Belgrade, 28 June 2015
The action “Hate-Free Zone” and the walk from the Republic Square to the Monument to the hanged anti-fascists in Terazije yesterday in Belgrade marked the International Pride Day of LGBT people. This action is being organized for the third year in a row, and in addition to its primary objective – to show the position of LGBT people in Serbia – it also aims to strengthen solidarity with other social groups and point to existing problems in whole society.
The action this year was dedicated to anti-fascism. Before the start of the walk about 100 participants gathered in the Republic Square, including the Commissioner for Protection of Equality Brankica Janković, President of the Parliamentary Committee for Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality Meho Omerović, Deputy Ombudsman Miloš Janković, Head of the Political Section of the EU Delegation in Serbia Luca Bianconi, representatives of the Cabinet of Minister without portfolio responsible for European integrations, representatives of the Office for Human and Minority Rights of Serbian Government, as well as representatives of various national and international organizations.
Participants of the gathering laid flowers at the Monument to the hanged anti-fascists and sent anti-fascist messages. Although unlike the previous two years, this time the action was announced in the media, it still, as before, passed without incident. The gathering was secured by a strong police force, but the city center through which the participants passed was not closed, and the march passed by citizens on the street, just like in the previous two years.
Before the walk started, the Commissioner for Equality Brankica Janković stated to the present media that there have been some developments in previous years in the position of LGBT people, but that a lot of work is still in front of us.
“Representatives of the LGBT community face many forms of discrimination”, said Janković, adding that Serbia as a society has not yet reached the necessary level of openness and tolerance. According to her, the action “Hate-Free Zone” is a good way to draw attention to the problems of the LGBT community, but also all other social problems. “Diversity should unite us”, concluded the Commissioner.
President of the Parliamentary Committee for Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality Meho Omerović said that he feels that a lot has changed, adding that a legal framework and numerous laws have been adopted, and that the state institutions have demonstrated a willingness and openness to discuss all the pressing issues and problems. He said that what is missing is the application and the enforcement of law and respect for every citizen, regardless of affiliation, adding that it must be shown in practice that all citizens are equal.
“We have a problem as a society because we still have forms of fascism. We must fight against it and this day is a perfect opportunity to look at it. Fascism and its manifestations are present today, and rehabilitation of various criminals and rehabilitation of those who served Nazism and fascism could pave the way for the return of these evil ideas. This may mean that tomorrow you open the door for rehabilitation of the politics that these criminals had”, said Omerović and stressed that this day recalls the necessity to support the activities of the civil sector which is often the first to point out the negative phenomena in society.
Lazar Pavlović from Gay Straight Alliance said that the International Pride Day of LGBT people is for the third time marked by the action “Hate-Free Zone”, which is this year also dedicated to solidarity and different social groups. As he said, this action expresses the solidarity and support of LGBT people to other citizens and shows that LGBT people do not live alone and that they are also part of society.
“This year the campaign is dedicated to anti-fascism and what it means today. We support all those in the world and Serbia who are fighting neo-fascism. We are here also as a reminder that millions of people perished during the Nazi Third Reich because of their nationality, political affiliation and sexual orientation, when over 50,000 people were killed just because they were gay“, concluded Pavlović, emphasizing that the fascist crimes must never be repeated.
Activist from the organization Women in Black Miloš Urošević said that the position of all those who are not heterosexual is bad and that the practice is very different from the law.
“When human rights are concerned we are not equal citizens. We would like to remind that during the Second World War homosexual citizens were killed as well, and also to point out the existing tendency in our society, which is the rehabilitation of fascist values”, said Urošević.
Head of EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport in a letter addressed to the organizers of this year’s celebration of Pride Day, expressing his personal support, and the support of the EU Delegation, among other things said:
“All over the world we celebrate this day and we are sending a clear message that all citizens have the same right to dignity and equality.
In this context, the European Union Delegation to Serbia supports the “Hate-Free Zone,” which peacefully draws attention to the need and the obligation to equally respect the human rights of all, including vulnerable groups. This initiative points to the problems of LGBTI people, as one of the most discriminated groups in many countries and urges that they be given support. It must be the aim of the entire society.
We are all responsible and we all have to participate in the fight for tolerance, respect for human rights for all and equal opportunities for all, which also represent the basis on which the EU is founded.”
In a statement on the occasion of the International Pride Day of LGBT people, Ombudsman of Belgrade Katarina Žeželj stated that “the right to equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination are constitutional guarantees, and they are also civilizational achievements, which must not be compromised.”
“Consistency in the protection of equality and commitment to fair treatment of every citizen primarily by the city administration is an essential task of the Ombudsman of the City of Belgrade. Although in the City Ombudsman’s practice so far there have been no complaints regarding the city authorities for discrimination of the LGBT population, the International Pride Day reminds us that freedom from fear and hatred is the basic principle of a society of the future. Belgrade belongs to every single citizen of Belgrade regardless of their personal preferences and the city government must always have in mind this basic principle,” said Žeželj.
This year’s “Hate-Free Zone” was jointly organized by a group of non-governmental organizations: Women in Black, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), Gay Lesbian Info Center (GLIC), Association “Rainbow” from Šabac, Center for Queer Studies (CKS), Association “Hestija”, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) and Alliance of Anti-fascists of Serbia, and “Zone” has been supported in the past three years by numerous institutions, national and international organizations and embassies.
International Pride Day is marked around the world in memory of the Stonewall Revolution – first open riots against systematic arrests, persecutions and harassment of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people by the US government. In the night between the 27th and 28th June 1969, in a gay club Stonewall Inn in New York, there occurred another police raid, which grew into a spontaneous physical confrontation between the police and LGBT people who decided to stand up to harassment and demand that their human and civil rights be respected. The police arrested the protest leaders, used water cannons to disperse the rest, but the demonstrations spread through New York and continued in the next few days, lead towards great positive changes. These protests mark the very beginning of organized activism and the modern-day movement for the successful exercise of rights of the LGBT community in the US and then also in the rest of the world. Pride, in the context of celebrating the international Pride Day, signifies the need of LGBT people to live their life in dignity just like other citizens, as well as to participate in all socio-political processes on an equal footing and not as concealed second-rate citizens with the burden of shame for their own existence.
Info Center GSA
Source: Tanjug, Beta, N1, GSA
Photo: Milan Balinda, NGO Equal Rights