Country Profile – Slovenia
I Legal and Policy Framework
Constitution of Slovenia
Equality before the law based on different personal grounds is enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia. Sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics are not explicitly mentioned, however the article contains a phrase “or any other personal grounds” which also implies different personal grounds.
Slovenia ratified the Istanbul convention on 5 February 2015. On April 7 the Government established Inter-Ministerial Working Group for monitoring the implementation of this Convention.
According to the recent data, more than a half of LGBTI people in Slovenia are uninformed about anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTI people. When stating reasons for not reporting the most recent incident of discrimination, 55% said nothing would happen or change, 33% said they did not want to reveal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and/or sex characteristics, while 44% that it is not worth reporting it – it happens all the time. In the Protection Against Discrimination Act, enacted in 2016, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) is explicitly forbidden. This law is the first legal document in Slovenia explicitly mentioning SOGIE as protected grounds. However, the law does not cover sex characteristic.With the establishment of Advocate of Principle of Equality, Slovenia got the new institution that could be helpful with tackling discrimination. However, for the most part, this institution was underfunded by the Government and therefore could not operate as required by the law and most of the effort in the last two years went to provide the institution with sufficient funding.
Employment relationship Act prohibits discrimination of job seekers or workers on the basis of personal characteristics, which explicitly includes sexual orientation.
Same-sex partnership and family rights
Law on civil partnerships was put in public discussion by Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities in 2014, long after Family law, that would bring civil partnerships to same-sex couples was rejected on referendum in 2012. The law on civil partnership never moved from public discussion and was never put into parliamentary procedure, since later in 2014, opposition party United Left put into the parliamentary procedure amendment to existing Marriage and Family Relations Act, which would make same-sex partnerships completely equal to heterosexual partnerships. In 2015, Zavod Open, Peace institute and Legebitra collaborated on an analysis of Slovenian legislature that showed that same-sex couples are discriminated against in more than 70 laws. In spring 2015, amendment was approved by the Parliament, but later the referendum was held where the amendment was overthrown. Two days later, the Civil unions Act was put to parliamentary procedure by an independent member of parliament and later adopted. The Civil union Act abolishes discrimination in almost 70 laws. In legislature, the difference is still present in access to joint adoption for same-sex partners (it is explicitly excluded) and access for single women to procedures of infertility treatment is strictly forbidden (only married women and men and those living in non-marital partnerships have access). Additionally, the Civil Union Act states that partners in civil union or in non-formal civil union are not eligible to procedures of infertility treatment and procedures of biomedical-assisted procreation. Therefore, the ban to access fertility treatment goes towards same-sex couples and single women. In cases where same-sex couples have children, the parent who did not gave birth to them has to undergo second parent adoption, which is disproportionate when comparing to heterosexual couples, where presumption of paternity for married couples and acknowledgement of paternity in civil partnerships is respected. The Civil Unions Act states that civil union has same legal consequences as marriage and non-formal civil union has same consequences as extramarital union, unless stated differently in the law itself. And the law does not state differently in this case.
According to the recent data, 21% of LGBTI people are not open about their sexual orientation, while 42% are mostly not open. 43% avoid certain places due to safety reasons, while 61% of same-sex couples avoid holding hands in public for fear of being assaulted, 56% believed that about expressions of hatred and aversion. 51% thought that politicians commonly use offensive language about LGBTI people, while 27% viewed assaults and harassment of LGBTI people as routine. Blood transfusion in Slovenia still discriminates men who have sex with men (MSM), in largest proportions gay and bisexual men. Although, they claim, that the regulation is not aimed towards gay men, but based on the fact that MSM are a high risk group for HIV transmission, they stipulate that men who had at any time sexual relation with another men cannot be blood donors, therefore ignoring scientifically based window periods for HIV infections. On the other hand, high risk sexual behaviour of heterosexual persons is not an exclusion criterion for blood donation. It is therefore the conclusion that these exclusion criteria are based on sexual orientation rather than risky sexual behaviour. On local level, Municipality of Ljubljana is actively supporting LGBTI issues, through specifically mentioning LGBTI topics in their strategy for development of social welfare in Ljubljana, and their program LGBT friendly certificate. Apart from that, there is no LGBTI strategy or action plan on national or local level.
