IGLHRC Stands in Solidarity with Macedonian Human Rights Groups to Decry Outbreak of Homophobic Government Campaign

In response to information received from two Macedonian organizations, the Coalition for Sexual Health and Rights in Marginalized Communities, the Network for Protection against Discrimination, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) decries the recent campaign of homophobic and transphobic hate initiated by a statement made by Spiro Ristovski, the Macedonian Minister of Labor and Social Policy.

On October 12th, during events in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, Macedonian Minister of Labor and Social Policy, attacked lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other forms of non-heteronormative families by stating, “I do not even wish to discuss the issue of allowing homosexual couples to adopt children, because I believe that a child should be brought up correctly, to grow and develop in a marriage with a mother and a father in the true and biological sense of the word.”

Minister Ristovski’s remarks kicked off a campaign by pro-government allies. The daily newspaper Vecer, and the pro-governmental web portal Kurir, ran homophobic and transphobic articles on its front page for four consecutive days. The group known as the Association of Social Workers of the City of Skopje held a press conference to allege that LGBT families would harm children. The Association of Pensioners and the Sports Federation held press conferences for the same purpose. Advocates for LGBT rights have been subjected to public threats, such as the remarks by rightwing journalist Milenko Nedelkovski who posted to Facebook, “The faggots had a very active day yesterday!? … Wherever I find you, I will give you a boot and slap in the face.”

LGBT advocates have been targeted for physical violence as well. The Macedonian press reported that on October 21st two individuals attacked the president of LBGT United Macedonian on his walk home. He heard people shouting “fag,” “homo,” and “you are going to die.” As he began to run away the attackers caught up and began beating him. He barely escaped to call for help and file a report with the police.

Macedonian human rights defenders speculate that the spike in homophobic and transphobic hate speech may be a tool to mobilize the conservative base for upcoming local elections, as was done in 2006.

“Rather than focusing on distractions, the Government of Macedonia would benefit from using the International Day of the Girl Child to focus on real threats to girl children, like under-resourced schools, traditional gender roles, and gender-based violence. Furthermore, we remind Minister Spiro Ristovski that as a public official, his responsibility is to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all Macedonians, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The spread of hate on a day devoted to human rights is truly a miscarriage of the day’s intent.”
Jessica Stern, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

For more information, contact:
Blakeley Decktor, Program Officer, Documentation and Advocacy, IGLHRC: +1-212-430-6023 or bdecktor@iglhrc.org

Brian Tofte-Schumacher, Communications Associate, IGLHRC: +1-212-430-6015 or brian@iglhrc.org