In the last two decades enormous progress has been made in furthering the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and other identifying persons (LGBTIQ+) in Kosovo. The movement has gained recognition, made progress in improving the legal framework and gained visibility and some understanding among people. Meanwhile, the anti-gender movement remains a real threat to LGBTIQ+ activists in Kosovo and the region. It threatens their rights to marriage, having children, access to healthcare, economic opportunities and social acceptance.
In discussing how the anti-gender movement has affected lesbian activists, KWN Executive Director Igballe Rogova said, “Let’s call this anti-gender movement what it really is: It’s a patriarchy movement”.
Powerful men seeking to maintain their power and positions of privilege are financing the anti-gender movement to reinforce patriarchal values, framed as “traditional, family values”, which often undermine women’s rights, bodily autonomy and contribute directly to male power over women and violence against women.
To address this strong, well-financed patriarchal movement, “We have to unite [and] do more together,” Rogova said. She emphasised the importance of women being in solidarity with each other.
Rogova also shared her personal story of how patriarchy had affected her. During a panel on “LBTQ+ Women’s representation in conservative/homophobic/transphobic societies”, she shared how media “outed” her publicly without her consent. She shared the pain she felt when her friends working in media betrayed her by writing a slanderous article about her wedding.
Rogova made it through this difficult period in her life with the support of her family and fellow women’s rights activists. “My support is family, friends and the movement,” she said. “So, let’s stay together. Let’s mobilise together. Let’s criticise patriarchy instead of each other.”
As a feminist activist, Rogova said that she has three aims: to engage men as key allies in challenging patriarchy; for younger generations to take the lead, as they know how to reach new members of the movement; and to establish solidarity among women.
The regional “LBTQ+ Women’s Conference Empowering HerStory” on 24 Nov. was part of a regional conference on “the state of play of LGBTIQ+ rights in the Western Balkans and Türkiye on 23-25 November, organised by the Centre for Social Groups Development (CSGD) and the Centre for Equality and Liberty.
During a celebration of CSGD’s 20th Anniversary as an organisation defending LGBTIQ+ rights on 24 Nov., CSGD awarded Rogova with an official recognition for her contribution to advancing the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons in Kosovo. Rogova was one of the first outspoken activist for LGBTIQ+ rights in Kosovo and the region and has been a staunch supporter of LGBTIQ+ activists, organisations and legal changes to defend their rights.