Human Rights Ombudsperson
In the previous mandate (2013–February 2019), the Ombudsperson met with LGBTI organizations only on few occasions (January 2015, January 2016); she didn’t show initiatives to tackle the systemic discrimination in Slovenian legalization. Later in her mandate, the Ombudsperson gave an interview, where she expressed sexist and discriminatory opinions that men are losing healthy masculinity and are too feminized, while women are becoming too manly, while all because of women rights movement. Legebitra and the coalition of LGBTI and women’s rights CSOs addressed an open letter to the Ombudsperson and as a response, they were invited to a meeting where she was condoning her words. As a follow-up they managed to get another meeting to present the situation in the field of legal gender recognition. In 2018, the Council for Human rights was established by the Ombudsperson. No LGBTI organizations/sector were appointed to the council.
II Access to justice
In recent years, CSO Legebitra has established dialogue with the leadership of Slovenian Police force and is looking for ways to bring trainings about LGBTI to the police officers. There are no specialized LGBTI contact points in the country.
Protection from violence
Police does not collect data regarding violence that has been committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). The police only records crimes initiated by hate, but it does not differentiate between different grounds on which the hatred is based. The real number of committed violence and harassment based on SOGIESC is unknown, since most of it stays unreported even to CSOs. According to the recent data, 60% of LGBTI people in Slovenia had personally been harassed in the past five years, 78% stated the most serious incident of harassment occurred in person, with 30% not reporting the most serious case of harassment to the police thinking they would not do anything and 23% thinking they could not do anything. 22% have been physically/sexually assaulted or threatened with violence at home or elsewhere, where physical assault was present in 31% of the cases. The percentage of not reporting the case is even higher than with harassment.
There is no specific hate crime legislation in Slovenia. The Criminal Code only prohibits public incitement to hatred in article 297, which has been rarely used at the courts. In the recent meeting with Legebitra, police officials stated they know that violence against LGBTI people happens, it is just not reported in the system and statistic.
The term hate speech is not included in Slovenian legislature. Same as with hate crime, the Criminal Code only prohibits public incitement to hatred in article 297.
III Access to Education
Compulsory, free and universal education is provided for ages 6 to 14 in Slovenia. An additional 4 years of free secondary education are available and not compulsory. The Basic School Act defines general basic education objectives, which include to develop respect for human rights, tolerance and acceptance of diversity.
The Government of Slovenia sets key objectives, but the actual content of the curriculum and school management is up to the schools. Although teaching diversity is mandatory, this is not implemented very well. Sex education is not mandatory and depends on individual teachers. A review of sexual education in all Slovenian schools in 2015 showed that sex education depends on the skills and attitudes on individual teachers and lack any attention to emotions or sexual rights. LGBT CSO are meeting with resistance when trying to organize extracurricular activities in schools.
Violence, Bullying and Discrimination
Slovenia has no national anti-bullying strategy. The attitudes towards LGBTI were relatively positive and a small majority of teachers is for more attention to sexual diversity in schools. But negative media attention for two failed referenda about marriage equality may have turned public attitudes to be more negative and fellow students to be more discriminatory. The EU LGBT Survey says that 13% of the respondents feel discriminated by education personnel and 94% think that measures in school would make them more comfortable. For trans people this last number is 59%. According to the recent data, 55% of LGBTI people hear or see negative comments or conduct against your schoolmate/peer because the person was perceived to be an LGBTI persons, 28% hear or see negative comments or conduct because a teacher was perceived to be an LGBTI persons, 26% experience negative comments or conduct at school because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and/or being intersex, while 14% openly talk at school about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and/or being intersex. Two researches explicitly stated that school environment as dangerous place for LGBTI youth.
