The Legal Changes for the Personal Records “Stumbled” on the Gender Identity
The main changes in the amendments to the Law on Civil Registry, which was submitted to the Assembly last spring, but was withdrawn by the Government from the parliamentary procedure in March this year, relate to gender identity. These legal changes should have made changes in the definition of gender policy in the registry, so that those persons, who have not changed their physical gender, will be able to declare their gender differently, i.e. as men, women or transgender people. This is indicated in the brief summary of the extent of the reforms in the field of basic human rights, which is part of the Metamorphosis Report on Public Administration Reform
The proposal to amend this law is at the request of several non-governmental organizations dealing with the protection of gender and basic human rights. The proposal itself is well explained by the legislator, which lists virtually all the reasons why an amendment to this law is required, starting from the international conventions signed by RNM, to the rulings of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, although such rights are not included in the European Convention on Human rights (ECHR). However, due to the judgments rendered by this court from 2015 onwards, RNM is obliged to recognize and implement these rights in domestic legal traffic.
At the time of finishing of this Report, the law was only put on the agenda of the Committee on Legislation at first reading with a European flag but was withdrawn by the Government of the RNM. According to available statements, it should be finalized, a wider public debate should be opened and then it will go into regular parliamentary procedure.
The reason for this is the great opposition of the political parties in the Assembly. All opposition parties are against its adoption in this form. Although the las were thought to have the support of the ruling SDSM and most of the smaller parties in the ruling coalition, in the end, it turned out that even SDSM did not provide full support, and the Albanian partner in the DUI coalition, although silent until the last day, turned out to be against such a law. The excuses are different. The ruling parties insist that the law should be passed due to budget concerns that would suffer from lost rulings before the Strasbourg Court, as well as the implementation of those rulings in domestic law, but that it will need a regular procedure and wider debate. Opposition parties, on the other hand, have come out with conservative views in the sense that such a law undermines the traditional understanding of family and marriage, as such a change in the law would pave the way for a change in the Family Law, where marriage is defined as a legal union between a man and a woman, i.e. different sexes.
The proposal to put a European flag on this law was explained by a ruling of the Strasbourg Court against a person from RNM in 2019 and based on the Recommendations of the Ministers of the Council of Europe for the fight against discrimination from 2010.
What is certain is that for the time being this law has the support only of the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group for support of persons belonging to the LGBT community, which includes representatives of some of the smaller parties in the Macedonian ruling bloc.
The main amendment proposed in the law (Article 1) is the definition of gender identity:
(8) Gender identity is an internal and individual experience of the gender of each person, which may or may not correspond to the sex determined by birth, including personal feeling of the body and other manifestations of gender, such as name, clothing, speech and manners.
(9) “Legal recognition of the gender” is a procedure in which the individual can change the gender mark in the personal records and thus the gender identity is recognized.
This issue, which threatens the wider community with a new division, is just the tip of the iceberg, which, if deepened, shows that the gender gap in RNM is still a deep obstacle that needs to be addressed.
Although RNM signed it a long time ago and applies it in practice, the so-called Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe, gender differences are seen in everyday practice, starting from the fact that although women are equally or higher educated than men, the participation of women in managerial positions in both business and public sector is drastically lower. The last local elections held in 2021 showed that only four women were running for 81 mayoral seats, which indicates that is hard for women to break through the political action of the parties, and this can be seen in the current composition of the Government of RNM, where the participation of women is only 20 percent. If not for the mandatory quotas, that number will be even small in the Assembly of RNM. This difference is reflected in higher education, where there is no female rector, and the number of women deans is small. Portalb, Truthmeter and Meta.mk recently published these and many other data in a study that confirms the wide gender gap and justifies the criticism of this issue that is present in the latest EC reports.
There are two main institutional pillars for the operational protection of basic human rights in the country. The first is the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination (CPPD) established last year (2021), based on the new Law on Prevention of Discrimination adopted in 2020. The seven-member commission (i.e. 6 because one member has not been elected yet) has significantly broad powers given to it by the law, but also a challenge to implement it quickly and without the full support of the state, although the CPPD itself acknowledges that it has received assistance this year from both the state and the OSCE and the NGO sector through the British Support and Development Program. In 2022, the website of the Commission was launched, which enabled easier submission of electronic applications.
Looking at the one-year achievements of the Commission, it can be concluded that this, an independent body by definition, fully justifies the public trust and the great powers given to it by law. Most probably, the success depends on the manner of election of the Commission through open parliamentary debate and public presentation of the programs and skills of the then candidates. According to the statistics presented in the Annual Report of the CPPD, until the end of 2021, i.e. for a period of 6-7 months, since the Commission worked effectively, it acted on 167 complaints, of which 77 were inherited from the previous composition of this body, which did not function properly. The commission has received 90 new complaints since its beginnings, indicating that trust in the body is growing, and as of March, it has opened several cases following a public outcry, highlighting cases related to the Lev Tahor religious movement and the discrimination case of a girl with special educational needs from a school in Gostivar, which is still ongoing. In terms of complaints, they come more from men than women, mostly from Skopje, and the most common basis is personal status and social status. By the end of 2021:
Acting upon the submitted complaints, the Commission found discrimination in 40 cases, while in 39 it was determined that there were no grounds for discrimination. For 10 complaints, the Commission adopted a conclusion for non-action, non-initiation or suspension of the procedure, and 41 complaints were rejected due to determined incompetence, disorder, obsolescence and inadmissibility. For 37 complaints the procedure is ongoing and they are kept as open cases (page 22 of the Annual Report).
CPPD REQUESTED A BUDGET OF UP TO 730 THOUSAND EUROS AND RECEIVED UNDER 250 THOUSAND
However, the challenges faced by this body remain, above all, in organizational terms and in the implementation of its decisions. Less than half of the vacancies have been filled according to the systematization of the Commission itself (29 vacancies, and only 10 administrative employees obtained by taking over from other institutions), working in 2 sectors covering 4 systematized departments, with a state budget, which is for half and less than the needs identified by the Commission itself. Recently, the first chairwoman of the Commission, Vesna Bendevska, stated that the Ministry of Finance did not express any interest in the request of the Commission, and the working body in the Parliament responsible for financing and budget did not show any interest, so instead of the requested 730 thousand euros per year, the budget for 2021 of 15.3 million dеnars (less than 250 thousand euros) has been rewritten, or only 120 thousand denars more than last year. In addition, the Commission is housed in the former premises of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, which in itself does not provide accessibility for persons with physical disabilities. In the Annual Report sent to the Parliament, the CPPD also presents recommendations that refer to the amendments to the Law and to the election of the remaining member of the Commission, so that it is complete with 7 members.
This article has been produced within the project Fact-Checking the Progress of North Macedonia towards the EU, implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation. The article, originally published by Truthmeter,, is made possible by the support of the American non-profit foundation NED (National Endowment for Democracy). The content of this article is the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, NED or their partners.
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