This is the first weekend that almost all coronavirus prevention measures were lifted. You can go to your favorite cafe, to the seaside or take a walk in the park. Jovana and Irena * decided to stay at home. Today, they are paying extra attention to news reports as they want to learn about how Montenegro and the region respond to the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT).

“And that’s about it. We have stopped marking LGBT community days as such. Is there any sense in discussing our position when nothing really changes?” Jovana wonders during her interview with EU Info Center.

On the other hand, they have not stopped celebrating love, which is why they told us their love story. Jovana and Irena met 7 years ago. They say it was love at first sight.

“Life is full of surprises. When you least expect it – out of the blue, out of nowhere – the light of your life shines on you. I met my girlfriend in her hometown. Our eyes met in this gay friendly bar and that was it. We started a long-distance relationship and a year later we decided that she would come to Podgorica and we’d move in together,” Jovana says.

Their love was faced with challenges and obstacles. Not emotional, but administrative ones.

“Bureaucracy and paperwork are becoming more and more of a challenge… We are not recognized by the system. We do get around, we do manage, but it’s all so tedious and spoils the beauty of living. And we don’t want that”, Jovana’s girlfriend Irena says.

It is these very obstacles that should have been remedied by the Law on Life Partnership of the Same-Sex Persons. The first version of the law was drawn up in the scope of an EU project entitled “Contribution to the improvement of the quality of lives of LGBT people in Montenegro” for the period of 2016-2017, and the relevant working group later made it into a draft law. The law stipulates that LGBT people can live in a civil union, inherit their partners’ assets, own property together, be entitled to their partner’s social security and retirement benefits, hospital visitation, raise children together, but also have the obligation to take care of their partner’s child if there is no closer relative to provide care. The legislative proposal also envisaged that the partner of a gay person who has a child be given the right to make a medical decision for the partner’s child in case of an emergency or imminent danger.

However, all of this is still on hold. The proposed law was deliberated at the legislative plenary session, but did not get the required majority. The item was to be again placed on parliament’s agenda, but coronavirus threw a spanner in the works all round, and even postponed the potential adoption of the law. Our interlocutors say that the adoption of the law would make their lives much easier.

“There’s nothing pleasant about being turned down for a hospital visit, because a “female friend” is not entitled to visit a patent. There’s nothing pleasant about drawing up your will at the age of thirty just because you’ve got no other option”, says Jovana as she reflects on how her partnership with another girl is not legally recognized.

“The law was not adopted due to homophobia and political circumstances in Montenegro”

Danijel Kalezić from “Queer Montenegro”, an NGO involved in drafting the law, explains that homophobia and the overall political situation in Montenegro are the main reasons why the Law on Life Partnership of the Same-Sex Persons was not adopted.

“It all seems to point towards Montenegro as a soon-to-be “COVID-19 free zone”, so we might expect that the vote will be recast soon and that the law will be adopted. If that does not happen, we are bound to be victims of political calculations again, and, unfortunately,  Montenegro will be a far from a country where human rights and the rule of law are observed, and a far cry from the goal it claims to pursue, that is, European integration and a society that nurtures European values “, Danijel insists.

Head of the European Integration, Political, Press and Information Section in the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro Plamena Halačeva points out that too often a special day, such as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, is needed so we would get reminded that we do not all enjoy the same rights that many of us take for granted.

“It’s just not right. The last few months have shown us how important it is to take care of each other. Now, more than ever, we should not forget that the fight for the rights of one person is a fight for everyone’s rights,” Halačeva has stated.

Until then, Jovana and Irena fantasize of a special day of their own, when they will have the legal right to say “I do” to each other.

“That day will be a special one for us. After formalities with the registrar are taken care of, we’d go home – our home. We would be able to plan our future with a sense of relief and in a much simpler way! We would enjoy and relax for a few hours and then hit the club, meet up with our family and friends would’d be waiting for us there together with a few of our favorite DJs and we’d party for a long time, maybe for days”, the two girls in love share with us their reveries.

The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated on May 17, in memory of the decision of the World Health Organization on removing homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases on this very day back in 1990. This day is marked every year to raise awareness about LGBT rights and draw attention to the violations of their rights around the world.