Thursday

23rd Mar 2023

Belgrade gay pride a 'milestone'

Gay people in Serbia held a march in Belgrade on Sunday (28 September) in what has been described as a “milestone” in the country's history.

The LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) community was able to walk and celebrate along a two-kilometre stretch in the nation’s capital without incident.

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  • Scene from Pride in 2010: Serbia remains a conservative society (Photo: Heinrich Boll Foundation)

Reports say up to 1,500 people joined the pride event, which was flanked by several thousand anti-riot police. It was Serbia’s first gay pride parade since 2010.

“It is a milestone in the modern history of democratic Serbia,” said Stefan Fule, EU enlargement commissioner.

He added that the parade marked a “substantial improvement towards the effective exercise of LGBTI rights”.

The enlargement commissioner had last year criticised Serbia’s government for slapping a ban on the parade for the third year in a row.

Belgrade’s decision to allow the parade on Sunday is seen by some as a tactic to help ease its accession negotiations with the European Union.

Serbia was granted candidate status in 2012 with the formal start of its accession negotiations kicking off earlier this year.

The country is largely conservative, with one poll in 2010 suggesting some two-thirds of the population view homosexuality as a disease.

The head of Serbia’s Orthodox Church also described Sunday’s parade as immoral and said it was “violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from [western] Europe”, reports AFP.

Ultra-nationalists and other far-right groups had made threats in the lead up to the march, but were nowhere to be seen amid the heavy presence of police, armoured vehicles, and water canons.

Foreign and local dignitaries and politicians also joined the march.

Deputy prime minister Kori Udovicki, Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali, and Serbia’s minister of culture Ivan Tasovac were present.

The head of the EU's delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, US ambassador Michael Kirby, and German Green MEP Terry Reintke also made appearances.

Prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, for his part, said he had “better things to do” and did not attend the parade.

The relaxed atmosphere on Sunday was in stark contrast to the 2010 parade, which descended into chaos with 150 people injured following attacks from hardliners.

"I feel phenomenal. Our efforts of the past three years have borne fruit," organiser Boban Stojanovic told Reuters.

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