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Patterns of discrimination in Montenegro: 2022 survey reflects the need to continue the work towards social cohesion, overcome divisions

Podgorica 2 December 2022
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Patterns of discrimination in Montenegro: 2022 survey reflects the need to continue the work towards social cohesion, overcome divisions

From 2010 to 2022, the estimated percentage of residents of Montenegro who felt discriminated has significantly decreased: by 11.2% for perceived discrimination on the grounds of nationality, by 8.7% on the grounds of religious affiliation and by 7.2% on the grounds of political beliefs. The only area where an increase in perceived discrimination has been noted, as compared to 2010, is discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

These are only some of the results of a new survey on trends in the field of discrimination in Montenegro, presented at a conference in Podgorica today. This is the sixth comprehensive survey of the kind on discrimination conducted since 2010. It has been funded jointly by the European Union and Council of Europe, in partnership with the Ombudsperson Office and the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro; and conducted by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights - CEDEM.

In the introductory remarks, Fatmir Gjeka, Minister of Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, specifically noted the importance of collecting data on hate speech: "We are witnessing the expansion of social networks, that is why it is important to recognise and combat hate speech on social media through legal solutions. The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights will continue to provide strong support to the fight against hate speech".

The nation-wide research is based on a face-to-face survey; the sampling is representative of the entire adult population of Montenegro. A total of 997 interviewees took part in the research during the month of November 2022.

Discrimination has a crucial role in destroying bridges between people, but what is even more important is that it violates human dignity as one of the greatest assets of man and woman throughout the history of civilisation”, said Siniša Bjekovic, the Ombudsperson of Montenegro. As he noted, from the position of the Ombudsman institution as a central body in the fight against discrimination, there is certainly a continuous need to learn as much as possible about this phenomenon, its trends in time, space and social processes, because only in this way can we create assumptions for successful policies and institutional reaction to its various forms, hence, the importance of this survey.

Riccardo Serri, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Montenegro, commented: "The EU is glad to have supported this survey which we hope will encourage institutions to reflect collectively on how to transform data into legal and policy change. At the same time, more efforts are needed to introduce societal changes and social acceptance of groups mostly discriminated against such as LGBTI persons, Roma and others. We need a collective push to repair society from hate and bring about real improvement for the most vulnerable. Having good quality research is also very important, so that state institutions can create and implement strong policies promoting non-discrimination and equality".

According to the research results, an extremely high degree of social alienation was noted vis-à-vis LGBTI persons, and a very high degree of alienation vis-à-vis Roma and Egyptians.

Angela Longo, Programme Manager at the Anti-discrimination department of the Council of Europe made a specific reference to the victim’s perspective – as the European standards require. "The Survey’s results show that we all can – and should – walk an extra mile to protect rights of the most vulnerable in the society, to be able to give clear signals to Roma and Egyptians, to persons with disabilities and to the LGBTI community that discrimination is not tolerated and is to be sanctioned. The reform of the legal framework needs to be completed in this direction, to ensure that the law on discrimination is entirely in line with European standards but also offers a sound sanctioning mechanism against discriminatory behaviours with a strong deterrent effect", said Longo.

Milena Besic, Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) also commented on the data collected related to hate speech. "Hate speech and its consequences in a wider context are alarming, and we witness this every day. Given the polarisation of the Montenegrin society and the continuous incitement of ethnic tensions, the findings of this survey remind us of what CEDEM has been pointing out for years: political elites should be aware that they bear a special responsibility and that their narratives must by no means further polarise our society and encourage hate speech, but on the contrary, they should be those who condemn it."

The survey is meant to help institutions, civil society organisations, media and the public to identify key challenges in reducing social exclusion and combating discrimination and related phenomena, such as hate speech and hate crime, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The study also covers specific issues that have emerged recently, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey was prepared under the action Promotion of diversity and equality in Montenegro, as part of the European Union/Council of Europe joint programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022”, implemented by the Anti-Discrimination Department of the Council of Europe. As part of this action, work is being carried out with partners in Montenegro in line with the 2017 recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance.