North Macedonia, the small Balkan state which was previously known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, will host its first Pride event in capital Skopje.
The event will be held on June 29 and will stand as a form of protest for affirmation, support, and protection of human rights for the country’s LGBT community. The gathering will be open for all to attend, regardless of nationality, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
A previous attempt to hold a Skopje Pride parade in 2013 was abandoned because Macedonia’s Ministry of Interior could not guarantee marchers’ safety. A spate of violent incidents around the march also saw the Skopje's LGBT Support Center set on fire.
The country, which has a population of around two million, has a poor record on LGBT rights. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1996, and the country’s law continues to ban recognition of same-sex unions.
However, there has been some progress in recent years. In March, the country’s parliament approved a new anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity in order to comply with European standards, as the country seeks to join the EU.
The European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup also called on the country and other EU accession countries to begin work to tackle homophobia and secure the rights of LGBT people.
The Pride event is very welcome, but forceful legislative changes pro LGBT rights are needed if North Macedonia really wants to be credible.
Skopje’s LGBT Support Center was burned by an anti-gay hate mob in 2013