Yesterday, on October 31, the LGBTI Support Center, branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, celebrated its fifth anniversary at the Museum of Modern Art in Skopje.
“We have survived! Therefore, tonight we want to celebrate. A seemingly small, but to us a very important jubilee. As challenging as these past five years have been, they also pushed us to learn a lot. Two of the Center attacks took place exactly on our anniversaries. The Center got broken on many occasions, but they never managed to break us. The impunity of the perpetrators granted by the previous government was the worst message to us, and an encouragement to them. There must be justice for everyone. Our laws must start recognizing hate crimes on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination needs to recognize these grounds”. These were the words that Kocho Andonovski, the Program Director of the LGBTI Support Center addressed the guests without hiding his excitement to be celebrating a birthday in post-regime Macedonia, but he also clearly showed the intent for active involvement of the Center and the LGBTI activists in the advancing of the legislation and living conditions of all the LGBTI people in the country.
The celebration, apart from the large number of lesbians, bisexuals, gay men, trans people, and the large number of supporters, partners and friends, was also attended by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Zoran Zaev. “I congratulate the LGBTI Support Center’s 5th anniversary and I encourage you to be loud, express yourselves freely and act towards protection of the citizens’ rights”. He emphasized the aspirations of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia to align the domestic legislation with the international standards for human rights, and the first step in this process is the drafting of the new Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the public hearing on which is under way. The Prime Minister, when referring to the unresolved attacks on the LGBTI Center, sent a clear message: “… that those times of lawlessness, of violation of human rights on any grounds are now past, because the Government of the Republic of Macedonia is setting the cornerstones of a country which belongs to all of us and which will strive to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their differences, background, beliefs, etc.”. This was the first time in the history of the Republic of Macedonia that a Prime Minister attended an event of this kind and gave open support to the LGBTI people.
“This is the first anniversary we’re celebrating in freedom!” These were the words that Uranija Pirovska, the Executive Director of the Helsinki Committee of Human rights opened the event with. First and foremost, she reminded us of the circumstances that this Center was opened under and how necessary its establishing was: “Even today, I am proud of the number of lesbians, bisexuals, gay men and trans people that have attended Center events, the support groups, and the number of people who were part of and created the Center’s programs. Those are the people who have built the Center into what it is today”.
The LGBTI Support Center was established in order to provide a safe space and support to the LGBTI people from the country. Over the past five years, more than 150 public events, debates, book clubs and social events took place in the center; about fifty people received psycho-social aid or aid in exercising legal protection and there were over 120 closed sessions of the support groups for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people. Five local core groups were established within these 5 years, 10 people publicly came out during the campaigns organized by the Center and over 15 public personalities publicly supported the rights of LGBTI people.
At the celebration of the anniversary of the LGBTI Support Center we also shared the achievements of the recently opened Safe House – a shelter for LGBTI people, and its manager, Elena Petrovska, emphasized the need of inclusion of the local community with its financial support in order to provide sustainability of the programs in the Safe House: “The funds raised are direct help for re-integration, re-socialization, and better quality individual life of the victims of violence and homeless people from the LGBTI community in our country”.
During the party Certificates of Appreciation were also presented to the supporters and partners of the work of the LGBTI Support Center. After the ceremonial part, we proceeded with a cocktail party.