On the basis of a referendum held on 21 May 2006, Montenegro declared independence on 3 June. On 28 June 2006 it became the 192nd member state of the United Nations and on 11 May 2007 the 47th member of the Council of Europe. Montenegro’s population is 621,383 (2013 census) and the capital is Podgorica.
I. Legal Landscape
The Constitution of Montenegro defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
Montenegro decriminalised same-sex sexual activity in 1977.
Age of Consent
The age of consent is 14. It is similar for same-sex and opposite sex and was also equalised in 1977.
II. Equality and Non-Discrimination
In July 2010 Montenegro passed a Law on Prohibition of Discrimination which includes sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination (Art 2.).
Article 19 of the law elaborates that: any differentiation, unequal treatment or bringing a person in an unequal position based on gender identity or sexual orientation shall be deemed to be discrimination. Everyone has the right to express their gender identity and sexual orientation. Gender identity and sexual orientation are personal matters of every person and no one can be invited to publicly declare their gender identity and sexual orientation.
The main public institution responsible for the protection and advancement of LGBTI rights in Montenegro is the Office of the Ombudsman. Reports from NGO’s say that lack of progress on the part of the Ombudsman’s office in cases related to homophobia and transphobia remain particularly concerning.
On 10 December 2014, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, LGBTI activists disrupted a speech by the Ombudsman ringing bells as he spoke. They protested against the fact that the institution had ignored cases related to homophobia and transphobia, including an open case filed against the Deputy Ombudsman.
National Action Plans
In 2011 the Government of Montenegro formed the Council for Protection from Discrimination. The Council deals with strategic policies in the area and it is followed by programme and strategic documents. The Council, which is made of five line Ministries and advisors to the Prime Minister, included also a representative from non-governmental organizations who work with the protection of LGBT rights in Montenegro.
On 9 May 2013 the government of Montenegro adopted a five-year Strategy for improving the quality of life of LGBT persons under the auspices of Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic. The strategy sets out objectives, individual measures and indicators of success to improve the legal and policy framework in several sectors, including education, healthcare, law enforcement and social acceptance. The strategy received mixed reviews from LGBTI organizations, some criticising both the preparatory process and the final document.
Since the set-up of the Council and passing of the National Action Plan the judiciary and police staff have received trainings on issues linked to sexual orientation and gender identity.
III. Social Perceptions
Social, economic and political situation of LGBTI people
Social attitudes and perceptions towards LGBTI people in Montenegro remain very negative, hostile and more than once have turned violent.
With the increase of visibility of LGBT activists and LGBT related activities several high-profile incidents have taken place with activists and supporters being attacked.
Polls and Surveys
In a 2013 poll by research centre Strategic Marketing 29% of respondents agreed that “homosexuals are no better than criminals, and should be punished severely”.
In a feasibility study conducted in 2015 by US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) only 6% of Montenegrins gave correct answers to the acronym LGBTI. Meanwhile 30% of them believed heterosexuals were part of the acronym and 35% believed paedophiles were part of the acronym.
In the same report, when the general population was asked how they would react if their child was LGBTI, 47% of them said they would try to help them find a cure. Only a minor 8% would accept them unconditionally and 12% would accept them on the condition that no one else finds out except for family. This finding also suggests that a majority of Montenegrin people have prejudices towards homosexuality as being a disease and as such it needs some type of cure.
IV. Hate crimes and hate speech
In July 2013 Montenegro amended the Criminal Code by including harsher penalties for hate crimes committed due to the victim’s sexual orientation. The Code was amended also to punish bias-motivated speech based on the victim’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
LGBTI activists in Montenegro have been harassed and attacked many times for reasons related to their work and visibility. Stevan Milivojevic, Executive Director of LGBT Forum Progress has been target of such attacks frequently. In his statements he has pointed out that there are major problems in the way the police and public prosecutor handle attacks against the LGBT community. They classify them as “misdemeanours” rather than criminal offences and don’t make use of the existing legislation on hate crimes.
During its research and reporting work on hate crimes and discrimination LGBT Forum Progress has recorded hundreds of incidents against LGBTI individuals. For example for the period January 2013 – May 2014 the organization recorded a total of 218 incidents.
According to the 2015 NDI survey, 51% of LGBTI people have been psychologically and verbally harassed by family, friends, colleagues and other people. A majority of the perpetrators (31%) have been people on the streets and passers-by.
Meanwhile 28% of Montenegrin LGBTI people have been exposed to physical violence, with main perpetrators being people on the streets (45%) and hooligans (32%).
V. Family Rights
Same-sex couples cannot get into any form of legally recognized partnership in Montenegro.
