BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Albania has amended its criminal code to cover crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Gay Star News (GSN) reports.
According to the report, Section 50/j of the code now calls for the punishment of offences when "committed due to reasons related to gender, race, color, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, health status, genetic predisposition, or disability." Crimes committed on these bases would lead to more severe punishments for perpetrators.
Lawmakers also passed new legislation that makes the dissemination of homophobic information by any means, including the internet, an offence, punishable by a fine or up to two years imprisonment. Article 119/a makes the "distribution of racist, homophobic or xenophobic materials through systems of communication and information technology" a crime, GSN notes.
The new measures are the result of collaboration involving the country's queer activist groups, the justice ministry and ombudsman Igli Totozani. Totozani called the laws' passage a "revolution," saying that Albania is "on the way to a more fair, equal and European society."
Not everyone was pleased about the parliament's actions. GSN notes that the website of the ombudsman was hacked by a group calling themselves the "Islamic Ghost Team."
Albania's prime minister, Sali Berisha, who met with two gay activists last month, has previously expressed support for same-sex marriage. He told Xheni Karaj and Kristi Pinderi that he appreciated their television appearances, which brought "LGBT issues to public attention."
"To tell you the truth, [in the beginning] I have felt sorry when the debate about LGBT issues was going on and no one from the community was able to go publicly and defend the cause," he said then. Berisha said, however, that "the job to breaking the ice [about gay marriage in Albanian] society is a job that will . . . need . . . time."
LGBTQNation reports that Vice-Minister of Defence Ekrem Spahiu said that gays should be beaten up in a statement last December. “What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick.”
But Berisha criticized Spahiu during the meeting with Karaj and Pinderi, saying, “This kind of declaration is unacceptable not only for a vice-minister, but for everyone.”