|Interview: Koco Andonovski, President of the Macedonian Association for Free Sexula Orientation – MASSO|
The homophobia is part of the everyday life of the LGBTQ people from Macedonia
At the press-conference, which took place on 2 February 2007, the Macedonian Association for Free Sexual Orientation – MASSO told the Macedonian public that the connection between that date and the homosexual population is a classical example of spreading homophobia.
In which segments of our existence and in what ways do you notice the existence of the homophobia in the beginning of this “European Year of Equal Rights”?
The homophobia is part of the everyday existence of the LGBTQ people from Macedonia, staring from the internalized homophobia within the LGBTQ people, the relation of the family, at schools, in the working environment, to the broadly understood notion in the social and political life in the country.
We are a place where, for example, in the pre-election campaign, the present Minister of External Affairs allowed himself to offend and stigmatized a whole group of citizens by saying that he was not going to allow legalization of the homosexual communities because that way we would make a sick society out of a healthy one. For such a statement, containing politically incorrect rhethorics, in countries where the democratic awareness and the institutions are highly developed, that person’s political career would definitely be over. In our country, such individuals are awarded the title “Minister”.
These messages sent by the political structures are unacceptable and serve for intimidating the LGBTQ people, at the same time encouraging hatred because of the people’s sexual orientation.
You have been active since 2004 as the first association in the country with a mission to “achieve social and legal changes for the gay population, development and protection of the gay culture and raising the awareness of the general population on the LGBTQ issue”, and Macedonia still hasn’t passed the key law on non-discrimination. Which laws should passed urgently so that the population you represent can feel legally protected in their own country?
What is most urgent is passing an anti-discriminatory legislative in Macedonia. It is also important to establish a commission (mechanisms) for carrying out independent monitoring and procedures when breaking the law, which would ensure its complete implementation.
Following the anti-discriminatory law, the country should redefine the terms “union”/”family” by erasing the heterosexual prefix in the Family Law. After a long-term research and consultations with top experts from the country and abroad, we have come to the conclusion that the best model for Macedonia would be the Spanish one. It means that there would be no particular law for the single-sex partners, but the family would be redefined as a union of two people regardless of their sex.
That way we would eliminate the direct or the indirect discrimination in the Family Law.
You spoke to the Doctors’ Chamber and the “Ss Kiril and Metodij” University, referring to the spread of homophobia in the curriculum and the university textbooks. Can you influence certain changes in the educational system and how?
After the latest cases of explicit spreading of homophobia in the textbooks signed by top scientist and health workers, we received a confirmation of our opinion that there is a strikingly low level of education in the field of sexuality. At the moment, MASSO is determined in its intention to strongly initiate the idea for introducing sexual education in the high schools’ curriculums.
Having in mind the wide scope of the sexual education programme on international level, MASSO is planning to initiate the idea in coalition with a number of NGOs whose interests are equally covered with this type of education.
To what extent are the political parties, the government institutions and the politicians in general open for communication, cooperation and support to the MASSO activities?
In 2005, before the local elections took place, we carried out a survey to measure the political arties willingness to stand for the LGBTQ people’s rights. At that time, our questionnaire was answered by only three political parties, neither of them showing any readiness to incorporate regulations in their political platforms.
Last year, before the elections, we received answers from six political parties, one of which, SDSM, incorporated the Law for registered partnerships in their election programme. We considered that step a historic act in the recent Macedonian history. The changes are taking place slowly, but we cannot say they do not occur.
What is constant, is the ignoring we get from the Albanian political block, which is strange, since the bases of their political platforms are the human rights. However, in time, we expect that the conditions for getting support from these political parties mature.
Who finances your activities and which national and international organizations do you cooperate with in the realization of certain projects?
The main donor of MASSO is the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. We are implementing a joint project with ILGA-Europe, and our other donors are also IOO Macedonia and SOS from Holland. We still haven’t received any financial support from Macedonia.
For the realization of our activities, we also cooperate with organizations from the country, such as the Centre for Conflict Resolution, The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Macedonia, EGAL, CGCP, The Macedonian Network for Damage Reduction, HOPS, HERA, and we are part of the big coalition for promoting the Law on anti-discrimination and many others.
Is there an interest for opening MASSO offices outside Skopje, in other Macedonian towns?
We have members from all over the country, but it is still early to talk about organizing activism outside Skopje.
What is LGBTQ?
LGBTQ are terms connected with the sexual orientation or the gender expression.
L – Lesbian; G – Gay-men; B – Bisexual; T – Transsexual; Q – “Queer”
Queer – an English term referring to something weird that does not fit the norms.