Serbia Cancels Gay Pride Again
October 4th, 2012
For the second year in a row, Serbian authorities banned all gatherings planned for gay pride in Belgrade in Saturday. The announcement followed demands made earlier in the day by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej that the parade and an associated exhibit, “Ecce Hommo” be shut down by authorities. According to Belgrade radio B92:
Goran Miletić, one of the organizers, told B92 that they had received an explanation from the MUP (The Interior Ministry) “which said absolutely nothing except to quote a legal article which stated that it had been appraised that security could be jeopardized during the gathering”.
“If the state capitulated last year, this is an open coalition with hooligans considering that representatives of the executive branch of government completely adopted the arguments of extremist organizations, and even their demands,” said Miletić.
The order places Serbia in a clearly awkward position in regard to its relationship with the European Union, which Serbia has been seeking to join. Serbian authorities took great pains to paint the decision in terms of public safety rather than an infringement human rights. Prime Minister Ivica Dačić told B92:
:First of all, this decision was made in order to protect the lives of citizens, including members of the police,” Dačić said and added that only for securing today’s exhibition, “which causes great distress to the public because in it Jesus Christ is mentioned in a provocative context”, at least 2,000 policemen must be engaged.
The prime minister added that at this moment, “the last thing Serbia needs are clashes and victims”, and concluded:
“It is very important for the credibility of Serbia to show the strength of the state. And this does not amount to any kind of capitulation before some who think they can use their paramilitary or any other threats to endanger the holding of public gatherings – it means that it has been assessed that, at this time, serious violations of public peace and order could occur, which would seriously jeopardize interests of the citizens and the state as a whole.”
US Pushes Hard on LGBT Rights Around the World
December 6th, 2011
The Obama administration has issued a flurry of documents and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a groundbreaking speech on the need for protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world. It began this morning with the White House memorandum directing American international agencies to take action in countries where LGBT abuses are taking place. That was followed by fact sheets from the White House and the State Department outlining the new policies as well as past accomplishments. Of particular interest is the State Department’s description of its engagement in Uganda over concerns about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Alongside Ugandan civil society’s strong and sustained outreach to parliamentarians and the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and advocacy of other governments, U.S. Government advocacy against Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill established a precedent for the United States, the international donor community and civil society to collaborate to counter efforts to criminalize same-sex conduct. [Emphasis mine]
While activities in Uganda are mentioned, Africa was not alone in receiving the State Department’s attention over the past few years. Also mentioned are Jamaica, Slovakia, Indonesia, Guinea, Serbia, and India. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton gave what has been described as a groundbreaking speech in Geneva in advance of Human Rights Day this Saturday. I wasn’t able to see the speech and hope to have the transcript as soon as possible. (Update: It’s here, and it’s a doozy.)
It remains to be seen how the actions today will be reported in the popular media and what the response will be in countries which stand to be affected by today’s announcements. But past events does give us a clue as to how today’s developments are likely to be received in world capitals where LGBT persecution is either official policy or the social norm. Russia had earlier denounced American diplomatic protests over a proposed bill in St. Petersburg which would prohibit LGBT advocacy in public, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak followed that with a suggestion that the St. Petersburg proposal could be made a federal law. In Africa, following comments from British Prime Minister David Cameron warning that countries which prosecute LGBT people could see their foreign aid cut (a warning that was later modified to say that the aid would be redirected to NGO’s instead), African leaders, including those who oppose LGBT oppression, warned that the statement could backfire on efforts to head off legislation which would severely increase penalties against LGBT people. African LGBT advocates also warn that if changes in foreign funding force cutbacks in governmental services, the local LGBT communities would feel the brunt of the blame, making the work of LGBT advocacy much more difficult in countries where the prevailing belief is that homosexuality is a Western import.
None of that is to say that these pronouncements from the US and IK aren’t unwarranted or improper. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as they say in Africa, when elephants fight, the grass suffers. Since Cameron’s announcement in October, there has been a measurable uptick on African newspaper articles mentioning homosexuality popping up through November and December in my Google Alerts for the continent, and those articles are rarely positive. The Ugandan Parliament revived the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the end of October, and the Nigerian Senate greatly increased the penalties in a bill which makes same-sex unions a felony in November.
Now to be clear, neither action was a response to Britain’s announcement; both events almost certainly have occurred anyway. But if anyone had been inclined to speak out against those two bills before, the current politics now makes that all but impossible. No African politician has ever lost influence by standing up to “meddling” by foreign and (especially) colonial powers. And no politician anywhere in the world — east, west, north or south — has survived the taint of being accused of colluding with foreign governments, no matter how manifestly untrue, unjust, or an irrelevant distraction those accusations may be.
In the short term, these announcements are likely to exacerbate the situation. That is just a simple fact of life, but pointing that out isn’t to say that this is not a good change in direction. It is merely to say that we will need to be forewarned and prepared for the inevitable reaction which will come of it. Fasten your seat belts.
Serb Authorities Cancel Belgrade Pride
October 1st, 2011
Serbia’s Interior Minister Ivaca Dacic announced yesterday a total ban for Sunday’s Pride parade in Belgrade, along with all other public events planed for the weekend. Citing last years violence by anti-gay nationalists and skinheads, another government official cited planned violence by “hooligans” and said that Serbia’s National Security Council ordered police to cancel the event due to “extremely serious security threats”. Goran Miletic, the Pride parade’s organizer, condemned the move as a capitulation:
“We are shocked,” he said. “With this the state capitulated … a democratic state should be able to guarantee two hours of security to its citizens.”
