The pandemic, in addition to the vulnerability of physical and mental health, collective economic and financial difficulties, added another challenge to LGBTIQ + persons, a challenge that was experienced by many marginalized groups and communities to a greater degree.
"Particularly a high demand of LGBTIQ + persons in Kosovo was and continues to be home security and the need for housing. Since during the pandemic LGBTIQ + people were forced to stay in homophobic and transphobic environments, and that these environments in most cases happen to be their homes, their psychological and physical health were at higher risk than ever before. This is supported by the fact that the requests for housing have become alarming during the last two years ", says Lend Mustafa, Project Manager at the Center for Equality and Freedom - CEL Kosova.
As the requests for housing were numerous, CEL Kosova has started providing a safe home for LGBTIQ + people in need. In 2021, this safe house housed five LGBTIQ + people who wanted to escape the pressure and psychological and physical abuse from their families.
"We have provided this service in parallel with other services that have been provided for some time by CEL Kosova, such as legal aid and counseling, psychological sessions, moral support, and legal guardianship for a person under 18 years of age," says Lend. Mustafa emphasizing that housing capacities are limited.
The person who was offered legal guardianship by an employee of the organization CEL Kosova was a 17-year-old transgender girl.
"My gender identity was unacceptable to both my family and my social circle. Psychological abuse reached such a level that I could no longer bear it. "I left home, and even changed city just to be able to live a quiet and authentic life," said the transgender girl who was admitted to the safe house on September 17 this year.
"For the first time I was accepted as I was. For the first time I felt free to manifest my gender identity also in clothing, attitudes and thoughts. "All these basic things were limited to me due to prejudice and constant bullying in every possible environment."
One thing the girl wants to remind other transgender people is that the process of going out openly is long and does not happen all at once. "Open up when you feel safe. Keep up the good content despite the challenges you may face along the way. In the end, just like me, you will find the best way to live with dignity as yourself.
For the case of the minor girl, as well as for other cases with LGBTIQ + minors, CEL Kosova has cooperated closely with the Center for Social Work in order to assist in the daily life of these persons to be as healthy as possible and to create a environment that enables their development and integration into society.
Lend Mustafa indicates that no assistance has been received from any other state institution and in every step of the process of treatment and provision of housing and / or any other services for LGBTIQ + persons, major shortcomings have been identified in institutions due to failure to prioritize social services. by the government and other responsible actors.
"However, there is also good news. The Municipality of Prishtina has allocated a fund for the construction of the first shelter dedicated to LGBTIQ + persons in Kosovo, a project that will facilitate the confrontation of LGBTIQ + persons with these problems in general and consequently their quality of life.
However, he emphasizes that the need for this shelter continues to be alarming and the process should be accelerated as much as possible.
“Many people from the municipality of Prishtina have a request for these services, but the situation in rural areas is much more complicated as in most other municipalities or villages these issues are not discussed at all, and the services are almost non-existent based on the cases which we accepted. In most cases, these people change their place of residence, considering that Prishtina is a more acceptable place for LGBTIQ + communities ”.
In conclusion, considering all the above-mentioned problems and the high ongoing demand, CEL Kosova calls on the new mayor of Prishtina to prioritize and accelerate the construction of a shelter for LGBTIQ + persons. It also calls on civil society organizations and other actors for solidarity, support and taking concrete steps to improve the current situation.