Until 1994, homosexuality in Serbia was considered a criminal offense. If you were a man, you could end up in jail for a year. If you were a lesbian woman, it only counted as a misdemeanor. The country entered the new millennium as one of the most homophobic countries in Europe with the bloody consequences of Belgrade’s first gay pride march in 2001.
Yet, as early as 2017, Serbia had its first openly lesbian prime minister. Two years later, Ana Brnabić became the first head of government to have a child with a same-sex partner during her tenure. You might think the country has become the most gay-friendly destination, but the reality is far from it. Same-sex partnerships remain elusive, especially when it comes to marriages or the adoption of children.
“Our country with our lesbian prime minister is the prime example of pinkwashing,” a Serbian activist said on condition of anonymity. Their colleagues in Bosnia face the same problems, while neighboring Croatia and Montenegro have passed similar laws, following the recommendation of the European Union.
“I’m not a fan of marriage as an institution, but I would like to have the right to choose. If they [hetero couples] have the right to choose, and I don’t, how can I feel comfortable? It is important to have the right to choose whether or not to form a community with a partner, whether or not we agree with the current definitions of marriage, family and family values, ”Branko brulibrk told FairPlanet , an LGBTQI activist from Bosnia.
NO MARRIAGES OR CHILD ADOPTIONS ALLOWED FOR SAME SEX COUPLES IN SERBIA
Although wary due to the broken promises it has received over the past 15 years, the community welcomed the announcement made last November by the new Serbian Minister for Human Rights and Social Dialogue, Gordana Čomić , which plans to pass all missing legislation, including laws on gender equality, same-sex unions and non-discrimination.
“The three proposed laws are unconstitutional, contrary to common sense and directed against the will of the majority of citizens, tradition and identity,” says the Coalition for the Natural Family. And they’re not the only ones who believe it.
The public debate on the bill on same-sex partnerships took place in February; an evaluation followed and it is now submitted to the Council of Europe for advisory expertise. It should be discussed in Parliament by the summer.
The law does not involve the marriage or adoption of children, but issues such as the right to visit a partner in hospital, health insurance through a partner and the inheritance of real estate or pension after death. However, it appears those who oppose it are deliberately using populist rhetoric, claiming that the law endangers the traditional family.
OPPONENTS OF THE LAW DELIBERATELY DISTRIBUTE MALINFORMATION
The strongest opposition comes from the Serbian Orthodox Church, which says the bill has raised serious concerns, is unacceptable and that “it is unacceptable to equalize same-sex unions with marriage and family ”.
“The vast majority of the proposed provisions are contrary to the Gospel of Christ and to the overall experience and practice of the Church on which the Serbian people, as well as all European civilization, are spiritually and morally founded”, said the Church said in a press release. release after filing complaints with the government.
A signature battle between public figures who support or oppose the legislation has also taken place. More than 200 right-wing public figures believe existing laws on specific issues should be changed, and under no circumstances should a new law be enacted, claiming it is a step towards marriage and adoption of children.
They called on the government to prevent the passage of the law and called on the public and traditional religious communities to “react to defend the right to liberty and the future of the nation”. Right-wing politicians have called for a referendum, intentionally manipulating the public because they know the constitution does not allow for a referendum on human and minority rights. collected 1,600 supporting signatures.
POPULISM AT ITS BEST
Some confusion arose from populist President Aleksandar Vučić, whose Progressive Conservative Party has held absolute power for a decade, when he said he would veto the law.
“The Constitution refers to the Family Law, which defines marriage as a legally regulated union of a man and a woman. Therefore, I would not be able to sign the law on same-sex unions, and I would return it to the National Assembly. Vučić told the daily Blic.
“It would not be the first time that the president has refused to sign an act and that the Constitutional Court acts differently afterwards”, replied Minister Čomić.
Although the LGBTQI community in Serbia is ideologically divided between those who have stuck with pure activism (and have their pride march in June) and those who are moving closer to politics and sponsorship (and holding their parade in September), the struggle for equal rights is their common ground.
University professor Jelisaveta Blagojević says she has a wife and a son. “We are a family. It is clear to me that they [right wing supporters] I want to keep this family story only for the heterosexual matrix, but reality denies it, ”she told local media.
Image: Brian Copeland