Exposure of MP Aleksandar Martinovic in the Serbian Parliament is not in the spirit of law and equality of all citizens

Belgrade, 26 May 2015

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; Alliance) is monitoring very carefully, out of obvious reasons, today’s debate in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia about the election of a new Commissioner for Protection of Equality on the occasion of the proposal that has been submitted to the Parliament by the parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Issues. The proposal that Brankica Jankovic, who was supported by all political parties in the ruling coalition, should be elected as Commissioner is explained and defended in the Assembly by representative of the authorized proposer Aleksandar Martinovic, MP and Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Issues.

aleksandar-martinovic_foto-medija-centarAlliance’s special attention has been attracted by the discussion between Aleksandar Martinovic and opposition MP Gordana Comic, who, speaking about the context in which in the 2009 the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination was passed and on the basis of which the Commissioner is to be elected, mentioned that back then Aleksandar Martinovic, along with other members of his then opposition party objected to the adoption of this law.

Aleksandar Martinovic’s reply to this remark was more than an unpleasant surprise for the Gay Straight Alliance. The deputy Martinovic said in his reply that the discussion while adopting of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination in 2009 was reduced to the LGBT rights, and that he himself have since then not at all changed his mind about it. Because, Aleksandar Martinovic said that, although LGBT people should have all legal rights, he as a father could not understand the need for the public presentation of a different sexual orientation at the Pride Parade, and that this event provokes people who have different beliefs and is against the moral norms that exist in the society. Although aware that the right to freedom of assembly is a right provided by law to all citizens regardless of their personal characteristics, he goes even further and says that “what law does not prohibit the shame does.” MP Martinovic claims that LGBT rights are not violated, but also expresses his negative attitude towards non-governmental organizations dealing with this issue and the NGO sector in general. He stresses also that there are more important problems in Serbia which should be solved, especially those of an economic nature, than to what the problems of the LGBT population are.

GSA strongly condemns such statements made by Aleksandar Martinovic and considers that they are contrary to the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, as well as contrary to the spirit of equality and tolerance which should be fostered by the parliament and all his MPs regardless of which political option they belong to. LGBT people have absolutely no reason to be ashamed of their sexual orientation or gender identity, as suggested by the MP Martinovic, on the contrary, they have every reason to be proud members of society as much as all other citizens. It is paradoxically that this kind of discussion takes place during the election for Commissioner for Protection of Equality and that such “arguments” are stated by the authorized proposer, which shows a high level of misunderstanding of what human rights are, what discrimination is and what is state of law in general.

Gay Straight Alliance here wants to look back on the argument that could be heard in public often in the previous years, the argument used also by Aleksandar Martinovic which refers to the fact that there are more important, economic issues. The Alliance believes that this also shows enormous lack of understanding for the position of this social group, and that this kind of rhetoric has to stop. Because of LGBT people are not “aliens” that live separately from the rest of society as it can be concluded in this kind of rhetoric. On the contrary, LGBT persons are children, friends, relatives, neighbors, associates of all of us, they are equal citizens of this society who with all other citizens equally share all the good and bad economic conditions in which our country is in and it is in their interest for the unemployment to be reduced, salaries to be increased, corruption to be reduced, and the like, because it reflects on their lives the same way as it does on the lives of all other citizens. However, they also have important issues of their daily security, legal equality, increasing of tolerance and decreasing of the still high social stigma that is directed at them. All this is more than legitimate and constitutionally and legally justified aspiration and struggle, for which the state must take into account regardless of their economic priorities.

Also, Aleksandar Martinovic surely has a right on his personal opinion, but when presented in the Parliament as a representative of the authorized proposer that is not only his personal opinion but has also a lot of weight and carries a huge responsibility of a publicly spoken word. In this sense, it is surprising that there is a lack of reaction by other MPs of the ruling coalition on this Martinovic’s statement, because we are convinced that most of them understand how these statements were in contradiction with the values that they represent, partly because of their beliefs and partly because of the commitment to Serbia’s European integration.

Alliance is sincerely sorry that after 6 years since the adoption of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination it is still possible to conduct this kind of discussion in Parliament, and that in this way the work and undoubted contribution of the National Assembly in the past in regards to human rights of LGBT persons are regressing. That contribution was declared in the GSA’s Annual Report for 2014, whose presentation was exactly in the parliament, and that, had the MP Martinovic found it necessary to attend this presentation he might have understood the inadequacy of his statements about the LGBT population.

Also, we remind MP Aleksandar Martinovic that the Government of Serbia in the previous period also undertook significant steps to improve the position of LGBT population and with its great support and the presence of numerous ministers Pride Parade took place peacefully and without incidents. It is therefore that not even in that sense we can understand these words of the MP Martinovic and what his message is. Does he not support the moves of the Serbian Government when it comes to human rights of the LGBT community or whether this is a message that there is a new situation in which the work of all institutions in general in this area will regress instead of going forward, surely remains a question to us.

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