LGBT rights in Kosovo

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LGBT rights in Kosovo
Europe-Republic of Kosovo.svg
StatusLegal since 1858 when part of the Ottoman Empire, again in 1994 as part of Yugoslavia[1]
Gender identityTransgender people not permitted to change legal gender
MilitaryGay, lesbian and bisexual people allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition
AdoptionAny single person allowed to adopt[2][3]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Kosovo[a] have improved in recent years, most notably with the adoption of the new Constitution, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, homosexuality is still viewed by Kosovar society as a taboo topic.[4]

The Government of Kosovo is supportive of the country's LGBT community.[5] In late 2013, the Parliament Assembly passed a bill to create a coordinating group for the LGBT community.[6] On 17 May 2014, well-known politicians and diplomats, including British Ambassador Ian Cliff and several local LGBT organizations took to the streets of Pristina to march against homophobia.[7][8] The event was welcomed by the European Union office in Kosovo,[9] as well as by the government itself. A large LGBT flag covered the front side of the government building that night.[10] The first-ever gay pride parade in Kosovo was held in Pristina on 17 May 2016, in which a few hundred people marched through the streets of the capital. The march was also attended by President Hashim Thaçi as well as the British and U.S. ambassadors to Kosovo.[11][12]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Ottoman Empire[edit]

In 1858, the Ottoman Empire, then in control of Kosovo, legalized same-sex intercourse.[13]


The Yugoslav Criminal Code of 1929 banned "lewdness against the order of nature" (anal intercourse). The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia also restricted the offense to same-sex anal intercourse, with the maximum sentence reduced to 1 to 2 years' imprisonment in 1959.[14]

In 1994, male same-sex sexual intercourse became legal in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija when it was a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[15]

UNMIK period[edit]

In 2004, during the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) period, the legal age of consent was set at 14 regardless of the individual's gender or sexual orientation,[1] and all sexual offenses were made gender-neutral.[13]

Independent era[edit]

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Same-sex sexual intercourse has remained legal. This period has also seen an increasing visibility for the LGBT community, and discussions surrounding such issues have become more mainstream.[13] In 2008, the Constitution of Kosovo was promulgated, containing provisions outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, amongst others.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

In 2014, the President of the Constitutional Court said that Kosovo de jure allows same-sex marriage.[16] Article 144(3) of the Constitution of Kosovo requires the Constitutional Court to approve any amendments to the Constitution so as to ensure they do not infringe upon the civil rights previously guaranteed. Article 14 of the Law on Family (Albanian: Ligji për Familjen; Serbian: Zakon o porodici) defines marriage as a "legally registered community of two persons of different sexes," though Kosovo gay rights activists have argued this contradicts the wording of the Constitution and have called on same-sex couples to challenge the law in court.[17]

On 7 July 2020, Minister of Justice Selim Selimi announced that the new Civil Code would allow for same-sex civil partnerships, which the Government of Kosovo planned to introduce within a few months.[18] The move was criticised by some LGBT rights groups because it entrenched the legal distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex couples.[19]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Article 24 of the Constitution of Kosovo bans discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation.[4] Kosovo is one of the few states in Europe with a constitutional ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The wording states:[20]

No one shall be discriminated against on grounds of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, relation to any community, property, economic and social condition, sexual orientation, birth, disability or other personal status.

The Anti-Discrimination Law of 2004 (Albanian: Ligji Kundër Diskriminimit; Serbian: Zakon protiv diskriminacije) passed by the Kosovo Assembly bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a variety of fields, including employment, membership of organizations, education, the provision of goods and services, social security and access to housing. The definition of discrimination in this law explicitly includes direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, victimization and segregation.[21]

On 26 May 2015, the Parliament Assembly approved amendments adding gender identity to Kosovo's anti-discrimination law. The amendments took effect in July 2015.[22]

In April 2019, the new Criminal Code of Kosovo went into force, with stronger protections for LGBT citizens. The law provides additional penalties for the commission of a hate crime motivated by the victim's or victims' sexual orienation or gender identity.[23]

Despite these legal protections, LGBT people tend to avoid reporting discrimination or abuse cases to the police.[24] A total of 10 bias-motivated crimes against LGBT people were reported to the authorities in 2019, with a further 13 reported to LGBT organizations only.[25] In February 2019, authorities initiated a case against an official at the Ministry of Justice who had called for LGBT people to be beheaded. Police took him into custody.[26]

Transgender rights[edit]

Transgender people are not allowed to legally change their gender in Kosovo, even if they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.[27][28]

In 2017, a Kosovar citizen, Blert Morina, submitted a court case, seeking to change his name and gender on official identification documents. His request was rejected by Kosovo's Civil Registration Agency. His lawyer, Rina Kika, said he had requested a constitutional review of the agency's decision in July 2018.[29][30] In December 2019, the Basic Court of Pristina ruled in Morina's favour, affirming his right to change both his name and sex marker on his identification documents. Kika said that "for the first time the court has decided to recognize the right to gender identity without offering evidence for surgical intervention or any medical change".[31] The Ministry of Justice and the Civil Registration Agency have stated that the judgment will not be considered precedent, and other transgender people will have to go through a similar court procedure.[25]

Military service[edit]

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are allowed to serve openly in the military. However, they may face discrimination by peers when serving openly.

