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Belgrade prepared for Pride
The first and last time gay activists staged a Pride parade in Belgrade, skinheads and Serbian nationalists attacked the demonstrators. The thugs shouted, “We do not want gays in Serbia,” and “Long live the Serbian kingdom.” The authorities failed to protect the protesters from injury.
Eight years on, gay activists are determined to hold a second Pride parade in the Serbian capital, scheduled for this Saturday. Pride organiser Majda Puaca, 29, believes there have been considerable developments since 2001.
“In the previous eight years, there have been many changes in the social-political context of the country. The Ministry of Human Rights has started to function according to what it was made for, with his secretary being in constant contact with LGBT groups. There is a new institution — an ombudsman — protector of the citizens, who openly supports us,” Majda said.
“Also an anti-discrimination law was adopted this year which explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Majda explained this new anti-discrimination law can potentially be used to prosecute homophobic attackers.
“If anything goes wrong during Pride, this law will be used to enforce justice on violent attackers. In the past, all homophobic attacks were prosecuted as ‘violent behaviour’. Serbia previously didn’t recognise that these were cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” she said.
With the support of the authorities, Majda hopes for a peaceful protest.
“There is a political will of the state to protect the event. Both the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Belgrade mayor have said so publicly. We are planning our safety with the police,” Majda told SSO.
“However, homophobic mobilisation is already happening. Ultra-right wing and neo-Nazi groups have already started calling for violent attacks on Pride. But they are known to police, who will do their maximum to stop them, using force if necessary.
“Even with all the police and other safety measures, Belgrade Pride remains a high-risk event, but we have complete confidence in the police that this time they will protect us, in our basic human right of peaceful public gathering.”
Belgrade Pride aims to encourage, support and motivate LGBTIQ people, their families and friends to join the struggle for equality, to show together that they will not tolerate discrimination.
“We wish to send a strong message to the general public that human rights of sexual and gender minorities are a legitimate part of human rights and that no matter what people think of homosexuality, they don’t have the right to discriminate,” Majda said.
“One of our important goals is to set up a platform for all the future Prides in Serbia and to break the psychological barrier for reclaiming public space after the trauma of 2001.”
At Sydney’s Mardi Gras this year, in keeping with the international theme, Jovan marched draped in the Serbian flag.
“I felt brave because I was the only gay Serb who dared to wave our flag. That feeling of freedom felt amazing,” Jovan said.
“I wore the flag to support gay Serbs everywhere. I believe that coming out openly is the best way to change people’s attitudes. I support the Pride parade in Belgrade and wish them all the best.”