Albania marks day against homophobia

Albania on Thursday for the first time marked an international day against homophobia and transphobia, despite protests in the mostly Muslim country.

Activists of various gay organisations raised tents in capital Tirana and distributed to passersby leaflets aimed at raising awareness on their rights. Foreign diplomats and some politicians joined the event in a show of support.

"The Albanians are homophobes but we demand to be respected," said Altin Hazizaj, president of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) association Pink Embassy.

Nearby, several dozens of people protested against the demonstration.

"The morality of homosexuals represents a danger for the society because it violates healthy values of the family," Fisnik Kruja, who led the protesters, said.

Most of 3.2 million strong Albanian population are Muslims, with a significant Christian minority, both Orthodox and Catholic.

In February 2010 Albania passed a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The gay and lesbian community is little tolerated in many countries of southestern Europe, where several gay pride parades were marred by violence and others cancelled following threats of violence.

May 17 is known as the international day against homophobia and transphobia, chosen because it was on that date in 1990 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

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