Photo: Atdhe Mulla

LGBTI groups criticise civil partnership plans

The possibility of a “special law” that would allow for civil partnerships between same sex couples in Kosovo announced by Minister of Justice Selim Selimi on Tuesday has been described as “discriminatory” by civil society organisations.

Groups supporting LGBTI rights have labelled a special law allowing for the registration of same sex civil partnerships in Kosovo that is set to be put before the Assembly as “discriminatory.”

A letter signed by 49 civil society organisations, CSOs, states that such a law would deny members of the LGBTI community the same rights to marry and start a family as heterosexual couples on the basis of their sexual orientation. 

News of the potential new law was announced by Selim Selimi, Kosovo’s justice minister, on Tuesday at a press conference, which was arranged to announce the completion of an EU project to harmonise Kosovo’s Civil Code, family law and property rights with the EU acquis.

Speaking at the press conference, Selimi said that the wording of the current law regulating marriage, the Law on Family, would remain unchanged when it is incorporated into the new Civil Code, while a new law that would regulate civil unions for same sex partnerships would be presented to the Kosovo Assembly in the near future.

“Equality before the law in family relations is better ensured for all persons,” he said. “The traditional nucleus of marriage is preserved, but it opens the path for civil unions for the first time.” 

However, LGBTI groups in the country insist that isolating the regulation of same sex partnerships in law would amount to a human rights violation. 

“The Ministry of Justice has failed to draft legislation that is comprehensive and non-discriminatory,” the letter states. “It is clear that the Draft Civil Code excludes persons from the right to partnership and the right to start a family on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The letter emphasizes that the constitution guarantees all people in Kosovo the right to marry and start a family, and a special law that governs same sex partnerships would allow the state to continue denying same sex couples these rights.

“It is clear that in the Constitution of Kosovo there is no defined gender that would prevent same sex couples from marrying and starting a family,” the letter states, adding that Article 24 of the Kosovo Constitution also guarantees equality before the law, and that an individual’s sexual orientation is a specific category protected from discrimination.

The Ministry of Justice was criticised by CSOs in December 2019, when the final draft of the Civil Code was publicised, for failing to take the opportunity to resolve the discriminatory aspects of the Law on Family.

The law, which regulates marriage and provides the right to a family, specifies that marriage is defined as being between two people of different sexes. In contrast, the Kosovo Constitution states that “everyone” enjoys the right to marry, without making specific reference to sexual orientation, which has created confusion over the ability of same sex couples to marry. 

Recommendations were made during the public consultation phase of the Civil Code project in March 2019 by CSOs, who made reference to the discriminatory nature of the Law on Family, and requested the Ministry of Justice to close the gap in the legislation.

However, rather than amend or harmonise the law, space has been made for the addition of special laws outside the regulatory framework of the Civil Code. This solution has been criticised by LGBTI groups, who state that in order to guarantee equality before the law and meaningful rights regarding marriage and family, the regulation of same sex partnerships should be included within the Civil Code.

“The Draft Civil Code should be described in accordance with Kosovo’s obligations to ensure equal rights for all citizens and should ensure the legal recognition of same sex couples,” the letter concludes. 

08/07/2020 - 14:40

08 July 2020 - 14:40

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