The function of the mayor of the municipalities will not divide the civil society into "obedient" and "disobedient" organizations, but rather work for the good of all citizens.

We, the members of the Platform for Gender Equality, are horrified by the latest threatening rhetoric of the Mayor of the Municipality of Strumica, Kostadin Kostadinov, towards civic organizations that do not agree with his practice of the functions of the Mayor. Kostadinov, through a publicly expressed position on his official page on the social network on June 21, 2023, threatens with a veto and nullity of cooperation with civic organizations that have a critical attitude towards the latest incident in the territory of the municipality of Strumica. Such a narrative for vetoing cooperation with "dissidents" in the civil sector who advocate for the advancement of gender equality and respect for basic human rights creates additional polarization among citizens and encourages hate speech, violence and intolerance. We want to remind the mayor that this kind of rhetoric about "suitable" and "unsuitable" civic organizations was the main political instrument of the alleged autocratic regime, against which we all fought to liberate the citizens and institutions, with the belief that there is no one left to repeat. Equality, equal rights and democracy are the principles that every elected public office bearer is obliged to respect and nurture, and not to practice the principle of excluding some citizens or civil organizations who do not have the same political attitude as him.

 Belief in God and religious choice is a personal and private attitude of every citizen. No, civil organizations, we do not challenge the right to religious choice of any citizen, not even of Mayor Kostadinov. However, as elected by the citizens and the holder of a public office, the mayor was not elected to this office because of his belief or disbelief in God, but because of solving the local problems of all citizens and improving their quality of life. The call for the division of organizations into "eligible" and "ineligible" violates the legal powers of the mayor to include all interested parties in the creation and implementation of local policies, and it particularly threatens the freedom of expression and critical thought of those who think differently from him. . The mayor of the municipality of Strumica with his inscription only incites even more intolerance and hatred towards civic organizations that do not agree with his intimate and personal attitude to faith, and which has no place in the mayor's office. We believe that the mayor, as a holder of public office, should not respond with an attack on every constructive and well-intentioned criticism and by making decisions that are against social democracy.

 

We call on the mayor of the municipality of Strumica to refrain from further criticism of civic organizations that are fighting for the promotion of gender equality, as a basic human right and one of the greatest democratic values of every community. We point out that his actions can only incite even more hatred and violence against a different and marginalized group, for whom the mayor is obliged to ensure their safety and life. They are taking a step back in democracy and getting closer to the EU and do not bring any common good to our country.

Respecting the rights of every person and practicing participatory democracy is the basis for the development of every democratic community, and the right to participatory democracy is guaranteed by the country's Constitution. Hence, we emphasize once again, the Law on Gender Equality is not against any citizen, children and families, nor does it take away someone's rights, but it includes good institutional mechanisms for advancing the demands of women, equality of women and men in the realization of their personal, social, economic and general potential. The law is for a better tomorrow for women, children, for democracy, for equality in society.