It’s not often that you see same sex couples in Prishtina, hugging or holding hands. R.B., 27 years old and Y.U,. 20 years old, have been in a romantic relationship for nearly 4 months.
R.B. states she is bisexual and that experiences she had as a teenager led her to feeling that way. She also says her friends welcomed and supported the way she feels.
“It took me time to understand exactly what I was feeling. At the beginning I had my doubts, I didn’t know whether I had feelings for men or only women because it depended on who I liked at the time. When I started to research I understood who I was and I started sharing it with my friends, if they asked me. They took the news very positively. When it comes to my family, I have only told my mother, however, she believes that it is a phase and that I will get over it,” says R.B..
On the other hand, Y.U. discovered she has feelings for girls when her parents sent her to kindergarten. According to her, it was then that she understood that her sexual orientation is different from people around her. She admits that it was hard to accept what she felt and it took her time to accept it. Her parents and some of her friends are not aware of her sexual orientation.
“When you grow up in a small country where the LGBTQ community is still taboo, you have to be very strong to tell society how you feel. You have to expect common negative comments,which can really hurt you. Now I have friends who belong to the community and I feel like my true self when I am surrounded by people like me. My family still doesn’t know. They have their doubts but I haven’t told them how I feel. This bothers me the most because they don’t know and I am always stressed about it. When you know your family and you know that they are homophobes, you know what you will be dealing with,” says Y.U.
R.B. and Y.U. don’t have the courage to tell their families that they are together or to openly go out in public. It is quite hard for them to live in Kosovo.
The girls talk about their life as a couple. They say that they make each other feel complete and that they consider their relationship to be like every other relationship, regardless that they are of the same sex.
Agim Margilaj, program manager at the NGO “Center for Social Group Development” (CSGD), says that individuals belonging to the LGBTC community face psychological and physical violence from their families as well as discrimination in education, healthcare and employment.
“Due to the high level of homophobia in our society, LGBTQ couples have to be nearly nonexistent, avoiding actions that same sex couples do. Two cases that have reported to the organization, from many cases: one gay couple was physically attacked and blackmailed by their landlord after he found out that they were a gay couple, and a young woman was a victim of physical violence , blackmail and psychological violence from her family members after they found out she is in a relationship with another woman,” says Margilaj.
According to him, the education system needs to be visibly improved starting from school texts to universities texts. In these texts, as he says, there is homophobic, transphobic and sexist content. He believes that law enforcement institutions should be more effective in implementing laws and protecting victims whose rights have been violated based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity.
Lendi Mustafa, project manager at the NGO “Center for Equality and Liberty” (CEL), says that the LGBTQ community faces most of their difficulties in society. For this reason, the members of the community do not feel safe in public spaces.
“The first steps toward change in society is raising citizen awareness and strengthening and promoting laws. When society is ready or aware of the rights of the LGBTQ community, then there will be a safe place for couples belonging to this community,” he points out.
According to him, many individuals of the LBGTQ community keep their relationships a secret so as not to be judged by society.
On the other hand, the constitution of Kosovo offers safety and protects for human rights. Article 24 of the constitution states that all are equal before the law and everyone enjoys the right to equal legal protection without discrimination. In the second paragraph of the same article it is stated that: “No one shall be discriminated against on grounds of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, relation to any community, property, economic and social condition, sexual orientation, birth, disability or other personal status.”
According to a research study of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in 2015, only 3% of the respondents said that they would help their child find “a cure to get healed.” On the other hand, 60% of the respondents said that they wouldn’t vote for a political party if they support LGBTQ community rights. Furthermore, 81% of the respondents think that LGBTQ community are the most discriminated against.