Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Serbian government displays rainbow flag for LGBT Pride Day

Rainbow flag hanging from Serbian Ministry, 27 June
By Paul Canning

In a visible representation of the Serbian government's commitment to LGBT equality, a rainbow flag was hung 27 June, International Gay Pride Day, from the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government.

Head of the Directorate for Human and Minority Rights Nenad Djurdjevic explained that the flag display was intended to show that Serbia is ready to improve the status of its LGBT population.

Djurdjevic said that the Ministry will work on the implementation of the Law on discrimination that should "enable those belonging to the LGBT community to feel as equal members of the society".

"We will work to raise awareness of citizens of Serbia so that we could improve the rights of LGBT people and raise them to the level that exists in developed countries", he said, noting that in Serbia LGBT are highly marginalised.

Writing in the Serbian newspaper Blic 27 June, the US Ambassador Mary Warlick said that she is extremely encouraged by the government's attitude but LGBT people remain at very high risk of violence.

Warnick attended the 2010 Pride March in Belgrade where a huge contingent of police was required to protect marches from a large demonstration by far-right and religious protesters who subsequently rioted against police.

She writes:
"In last year’s poll 14 percent of interviewed people said that violence and beating were legitimate ways for elimination of homosexuality. Many members of the LGBT populations who were victims of crime are not going to the police in fear of making the matter even worse. A lot more has to be done so that members of the LGBT population feel safe at their homes and in the streets."
"In the name of the USA Government and on the occasion of the Month of the LGBT Pride, I hope that the year of 2011 shall be the year which shall bring more equality, justice and hope to all people in Serbia."

Serbia as well as Croatia, where a pride march suffered a viscous attack in Split 11 June, are candidates for the expansion of the European Union, and their treatment of LGBT people is a crucial factor in whether they will be admitted.

Jovanka Todorović Savović of the Serbian LGBT group Labris said that whilst the symbolic display of the rainbow flag was welcomed it wasn't a substitute for the right of assembly and that a Pride March was planned for September.

Serbia continues to be a source of a 'flood' of asylum seekers to the European Union, an unknown number  of which would be LGBT. The numbers have led to threats that visa-travel between Serbia and the EU could be reinstated.
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