On November 2012 Deputy Prime Minister of the country Dusko Markovic, stated that the government will prepare a bill giving some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Adoption (joint adoption and second parent adoption) and family planning
Official surrogacy for gay couples
The Constitution of Montenegro bans same-sex marriage.
VI. Court Cases
In its latest decision, on the Oliari vs. Italy case the European Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex partnerships are covered by the provision on protection of family life and that States have to guarantee at least the same level of legal protection to same-sex partnerships that they offer to heterosexual civil partnerships, in order to ensure compliance with this right.
VII. Trans and Intersex rights
In 2014 Montenegro established a protocol for legal gender recognition and several individuals have already started the procedure. However, the procedure is still medicalised and involves counselling, hormonal therapy, surgery and sterilisation as a final step. Before the finalisation of the procedure, it is impossible for an individual to change the gender marker in their documents.
The 2010 Law on Prohibition of Discrimination covers also the area of employment. More specifically Article 16 covers discrimination in the field of labour.
Surveys and data
According to the 2015 survey by NDI, LGBTI people in Montenegro believe that the main area where they are exposed to discrimination is employment (37%).
Article 15 of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination elaborates on discrimination in the field of education and vocational training by stating that such discrimination is considered to be making difficult or denying the enrolment into educational institution and institution of high education and the choice of educational programme at all levels of education, expelling from these institutions, making difficult or denying the possibility to attend classes and participate in other educational activities, classification of children, pupils, participants in education and students, abusing or otherwise making unjustified differentiation or unequally treating them, on any ground referred to in Article 2, paragraph 2 of this Law.
LGBT education in schools (current findings and resources)
In 2014 the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montenegro adopted a policy against discrimination for LGBT students and staff, with trainings planned on human rights and LGBTI issues. The faculty designed and adopted the policy in partnership with LGBTI organizations Juventas and Queer Montenegro. Organizations also reported that this was the first such policy of a university nationally.
A 2013 research by LGBT Forum Progress found out that Montenegrin textbooks do not have negative contents regarding sexual orientation, but are mainly ignoring the issue.
The 2013 Strategy for improving the quality of lives of LGBT persons in Montenegro (2013-2018) has become an integral part of the national educational policy and overall educational efforts. Specific aims within this strategy have been to improve human rights dimension in the education system; to improve the quality and practice of the teaching process in relation to LGBT issues and to enhance the democratic culture in schools and respect and acceptance of diversity. Moreover it aims for school authorities to be guided by the legal provisions and for LGBT issues to be treated in meaningful and factual manners.
Homophobic and Transphobic bullying
Montenegrin organizations have recorded several cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by school authorities as well as in the form of bullying and harassment. For example in April 2014 a judge ruled for the first time that discrimination based on sexual orientation had taken place in a high school in the city of Bar. The school management had removed photographs from an exhibition after the artist had publicly declared that he was gay. The Basic Court of Bar declared the school’s action was in violation of the anti-discrimination law and ordered the return of photographs to the exhibition.
Research conducted by Juventas in 2013 with 1,599 secondary school students found out that 44.2% of respondents would not accept a friend from class if they found out that he/she was LGBT. They showed even lower acceptance for members of their own family (54%). What was worrying about the study was that students thought that people who are in contact with LGBT persons can become LGBT themselves.
On the topic of security and bullying, 57.3% of the respondents stated that derision/humiliation and bullying are daily phenomena in the school environment. 16.7% confirmed that there are daily physical attacks of students against each other. 63% of high school students stated that they have heard of other persons being ridiculed for presumably being members of the LGBT community and that they were exposed to insults, assaults and threats.
Article 12 of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination prohibits discrimination based on health conditions: Disabling, restricting or making difficult for a person or a group of persons to get employment, to work, to get education or any other unjustified differentiation or unequal treatment based on health conditions, shall be deemed to be discrimination.
Access to health services
LGBTI people have often faced ill-treatment and discrimination by health care providers. For instance, two reports were filed against health workers employed by the Clinical centre of Montenegro. The first case involved health workers who were spreading hatred towards the LGBT community through social networks. The second case involved a medical worker who verbally offended an LGBT patient during an examination and caused the patient’s post-operative stiches to bleed. A disciplinary commission of the Clinical Center of Montenegro fined the medical worker and the patient also filed a criminal report to the Prosecutor office for maltreatment. The Prosecutors’ office has filed a criminal bill of indictment which was accepted by the Court.
LGBT Forum Progress was managing an LGBT centre up until 2014 but had to close it due to insufficient funding. The shelter provided social services, including accommodation and counselling to LGBTI people expelled from home. Since its opening the centre has been vandalized more than a dozen times. The attacks range from smashed windows to the use of teargas against visitors.
