danijel Kalezić, explained that when the messages heard in public discourse turn right, towards misogyny, homophobia, clericalization, it always reflects on the LGBT community so that “the general population has more negative attitudes towards us in different ways.”
“In relation to gender equality and discrimination, I would say that everything is very connected and that homophobia comes from misogyny and that whenever we have women’s rights endangered, we have greater homophobia, and more vulnerable LGBT rights, and additional endangerment of other groups. I think that misogyny is something that is very pronounced and that we all must find a way to get everything back on the path that will lead towards equality,” said Kalezić.
Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Rights, Maja Raičević, pointed out that in addition to being inadequately represented in the executive and legislative branches, women are, on average, far poorer than men.
“I am afraid that the pandemic will deepen this problem even more. I will remind you that the poverty of women greatly conditions the poverty of children and all those they care for, most often as single parents. We should especially monitor the impact of the pandemic, which showed that we have an increase in the number of reports of violence,” Raičević explained.
Senior Program Advisor at the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro, Milenko Vojičić, thinks that it would be very interesting to examine the causes of discrimination against people with disabilities in the field of employment.
“We have a feeling that the level of discrimination against employers towards people with disabilities is decreasing with the efforts of the entire society. But the effects are not satisfactory, not even close,” Vojičić said.
Representative of Council of Europe’s Program Management Unit for Combating Discrimination, Angela Longo, believes that shared responsibility should be in education to explain how important issues of equality and diversity are.
“A lot can be done in the future regarding the fight against hatred. We want to continue the debate with other non-governmental organizations, to see what are the instruments, not only for providing material support to combat discrimination, but to better understand how to defend victims from hatred, how to better collect data, how to present their cases, and that we all have one common responsibility for these challenges,” Longo said.
The research was prepared within the project “Promotion of Diversity and Equality in Montenegro“, which is part of the joint program of the European Union and the Council of Europe “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022”, implemented by the Council of Europe Anti-Discrimination Department. Within this project work is done with partners in Montenegro, in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe Commission against Racism and Intolerance from 2017.
Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022
The second phase of the program “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II” will be implemented from 2019 to 2022 with a worth of 41 million euros, and is based on the results of the first phase. During the second phase, important initiatives will be continued in Montenegro, as in all other Western Balkan countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo *, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
In Montenegro, 4.7m euros have been set aside for seven projects, covering key areas such as judicial reform, human rights protection, prison and police reform, the fight against economic crime, the fight against discrimination, inclusive education and freedom of expression and media freedom.