Albania amended its criminal code and put hate crimes against sexual orientation and gender identity on par with an offense against gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, disability and so on.
It also passed a new law punishing the dissemination of homophobic information through any means (including the internet) by a fine and up to two years imprisonment.
Albania’s parliament amended yesterday (4 May) Section 50/j of its criminal code to strictly punish a crime ’when the offense is committed due to reasons related to gender, race, color, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, health status, genetic predisposition, or disability’.
If a crime has occurred for the above reasons, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, then the circumstances are aggravating and the perpetrator will be punished more severely (i.e. with no recourse to ‘mitigating circumstance’).
Albania’s parliament also introduced the concept of crimes against the LGBT community through information technology.
Article 119/a, adds a new crime to the list of offenses that is the ‘distribution of racist, homophobic or xenophobic materials through systems of communication and information technology.’
The law makes it a criminal offence: ‘Providing to the public or distribution of deliberate materials containing racist, homophobic or xenophobic content, through the communication and information technology, is punishable by a fine or imprisonment up to two years.’
In the case of deliberate dissemination of homophobic materials on the Internet (website, social networks like Facebook, etc.) or in any other form, will be considered a criminal offense that can be punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
These landmark legislations was the fruit of a collaborative work between Albaina’s LGBT associations, civil society, Ministry of Justice and the country’s ombudsman.
Igli Totozani, Albanian ombudsman, hailed the laws as a ‘revolution’ stating that it put Albania in the forefront of the region in this regard and thanked the parliament for passing these laws.
He said: ‘Albania is on the way to a more fair, equal and European society.
‘[The laws are a] valuable contribution to a greater protection of human dignity and a more open and European Albania.’
Some radical Islamic groups (over 30 Facebook pages), who previously recommended ways to kill gays, voiced their objection the new laws.
In retaliation the website of the Ombudsman was hacked by Albanian hackers calling themselves the ‘Islamic Ghost Team’.
Aleanca LGBT and LGBT Pro, two groups who advocated for the laws, welcomed and praised the move by Albania’s lawmakers.
Recently Albania’s prime minister came out in support of the country’s LGBT community and promised that he would see the legislation mentioned pressed through.
Bekim Asani of the neighboring Macedonia based LGBT United congratulated the two Albanian groups and told Gay Star News: ‘Albania is leading the region with its visionary and tolerant approach to LGBT rights.
‘It really brings tears to my eyes to think that a mainly Muslim secular Balkan state can be so progressive, we hope Macedonia and other countries in the area will follow its lead.’