Conference on LGBT rights held in Montenegro; Organizer and host – Montenegro Government

The first conference on LGBT rights hosted and organized by a government of a Western Balkan country was held from 2nd to 4th September this year in Danilovgrad, Montenegro. The conference „Towards Europe – Towards Equality“ was organized by the Government of Montenegro in cooperation with the international academic conference „Justice in the Balkans: Equality for Sexual Minorities“, with the aid of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Belgrade.

At the beginning of the conference, in his opening speech the Vicepresident of the Government of Montenegro and the Minister of Justice, Duško Marković, among other things said: “Sexual orientation and gender identity represent an indivisible component of every person’s personality and must not be a basis for discrimination and abuse. This is the basic postulate of the anti-discrimination politics of the Government of Montenegro and this event represents only the beginning of activities which we are going to implement in the promotion of the fight against discrimination and the protection of human rights, including the rights of LGBT people. Our strategy is based on knowledge, patience and responsibility, on the gradual formation of a social atmosphere of equality and freedom for all differences. Unity in differences – that is not only the European supranational motto, it is also Montenegrin national credo”. He pointed out that the Government of Montenegro recently formed the Council for protection from discrimination, at the head of which is the Prime Minister Igor Lukšić. The Council will deal with strategic policies in this area, that will be defined by a programme document. In the formulation of this document, as a member of the Council, a representative will also be included from non-governmental organizations which deal with the affirmation of LGBT human rights in Montenegro. Furthermore, Marković informed those present that Montenegro has been chosen for the first beneficiary of the project “Fight against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, implemented by the Council of Europe (CoE).

Besides the Vicepresident Marković, at the opening of the conference also spoke: Leopold Maurer, the Head of the EU Delegation in Montenegro; Sue K. Brown, the US ambassador to Montenegro; Laurent Stokvis, Royal Netherlands Ambassador in Belgrade, and Kenneth Sooley, Counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade.

The Conference gathered leading global experts on LGBT rights, western diplomats, guests from the region, high officials from Montenegro and officials in Montenegrin government institutions, with the purpose of creating a forum of understanding the significance of Pride Parades for the LGBT community, as well as how this event can successfully be organized in Montenegro, and in order to provide training in the area of LGBT rights for judges, public prosecutors, police and other officials, and to start a dialogue on LGBT issues in Montenegro.

Within the panel discussion “Pride Parade – Montenegro initiative and experiences of other countries”, the representatives of Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) – Lazar Pavlović, president of GSA, and Mirjana Bogdanović, executive director, – also spoke at the conference. Furthermore, in the panel “Structures at the national level for promoting equality and fight against discrimination”, one of the speakers was Zorica Mršević, law professor from the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade and a member of the Advisory Board of GSA.

The representatives of GSA also had the opportunity in many meetings and through conversing with the present officials of Montenegro, to emphasise the importance of a regional component and cooperation in the improvement of human rights of LGBT people, as well as the necessity for a dialogue and cooperation with the civic sector on this issue.

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