Serbia’s one step forward and two steps back


A gay pride march was planned to be held in Belgrade, Serbia this October. Not surprisingly, it was cancelled. On October 3, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ivica Dačić, declared that the parade was cancelled because of the possibility of “disturbing traffic, health, public morale or the safety of people and property”, refering back to the violence generated by the last parade in 2010. Last year’s gay pride march was also banned by authorities and by the then first deputy president of the government. Aleksandar Vučić’s official word on the decision was that the “government is taking care of its citizens, their property, and will always continue to do so.”   This decision was announced after Patriarch Irinej, the head of Serbia’s Christian Orthodox church urged the government to act out. He said in a statement that such a “parade of shame” would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia.

Serbia’s gay population has faced continuous threats and harassment and the possibility of allowing this year’s march had been regarded by some as a test of Serbia’s pledge to respect human rights as it seeks to please West European countries in a bid for EU membership. However this ban shows an active and intolerant Serbian (sub)culture and image.

Back in March, the Serbian government made an important step forward when it sentenced the leader of a far-right Serb nationalist organization, Mladen Obradović, to 10 months in prison. Obradović was convicted for making hateful statements before the 2009 gay parade in Belgrade, which was also cancelled, and inciting anxiety in the LGBT community. The statement “Čekamo vas!”, “We are waiting for you!”, was seen as a threat by the prosecution, but in his defense Obradović claimed it was a stetement of good will, a proverbial peace offering.

After his conviction Obradović said that the sentencing will only motivate the Obraz organization in its future projects. According to him the sentencing was not for him, but for “Obraz and the youth of Serbia”. Moreover, the slogan “We are waiting for you!” is to be used in future activities as an official slogan. Since the trial, Serbia verbalised plans to ban Obraz, with the organisation being deemed illegal during the meeting of the Constitutional Court of Serbia  in June 12, 2012.  

The gay parade should not be treated as litmus test that reveals the weakness of the Serbian state. Belgrade sells itself as the most cosmopolitan city of the ex-Yugoslav states. The reality is that other cities in the region are far more accepting of their LGBT communities.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Rogers Photography


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