Verdict against Nebojša Bakarec for severe discrimination of LGBT population

Belgrade, 06.07.2012.

Litigation Service of Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) received today the first-instance verdict of the First Basic Court in Belgrade which upheld GSA’s suit and established discriminatory behaviour and severe form of discrimination of the LGBT population on the part of the defendant Nebojša Bakarec, Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) official and assemblyman in the Belgrade City Assembly. Judge Tatjana Lemajić gave the verdict on the basis of articles 11, 12, 13 and 21 of the Anti-Discrimination Law, and furthermore, she prohibited Bakarec from committing further discrimination, as well as to cover GSA’s court expenses.

GSA filed a lawsuit against Nebojša Bakarec because of his article entitled “Second October 2011” published on 16 September 2011 on the website (Vidovdan Magazine), in which he stated that homosexuality was not normal and that it ought to be treated by psychiatrists and psychologists.

During the court proceedings, the defendant invoked the right to free speech and tried to prove that the controversial statements were taken out of context and that there was nothing offensive in the said text, which was actually “well-meaning” and contained no discriminatory terms. Among other things, the defense was based on claiming that just because the defendant thought that this was a wrong “sexual direction” which “is not normal” and “is not a reflection of mental and physical health”, and that just because he thought that members of the LGBT population “need the help of a psychiatrist and psychologist”, does not necessarily mean that he felt that members of the LGBT population were ill!?

It is stated in the explanation of the verdict that the court carefully examined each piece of evidence, as well as the entire controversial article, in the evidentiary proceedings. The explanation also defines hate speech as “every communication which is meant to belittle and scare a person or a group on the basis of their race, skin colour, ethnic and national background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other characteristics, and which contributes to encouraging violence and prejudices towards an individual or a group”, adding that “the fundamental threat of expressing opinions with elements of hate speech lies in the fact that a message with such content aims to cause certain negative consequences to a particular person or group on the basis of their personal characteristic”.

The court also touched upon the subject of the importance of sanctioning hate speech, clearly differentiating between freedom of speech and hate speech. The court believes that discussing so-called taboo subjects in public, analysing events and phenomena, and indicating social movements, are welcome, and so are personal attitudes based on facts. However, reaching conclusions on the basis of erroneously interpreted moral principles and norms in order to create a projected image can be extremely dangerous both for the individual and the society. “Exercising the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech can in this way lead precisely towards the degradation of certain constitutional rights of individuals or groups of people, which every civilised society must sanction.” In addition, the court said that anyone who proclaimed their opinion publicly was obligated to responsibly and conscientiously estimate the line between freedom of speech and hate speech, and that in the proclaimed opinions in the article “Second October 2011” the defendant Nebojša Bakarec violated the prohibition of hate speech by portraying same-sex sexual orientation as a disease and as something “abnormal” and he did so via public media.

Gay Straight Alliance is satisfied with this verdict and hopes that it will be upheld in the second-instance proceedings, thereby becoming final. This case, as well as the case which GSA is trying against Dragan Marković Palma, is of strategic importance because it has to do with abusing the most common social prejudice and falsehood about LGBT people, that they are ill. In addition, GSA feels that statements by politicians and public officials, whether they are in the government or in the opposition, which contain hate speech, ought to be severely sanctioned by the law considering their responsibility for exerting negative influence on the wider public.

As a reminder, Dragan Marković Palma, president of the party United Serbia (JS), member of parliament and former mayor of Jagodina, was found guilty in October 2011 for severe discrimination and hate speech against the LGBT population, because he portrayed different sexual orientation as something abnormal, also via public media.

Info Centre GSA

Opinions of Nebojša Bakarec proclaimed in the article “Second October 2011” because of which he was sued and found guilty for severe discrimination of LGBT people:

… ”And homosexuals can and should, publicly and collectively, be indifferent on account of their wrong sexual direction. Individually speaking, homosexuals should not be indifferent (which does not mean that they should be ashamed) on account of their condition, because it is simply not normal and is not a reflection of mental and physical health. Individually speaking, every member of the LGBT group needs help which no one can force on them. The help of a psychiatrist, a psychologist….”

… ”Individually, each homosexual should want to change his condition, should help himself or seek professional help.”

… ”Also, just because something is not officially marked as a disease, does not mean that it is a reflection of mental health and does not mean that it is not a disorder. Homosexuality is a mental disorder. Homosexuality certainly is not normal, is not healthy.”

… ”The society should offer various options to homosexuals, I speak of entirely voluntary options, for them to recognise their condition. Education and counselling, in particular. Also, the society should not promote homosexuality at all, let alone represent it as ‘equally valued sexual orientation’, as is the case here (that is now forced by the regime, the homosexual lobby and the western representatives of Serbia). There is only one sexual orientation. Only one sexual direction. Everything else is disorders and deviations.”

… ”No, there is no place for indifference when someone sadistically forces upon others their own views on life, in this case, their own deranged sexual direction.”

… ”First of all, this is a parade of shame, because the organisers should be ashamed of what they are doing. They are asking for rights which do not belong to them. They falsely present themselves as victims and as a vulnerable population. They agree to be another means of pressure upon Serbia. They agressively force their disorder upon the society.”

… ”For a start, they should realistically view themselves. Get rid of shame and pride. Face themselves and their problems. And definitely seek help from a psychologist or a psychiatrist. And then they’ll see. The society, on its part, should encourage psychologists and psychiatrists to deal with this with more freedom, regardless of the official attitude of today’s psychiatry and psychology that homosexuality is not a disease.”

… ”Problems regarding homosexuality are being dealt with by domestic and foreign politicians, foreign satraps of Serbia, political parties, political non-governmental organisations, priests, official religious organisations, media, police… everyone, except those most called for and with the greatest expertise – psychiatrists (and other pertinent doctors) and psychologists.”