Politician rebuked after calling for pride marchers to be beaten
Members of the European Union (EU) have joined Albania’s Prime Minister and others in condemning homophobic remarks made by a senior Albanian politician who last week called for gay activists to be beaten during the country’s first ever gay pride parade to take place in May.
Deputy Defence Minister Ekrem Spahiu (pictured) made the comments during an interview with local newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare when asked about his views on plans by the Albanian LGBT community to hold a pride parade in the capital Tirana to coincide with International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on May 17.
“What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick,” Spahiu told the newspaper.
“If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick.”
The Legality Movement Party which Spahiu heads then backed up his earlier statements, saying that homosexuality was a “vice, misfortune and a curse”.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha criticised Spahiu’s remarks in Parliament as “unacceptable” before stating that Albania and Tirana were places of tolerance and diversity.
Similar thoughts were also echoed by Albania’s Ombudsman, Igli Totozani, as well as 48 Albanian non-governmental organisations who have asked Spahiu to apologise.
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said Berisha’s “rebuttal” was very welcome.
“Integrating Albania into the European project is very dear to us in the European Parliament, but this does come with conditions,” Lunacek said.
“One of them is that, quite simply, ministers don’t call for violence against any minority, be it women, LGBT people, ethnic or linguistic minorities, or anyone for that matter.”
Boris Dittrich, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said the comments by Spahiu were shocking.
“Albania’s government ministers should be upholding its anti-discrimination legislation and human rights obligations, not advocating homophobic violence,” Dittrich said.
In recent years the small Balkans country has taken a number of steps to promote tolerance and eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2010, the government introduced a broad anti-discrimination bill which includes provisions to protect LGBT people, while the country has also adopted recommendations proposed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.