The associations HERA – Health Education and Research Association, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and Coalition “Margins” filed a criminal complaint against the Human Rights Protection Association “Od nas za nas” [“United We Stand Tall”] for inciting hatred and discrimination on several grounds. Independently, HERA filed a lawsuit seeking to establish civil liability for insult and defamation.
These steps were taken pursuant to HERA’s reaction, following which the “Od nas za nas” Association not only failed to apologise and retract the lies about sexuality education and about HERA, but they also continued spreading fabrications and presenting inappropriate visual materials related to the piloting of sexuality education in Macedonia. In this way, the “Od nas za nas” Association has been actively promoting and inciting hatred and discrimination for several month now, not only against HERA and the organisations and individuals who support sexuality education as a school subject, but also against children, women and LGBTI people.
With the posts published on their website and on their Facebook page, the “Od nas za nas” Association has supported its disagreement over the piloting of sexuality education in the country with written texts full of false information about the designer and the content of the pilot curriculum and the methods for its implementation. They use photographs and illustrations of scared children and nude children’s bodies with blurred genitals that have been taken from other education systems and which are not part of the handbook materials developed for the purpose of the pilot curriculum here, with the sole intention to trigger fear and disinformation in the public.
That the association are not sincere in their intentions to correctly inform the citizens nor are they consistent in their commitment to equality of all citizens is reaffirmed in their Facebook posts which are premeditated to incite discrimination and hatred. A sufficient indicator for this is the comments under the posts that may serve as an example of insult, ridicule and hate speech based on sex, gender and sexual orientation – comments to which the association never reacted. In circumstances when the rate of violence against girls and women stands at a concerning level, hate speech against marginalised groups and the actions of this association in the online space directly encourage homophobia and discrimination against women.
We expect the Public Prosecutor’s Office to find the criminal complaint admissible and initiate the proceedings that will ultimately set an example that no space in this country can be used to encourage hate speech against vulnerable groups of citizens and to spread lies that may directly affect the health of young people. Moreover, we expect the Basic Court to establish civil liability for insult and defamation for the lies and fabrications circulated by this association.
The obligation to introduce sexuality education arises from several international documents that were signed and ratified by the Republic of North Macedonia, including the recommendations from the last report of the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, according to which teachers, too, should play a key role in addressing gender stereotypes. The introduction of sexuality education has also been laid down in several national strategic documents to which the governments of Macedonia have committed since 2010 onwards. Furthermore, sexuality education in schools has been provided with the new Law on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, adopted by the Assembly in January 2021, as a measure to prevent violence among young people.