IV Position of Trans Individuals
Being a trans persons in Slovenia is still challenging due to traditional value systems, discrimination and social exclusion. Extensive lack of legal and social authentication and legitimisation, structural and societal silencing, intentional exclusion and invisibility of trans persons and topics are some of the biggest challenges. There is a dire lack of education/information of human rights of trans persons among the community, as there is a large lack of inner justification/validation of any identities, which do not enter medical transition, leading to transphobia taking place also within the trans community itself, let alone in general society. Trans persons face a multitude of interconnected pressing issues, among which the most crucial issues are: extensive lack of legal and social authentication and legitimization, structural and societal silencing, intentional exclusion and invisibility of trans persons and topics, ignorance from all relevant stakeholders in regards to working on bettering trans persons’ human rights.
The Register of Deaths, Births and Marriages Act enables persons to have their gender legally recognised (changing their gender marker) and entered in the register. The law provides no guidance as to the criteria to be taken into consideration by the “competent health care provideror medical doctor” in determining whether a person has “changed their gender”, nor does it provide guidance as to which health care provider or medical doctor is competent to issue a certified statement clearly stating that a person has changed their gender. In the past 4 years from 2019, the majority of persons seeking legal gender recognition obtained the mentioned certified statement from a psychiatrist that diagnosed them with gender dysphoria F64. The law does not explicitly require a person seeking legal gender recognition to undergo any compulsory sterilisation procedures. However, the majority of persons obtained a certified statement from their psychiatrist after starting hormone treatment and proving to the psychiatrist that they have been living in their actual gender for a period up to a year or more. Regulation of Execution of the Register of Deaths, Births and Marriages Act defines legal gender recognition as a relatively quick administrative procedure as the application for legal gender recognition is submitted to one of the administration units in Slovenia. After the administration unit issues a new birth certificate reflecting one’s own gender (without reference to the previous gender), the person can apply for new documents. This is accessible only to persons aged 18 or more and with full legal capacity. There are no legal provisions for a third/other gender options. The majority of persons seeking legal gender recognition also apply for name change under the Personal Name Act. This procedure is separate from the procedure for obtaining a new gender marker (described above) and does not require any medical certificate. A person can submit both applications at the same time to the same registry officer. Both applications are then processed simultaneously. Personal names are usually gendered in Slovenia, however there are no provisions requiring that a personal name has to match the gender marker. Access to name change is barred for persons who have been convicted by final judgment for a criminal offence prosecuted ex officio until the punishment is executed or until there are no legal consequences in effect.
There are no such limitations for the changing one’s gender marker. Trans persons who are insured can access all health services including trans-specific health care services for free. If a person is not insured, then they must pay for all health services or access these at one of the three clinics for persons without medical insurance. These clinics do not offer trans-specific health services. A larger issue in Slovenia is the quality of health services, especially trans-specific services. As Slovenia is a small country, there is only one interdisciplinary team for medical gender confirmation. Another issue is the fact that one of two psychiatrists in Slovenia is a gate keeper when it comes to accessing hormones, surgeries or any other trans-specific medical procedures. CSOs TransAkcija and Legebitra received reports from transgender persons that the approach to trans persons by the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists is frequently demeaning, intrusive, offensive and/or based on stereotypes. People are included in preventive healthcare programmes and screening tests based on their personal identification number (EMŠO), which is gendered. Thus after a person has changed their gender marker and obtained a new EMŠO number, they don’t get direct access to these programs, rather they need to make an effort and arrange it by themselves. Persons are also not informed by this anywhere except by CSOs.
Trans affirming health care is still not regulated in the national health care system. There is no protocol for trans affirming health care and no dialogue with the Ministry of Health. The state’s violation of human rights in the scope of legal gender recognition is something that has a strong deciding factor for young trans persons not deciding to enter or postponing entering educational process, as they simply do not want to be in school and not be able to live by using their chosen name and having documents matching their gender identity.
