LGBT rights in Albania

LGBT rights in Albania

Location of  Albania  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)   [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1995, age of consent equalized in 2001
Gender identity/expression -
Military service Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve since 2008
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption -

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Albania may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents although they are protected under a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.[1] Both male and female same-gender sexual activities are legal in Albania since 1995, but households headed by same-gender couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-gender couples.

Albania, as a whole, is considered to be rather conservative, especially in public reactions regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights and visibility of LGBT people; however, anti-discrimination legislation have made ILGA-Europe regard Albania as one of a very few countries in Europe which explicitly bans discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.[1] Albania has ratified Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, moreover Albania was a signatory to the 2007 UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.[2][3]

In 2015, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) ranked Albania 19th in terms of LGBT rights out of 49 observed European countries.[4]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Ottoman Empire

In 1858, the Ottoman Empire legalized same-sex sexual intercourse.[5] Pederasty in Albania was a practice reported by many Western travellers in the nineteenth century,[6][7] including John Cam Hobhouse, who said in his diaries that pederasty was "openly practised" in the region.[8]

People's Socialist Republic of Albania

The People's Socialist Republic of Albania penalized same-sex sexual intercourse with long prison terms, bullying and ostracism. Article 137 of the Crimes against Societal Moral of the Penal Code stated that: "Pederasty is punishable or up to ten years of freedom privation". The word "pederasty" was used as a code word for sex between two consenting adults or sex between an adult and a child of any gender.[9]

Republic of Albania

Albania decriminalized consensual sexual expression in 1995. The age of consent has been equal at 14 for all, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation, since 2001.[10]

In the summer of 1994 the Government of Albania put forward a draft Penal code under which homosexuality would have remained illegal, but with the maximum sentence reduced to three years. A campaign by the Gay Albania Society within Albania, and international pressure orchestrated by ILGA, in which the Council of Europe played an important role, led to the withdrawal of this draft law.

On 20 January 1995 the Albanian Parliament legalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in Albania. Article 137 of the old Penal code promulgated under socialist Albania,[11] which mandated up to ten years of prison for "being homosexual," has thus been done away with completely.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex marriage or civil unions are not currently recognised in Albania. Even though then Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced in July 2009 that he would support the recognition of same-gender civil marriages, the proposed anti-discrimination law, unanimously approved on 4 February 2010, never addressed same-sex marriage.[12][13] Gay rights groups praised the new law but said they hoped that Berisha would eventually keep to his promise on legalising same-sex marriage.[14]

Igli Totozani, leader of NGO Peoples advocate, announced on October 2013 that he would be drafting a bill for parliament to debate on changes to the family code that would allow for same-sex marriage to be introduced.[15]

Discrimination protections

On 4 February 2010, the Albanian Parliament unanimously adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The law applies to all areas, including employment, the provision of goods and services, education, health care, and housing.[16] Albania is one of only few European countries to explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The law also exceeds EU minimum standards, which require that employers refrain from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[1] According to this law an institution of Anti-Discrimination Commissioner was established during 2010 and the Parliament elected Irma Baraku as head of this independent body.

However, on December 12, 2012 The Alliance against Discrimination and Pro LGBT, two organizations that promote the rights of LGBT expressed their disappointment for what they called "the weak and unprofessional work done by the Commissioner Against Discrimination".[17] According to Xheni Karaj and Kristi Pinderi, leaders of these organizations, the LGBT community "has lost its trust in the institution due to its slow work, raise of the deliberate bureaucratic impediments and its prolonged process of investigation without providing an explanation or an substantial argument".

They argued that out of 9 cases linked to the discrimination of LGBT people directly or through hate speech, only 1 case has been concluded by this institution. The most disputed case of homophobia and hate speech was the case of Ekrem Spahiu Deputy Minister of Defense who stated to a local newspaper: “What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don't understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick”. The EU Delegation in Tirana, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and ILGA Europe, the local and international media covered and condemned this statement, even the Prime Minister Sali Berisha condemned it publicly, but the Commissioner failed to follow up the case.[18]

On 4 May 2013 the Albanian Parliament unanimously amended the 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.[19]

LGBT rights groups in Albania

Gay Pride ride 2016 in Tirana

There are three organisations in Albanian focused on LGBT rights - the three most well known are Aleanca Kunder Diskriminimit LGBT (Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination), Pro LGBT and Pink Embassy/LGBT PRO ne Shqiperi. These organizations work to create a better and more equal living situation for LGBT people in Albania.

The Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination (short form: Aleanca LGBT) is an Albanian non-governmental organization founded by five lesbians.[20] It envisions a free, open and equal Albanian society that embraces diversity and is inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Aleanca LGBT was created in March, 2009 by a volunteer group of LGBT young people dedicated to improving life and empowering LGBT people in Albania. Aleanca's activities include: community building, awareness raising, advocacy and lobbying. Xheni Karaj, this NGO's current director, spoke in an Ankara meeting held in March 2013 as being the first out lesbian activist in Albania.[20]

Pink Embassy aims to strengthen the position of gay community members living in Albania. Actually, this organisation is focused on two main areas: Advocacy and lobbying to ensure respect for the rights of the LGBT community through information and education campaigns, monitoring violations of human rights of members of the LGBT, impact on government and policy-making to build effective mechanisms in favor of the LGBT community and creating favorable conditions to facilitate visibility and mobilize the LGBT community.