Blood donation[edit]

According to a 2018 guideline for "Blood Donation Week", those who have "intimate relationships with the same sex" cannot donate blood.[32]

Living conditions[edit]

Kosovo Pride Week 2018

An LGBT rights group, the Center for Social Emancipation, describes gay life in Kosovo as being "underground" and mostly secretive.[33] There are no known gay clubs or bars in Kosovo, though one briefly opened in Pristina in 2011.[34]

According to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute, 81% of LGBT Kosovars said they had been subject to psychological abuse, and 29% reported being victim of physical violence.[24]

Events celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia have been organized in Kosovo since 2007. The first pride parade occurred in Pristina in May 2016, with attendance from President Hashim Thaçi and British and American diplomats.[11] The annual Pride Week has been held in Pristina since 2017. In 2018, Mayor Shpend Ahmeti participated.[35] During the event's third edition in October 2019, participants started at the Skanderbeg Square, making their way down Mother Teresa Boulevard to Zahir Pajaziti Square, passing the government and parliament buildings and other landmarks of the city, with the slogan "Whoever your heart beats for" (Për kon t'rreh zemra). The events have been held without incidence,[36][37] and consist of various artistic exhibitions, parties, conferences, discussions and a parade.[38]

LGBT rights movement in Kosovo[edit]

There are currently several local LGBT rights organisations in Kosovo. Among the most notable are the Center for Equality and Liberty (CEL; Albanian: Qendra për Barazi dhe Liri), the Center for Social Group Development (CSGD; Albanian: Qendra për Zhvillimin e Grupeve Shoqërore), and the Center for Social Emancipation (QESh; Albanian: Qendra për Emancipim Shoqëror).

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1994)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity in all areas Yes (Since 2015)
Same-sex marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Proposed)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gay, lesbian and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No
Right to change legal gender No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 112 UN member states are said to have recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.


  1. ^ a b State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Archived 20 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, authored by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, May 2014
  2. ^ "Adoption Laws in Kosovo: Unmarried persons". State portal of the Republic of Kosovo. Constitution of Kosovo. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Adoption in Kosovo (Report) - p. 6". OSCE Mission in Kosovo.
  4. ^ a b "Kosovo Constitution". Archived from the original on 26 May 2008.
  5. ^ "Qeveria merr në mbrojtje komunitetin LGBT".
  6. ^ "Qeveria formon trupë këshilluese e koordinuese për komunitetin LGBT". Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Marsh kundër homofobisë". Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Komuniteti LGBT është i dukshëm dhe pjesë e shoqërisë kosovare". Zëri.
  9. ^ "Press release: European Union in Kosovo: March against homophobia". European Union Office in Kosovo. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2014.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "Flamuri i LGBT'së në ndërtesën e Qeverisë së Kosovës". Gazeta Express.
  11. ^ a b "Thaci takes part in first gay parade in Pristina". B92. 17 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Kosovo holds first-ever gay pride march". Rappler. 17 May 2016.
  13. ^ a b c "KOSOVO | LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey". Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  14. ^ CROATIA: NEW PENAL CODE Archived 14 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Tapon, Francis (19 May 2012). The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us. SonicTrek, Inc. ISBN 9780976581222 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage Legal in Kosovo?". Human Rights Campaign. 12 September 2014. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Kosovo Rights Activists Seek Clarity on Gay Marriage". Balkan Insight. 4 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Kosovo's new civil code opens the way for gay marriage". bne IntelliNews. 8 July 2020.
  19. ^ "LGBTI groups criticise civil partnership plans". Prishtina Insight. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo" (PDF).
  21. ^ Law 2004/3: The Anti-Discrimination Law Archived 1 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, UNMIK
  22. ^ "Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People in Europe 2016: Kosovo" (PDF).
  23. ^ "New Criminal Code in Kosovo strengthens protections for LGBTI persons". Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  24. ^ a b Davies, Jack (12 March 2018). "Being gay in Kosovo, Europe's youngest nation". Equal Times.
  25. ^ a b "Annual Review of the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe and Central Asia" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Ndalohet për 48 orë zyrtari i Ministrisë së Drejtesisë që kërcënoi komunitetin LGBT". almakos (in Albanian). 14 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Rainbow Europe".
  28. ^ "KOSOVO | LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey".
  29. ^ "Kosovo turns its eye on Macedonian transgender rights". Pristina Insight. 31 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Transgender Macedonians Hails 'Turning Point' European Court Ruling". Balkan Insight. 31 January 2019.
  31. ^ Dafina Halili (20 January 2020). "LANDMARK DECISION FOR TRANSGENDER RIGHTS". Kosovo 2.0.
  32. ^ "Kominitetit LGBT u ndalohet dhruimi i gjakut në Kosovë". Pa Censurë (in Albanian). 23 June 2018.
  33. ^ "Center for Social Emancipation". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  34. ^ "Lone Gay Bar's Closure Leaves Kosovo Gays Bereft". 13 December 2011.
  35. ^ "Kosovar Minister, Pristina's Mayor Join Gay Pride-Parade". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Pristina. 10 October 2018.
  36. ^ Travers, Eve-anne (10 October 2019). "In photos: Kosovo holds its third Pride Parade". Prishtina Insight.
  37. ^ Bami, Xhorxhina (10 October 2019). "Kosovo Pride Activists Put Law Under Spotlight". Balkan Insight. Pristina.
  38. ^ Travers, Eve-anne (10 October 2019). "Pride Week kicks off in Prishtina". Prishtina Insight.

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