Many trans individuals are not attending or even enrolling into school/university and rather staying at home and not gaining any knowledge, as this is safer for them and better for their mental health, even if they are aware of important consequences that come with not accessing education. Trans people have access to state funded education, however these environments are not safe for them. There are no legal provisions regulating the process of issuing educational certificates reflecting one’s own gender and educational institutions are reluctant to change gender on educational certificates. This is very concerning, as Slovenian language is gender specific and gender is reflected in the title(s) acquired during education and presents a major obstacle for trans persons to either continue with their education or enter the labour market.
V Position of Intersex Individuals
There is no specific legal coverage or legal protection for intersex persons within Slovene legislation, however it could be possible that sex characteristics would be considered a means of protection under the Law of protection against discrimination (2016). There are also no intersex activists. CSO TransAkcija met a few (3 – 5) intersex persons during personal counselling, yet they all came to see them for matters related to their gender identity. Through discussions, it was revealed that they are intersex. Most of them have never heard of the term intersex before, but all had in common experiences of not having access to their medical records, involuntary surgeries, not understanding the course of their body’s development and total silencing from their families.
VI Prevention of HIV and AIDS
HIV/Aids prevention activities have been initiated by CSO ŠKUC Magnus since 1984 on their own initiative, while Legebitra has developed a good practice of of community based testing, advocacy, support and prevention activities. According to research on MSM and drugs, only 44% of MSM reveal their sexual orientation to personal doctors, and only 40% feel they can talk about STD’s freely to their doctor. People living with HIV have reservations to report cases of discrimination against them, due to fear of exposure. In 2018, Slovenia took important steps to prevent stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. First, the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia limited access to information on prescribed medication for HIV to general practitioners only. In the past, healthcare workers were able to access information on their patients’ use of antiretroviral treatment. The decision was made following cooperation between Legebitra, the Department of Infectious Diseases and Febrile Illnesses of the Ljubljana University Medical Centre, and after consultation with the Ministry of Health, national Medical Ethics Commission and other relevant stakeholders. On 10 July 2018, the second instance court in Maribor ruled in a binding judgment that the fact that in 2016, a person living with HIV was refused access to healthcare by a healthcare worker due to their HIV status, was unlawful and discriminatory. The person filed a lawsuit against the healthcare worker in 2017. This was the first court case of its kind in Slovenia. There is existing National Strategy on prevention and managing of HIV and Commission on AIDS meets regularly. LGBTI CSOs are part of this commission. In 2019, University Medical Centre Ljubljana issued recommendations on HIV and healthcare workers on employment of HIV positive healthcare workers and about non-discriminatory treatment of HIV positive patients. There are concerns about immigrants who cross the border illegally and do not request asylum. Since they do not have compulsory health insurance they cannot access HIV treatment. In 2018 PrEP study has been initatied for possible implementation of granting MSM access to newest prevention methods.
VII Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly
Most public events of LGBT community are held in the capital of Ljubljana, where most LGBT organisations are based. These include cultural and activist activities, as well as places of association like clubs and bars. Other cities in Slovenia have no places operated by and for the LGBTI community. Some youth centres in rural environment have recently adopted some LGBT programmes. In 2014, CSO Legebitra organised the first national expert meeting on transgender issues – TransMisija, which is now organised every year in November by CSO TransAkcija. Since its’ establishment in 2015, Legebitra has been cooperating with TransAkcija especially on the issue of legal gender recognition.
VIII Cooperation with LGBT CSOs
Most of LGBT CSOs are funded through projects and programs. The state does not provide core funding or operational funding for LGBT CSOs. In most cases, CSOs are part of specific interdisciplinary commissions (Human rights, Istanbul convention, Council for NGOs etc.). In cases of decision making and consulting CSOs and other stakeholders about legislative changes, based on monitoring by Centre for Non-governmental organisations in Slovenia, Government has breached the Resolution on Legislative Regulation in 54%.