XII. Public Events
Montenegro held its first Pride event on 24 July 2013 in the coastal town of Budva. The event, as well as the following ones, was followed by violent reactions from the public. On 20 October 2013 the Podgorica Pride was also attacked by a violent mob and several anti-gay protesters were arrested by the police. According to reports, there were more than 500 protesters, mostly football hooligans, who hurled rocks and bottles at the marchers who only numbered several dozen people. However the consecutive Pride Parades of 2014 and December 2015 were held successfully in the capital Podgorica attracting on each occasion more than 200 LGBTI people and supporters.
The second pride March organized by Queer Montenegro in November 2014 was attended by around 160 people and was protected by 1,800 police officers who did a very professional job, something the organizers applauded in their speeches.
Attempts in April and May 2015 to organize a Pride March in the town of Niksič were unsuccessful as the Police banned the event over concerns of security threats by hooligans. The event was planned by LGBT Forum Progress and local NGO Hyperion to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known in the country as the Day of Victory over Fascism. LGBT organizations considered this as a failure of state authorities to protect Pride events outside of the capital, Podgorica.
According to a 2012 poll conducted by research centre Damar, commissioned by the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, three quarters of respondents considered it too early to hold Pride marches, while 47% believed they should never be allowed.
Other visible public events
Montenegro hosted the Merlinka festival for the first time on May 2014. The popular festival among countries of the Former Yugoslavia was held with success and no incidents were reported.
XIII. Political Participation and Representation
Cooperation between government and LGBT civil society organizations has been overall positive in Montenegro, with the two parties signing cooperation agreements and civil society organization being consulted on most matters concerning LGBTI rights.
The 2002 Law on the Media of Montenegro explicitly defines sexual orientation as prohibited basis of discrimination.
XV. LGBTI rights movement
Organizations present and active in the country
LGBT Forum Progress is known as the first LGBT group in the country (2011), is based in Podgorica and works for creating a safe, inclusive, and stimulating surrounding for all LGBTIQ persons providing education possibilities, building community, public advocacy, and political participation and increasing approach to different kind of services that quality to life and health.
Kvir Montenegro Queer Montenegro was established in October 2012 and registered in 2013 in Podgorica. It emerged from the informal LGBT group Queer Brigade which was recognized for its grass roots actions in the fields of human rights. The organization consists of long-time activists for human rights and professionals from various levels of social lives and different types of expertise.
Juventas Montenegro – (formerly known as Youth Cultural Centre – Juventas) is a non-governmental organization established in 29 January 1996 in Podgorica. It works on issues related to youth and members of marginalized groups, including LGBTI.
XVI. Emigration / Immigration
LGBTI people leaving the country
Montenegro has granted asylum on grounds of sexual orientation for the first time in 2014 to a gay man from Iran, after finding out that he had been sentenced to death.
XVII. Role of the European Union
On 15 December 2008, Montenegro presented its official application to join the European Union and was granted candidate status on 17 December 2010. Membership negotiations started in 2012.
While the EU has recognized Montenegro’s progress notably in training civil servants, judges and police officers to deal with LGBTI issues, the Commission commented that greater efforts were required from the judiciary, as “criminal convictions for attacks against members of the LGBTI community remain few, while cases are often classified as minor offences”.
The European Commission has also questioned the efficiency of the office of the Ombudsman citing limited resources as the main cause.
XVIII. Montenegro internationally
The Government of Montenegro was the first from the Western Balkans region to host a regional LGBT conference, on 2-4 September 2011, in the town of Danilovgrad. The conference “Towards Europe – Towards Equality” gathered leading global experts on LGBT rights, diplomats, activists and government representatives from across the region with the purpose to discuss issues of visibility and awareness raising as well as capacity building for relevant institutions such as judges, public prosecutors, police etc.
On 11 May 2015 Montenegro hosted the 3rd Ministerial IDAHO Forum titlet “Ending hate crime and violence” sponsored by the Government of Montenegro. The Forum was organized on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia and brought together more than 230 participants from around Europe and the world.
The Montenegrin Government has taken proactive steps in trying to contribute for the safety and protection of LGBT persons globally. Through the structure and functioning of different bodies in the United Nations system it has provided full support to the promotion and better international protection of LGBT rights. The Government has contributed actively also to the work of Informal Network of Governmental LGBT Focal Points.
Cooperation with international partners (CoE, UN on LGBTI rights etc)
Montenegro has been actively involved with the Council of Europe LGBT project, an opt-in programme to help governments develop cross-sectorial LGBT policies and combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Among other things this project led to the opening of an LGBT social centre and the nomination by the Ministry of Health of an LGBT contact persons in every health institution nationwide.
According to the ILGA Europe Rainbow Map, Montenegro is ranked 17th out of 49 countries with 46% of achievement level. This map reflects the national legal and policy human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe and does not reflect the social and cultural realities of the community in the countries.