Pro LGBT is mainly focused on public awareness on LGBT issues and using advocacy as a tool to improve the situation of LGBT community. Recently this organization launched the human rights news portal "My Story" (, which is becoming a main source to the mainstream media in Albania for LGBT issues.[21]

In December 2010, the Deputy Commission for Labour, Social Affairs and Health, Tritan Shehu, declared that "homosexuality should be treated by medical staff as hormonal disorder, as well as psychological".[22] The LGBT organizations filed a collective complaint with the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination. The Commissioner reviewed the declarations and, after a lengthy delay, on 30 September 2011 reprimanded Mr. Shehu in a letter to Parliament: “Mr. Shehu should avoid discriminatory remarks in the future, which cause an atmosphere of tension and unfriendliness towards the LGBT community in Albania." The Commissioner further recommended that Parliament should grant “all guaranties so that the thoughts, opinions and remarks of the LGBT community are heard, evaluated and taken into consideration, when they are directly involved on specific topics, in order to help the community to enjoy fully its rights and freedoms.”[23]

Public opinion

Social attitudes towards the LBGT community are generally negative. Data released by the ESS reveal that the vast majority of Albanians are conservative and disapprove of the gay and lesbian community. According to the survey data, 53% of Albanians believe that "gays and lesbians should not be free to live life as they wish," the largest percentage holding that opinion in the survey.[24]

Results of previous polling by Gallup's Balkan Monitor[25] taken in 2010 show that 54.2% of Albanians consider homosexual relations wrong, while 22.7% disagree. A regional difference was observed, as respondents from Central Albania were more likely to disagree (35.5% agree, 28.2% disagree) than those from the North (59.8% agree, 16.4% disagree) or the South (71.1% agree, 17.2% disagree). Additionally, Albanian respondents were more likely to disagree than those from most neighboring Balkan countries, including Macedonia (69.4% to 18.4%), Serbia (75.1% to 8.7%), Montenegro (65.8% to 12.1%), Kosovo (64.9% to 18.5%) and Bosnia (74.3% to 9.2%), while Croatia was comparable (50.3% to 20.4%). Other questions asked included whether homosexuals were entitled to "the same rights as all other people", to which 44.4% of Albanians agreed while 28.5% disagreed. On the other hand, 78.7% of Albanians thought "homosexual acts" were immoral, 56.2% thought that homosexuals should not have public posts (like being a teacher, the question said) and a similar number of 56.1% said they shouldn't show their preferences in public.[25]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal (Since 1995)
Equal age of consent (Since 2001)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only (Since 2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services (Since 2010)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) (Since 2010)
Hate crime law (Since 2013)
Same-sex marriages
Recognition of same-sex couples (Pending)[26]
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples
Joint adoption by same-sex couples
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military (Since 2008)
Right to change legal gender
Access to IVF for lesbians
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Albania protects LGBT people from discrimination". ILGA-Europe. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  2. "Albania page in LGBT Europe". ILGA-Europe. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  3. [UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity Wikisource: "UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity", presented to the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 2008]
  4. "Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe" (PDF). ILGA-Europe. 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  5. State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, authored by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, May 2014
  6. Bethe, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 1907, p. 475 (German)
  7. Näcke, Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, vol. ix, 1908, p. 327(German)
  8. The Diary of John Cam Hobhouse (October 20th, 1809)
  9. Carey, Henry F. (10 Oct 2014). European Institutions, Democratization, and Human Rights Protection in the European Periphery. Lexington Books. p. 349. ISBN 9781498502054.
  10. (see: Ages of consent in Europe).
  11. Albanian Penal Code & Sexual Orientation from Albanian Life issue 44 #1, 1989
  12. "No gay marriage for Albania". Pink News. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  13. "Albanian Gay Rights Law, Minus Marriage". The Advocate. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  14. "Gays content with rights law". The Straits Times. Reuters. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  15. Totozani: Të lejohen martesat “gej”,, 26 October 2013, in Albanian
  16. "The Bay Area Reporter Online - Albania passes model law against LGBT discrimination". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  17. Albanian LGBT organizations dissatisfied with the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner,, 12 December 2012
  18. "Albanian PM rebukes minister for anti-gay remark". The Boston Globe. 26 March 2012.
  19. Dan Littauer, Albania passes landmark gay hate crime laws,, 5 May 2013
  20. 1 2 Lesbian Feminists From Tunisia, Algeria, Serbia and Albania Were in Ankara,, 21 March 2013, Xheni Karaj speaking on LBT rights advocacy in Albania: "Actually Aleanca started by a group of five lesbians even though now we are a mixed board of organizers. And this is interesting to happen in a society when most of people used to think that lesbians didn’t exist at all."
  21. About Us,, 19 July 2012
  22. Kristi Pinderi, Akuzoj Tritan Shehun si politikanin e parë homofob!,, 17 May 2011
  23. Besar Likmeta, Albanian MP Reprimanded for Gay Slur,, 27 October 2011
  24. Besar Likmeta, Albania is Europe's Most Homophobic Country, Survey Says,, 25 March 2013
  25. 1 2 Gallup Balkan Monitor database, survey data 2010: "Strongly agree" and "agree" are grouped together, as are "Strongly disagree" and "Disagree".
  26. "Albania gay rights groups open first LGBTI shelter in Balkan region". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
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