Interior Minister Dacic said that more than 100 police officers were injured in rioting that broke out during last year’s march. Those riots caused widespread damage throughout Belgrade, and the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party was burned. Dacic estimated that as many as 5,000 security personnel would be needed to protect this year’s Pride.
Serbia has run into several obstacles in its bid to join the European Union, including relations with its former Yugoslav neighbors, ongoing disputes over Kosovo, and concerns about Serbia’s commitment to protecting human rights. Opposition leader Cedomir Jovanovic said the ban “demonstrates the government’s cowardice and weakness.”
Serbian Police Clash With Anti-Gay Rioters at Belgrade Pride
October 10th, 2010
The first major Gay Pride parade in Serbia since 2002 triggered massive riots as anti-gay extremists clashed with thousands of Serbian riot police who were deployed to protect the marchers in downtown Belgrade today.
Rioters chanted “The hunt has begun!” and “death to homosexuals!” as they set fire to parked cars, smashed store windows and overturned garbage dumpsters in several of the repeated clashes with thousands of police officers, who had sealed off the streets around the march.
According to the Associated Press, rioters also fired shots and threw Molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party. Rioters also attacked other political party headquarters and the state television station, as well as other unrelated targets in other parts of the city. Gangs of skinheads also reportedly hijacked a bus, ordered the passengers and drivers out, and pushed the bus down a steep street where it crashed into a pole at a main square. Looting also broke out in several shops downtown. Most of the violence took place after the Pride march had ended.
Dragan Djilas, the mayor of the Serbian capital, put the estimated damage at more than one million euros.
According to police, 78 police officers and 17 civilians were injured, 101 were detained and 53 remain in custody. Police say that at least one gay rights activist had been beaten unconscious. According to UK Gay News’ Andy Harley, who was in Belgrade to attend the march, a participant from Switzerland has been taken to a hospital with injuries after being attacked in the street two hours after the Pride march ended.
Pride organizer Lazar Pavlovic called the Pride march a “historic event,” and noted that the violence and immense security measures illustrated the dangers that gay people in Serbia face every day.
“It is a shame for me to march, to stand for what I am, and to have thousands of cops protect me from hysterical nationalists,” said Milena, 36, a lesbian activist.
Susanne Simon-Paunovic, a German married to a Serb who attended the rally said: “It was more like death march. The atmosphere was terrible.”
According to AFP, about a thousand people took part in the Pride march. The parade participants included several international observers as well as a well-known Serb actress, Mirjana Karanovic. Speakers at the event included the European Union’s delegation chief in Serbia Vincent Degert and Human Rights Minister Svetozar Čiplić.
One participant identified only as Nikola, said, “After the beatings, after living in fear, this is what we needed, to become visible.” That visibility continues to be a source of danger for LGBT people. Serbian ultra-nationalist groups threatened to photograph those taking part in the march and post them on a website for retribution.
Belgrade’s B92 radio and television reports that after the Pride march ended, police escorted participants safely out of the area. UK Gay News’ Andy Harley said that the area cordoned off by police was peaceful, “with most of the Pride participants unaware of the battles going on.”
The Serbian Orthodox Church condemned the parade in a statement on Friday, warning that such a move would “provoke others to act violently“:
“Behind this verbal triumphalism and boastful public appearance and the gay marchers, is actually internal anguish, despair and grief of the marchers, a clown cry for lost moral and spiritual balance and existential insecurity,” [Metropolitan] Amfilohije told weekly Pečat.
“One should never lose sight of eternal symbolism of Sodom and Gomorrah: all towns and people in them were destroyed, burned in sulfur and fire precisely because they turned natural use of male and female into perverted and unnatural,” he pointed out.
Amfilohije also condemned violence, saying that “”violence does not cure or triumph over evil, but instead multiplies it.” B92 has published a photo of an Orthodox priest speaking to rioters surrounded by police. B92 does not indicate whether the priest was trying to calm the situation or inflame it.
The parade, which was the first one held since 2002, was seen as a test of Serbia’s readiness to become a more modern and open society after years of warfare in the 1990s that was fueled by nationalism and ethnic hatred. The 2002 event, which drew 300 participants, was also marred by massive violence. Unknown attackers beat up Mario Kovač, the Croatian theater director who was to serve as Master of Ceremonies. Skinheads also attacked a club popular with the gay community, beating several of the patrons before police arrived to break up the fighting.
Smaller pride gatherings were held with little fanfare in 2003 through 2005. Last year’s attempt at a more prominent parade was canceled after the government said it could not guarantee the safety of participants.
Serbian president Boris Tadic condemned this year’s violence and vowed, “Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed.”
If there is an encouraging sign, it is that the police were vigorous in protecting the rights of LGBT people to hold a peaceful march in the capital. Serbia has aspirations for joining the European Union, and its observance of human rights and protection of minorities is a crucial element to its possible acceptance into the Union.
Update: One Pride marcher praised Belgrade police, saying, “The police were without question the heroes of the day. It makes me angry that some of them were injured, some of them seemingly seriously hurt.” Linda Freimane, a co-chair of International Gay and Lesbian Association (IGLA) Europe’s Executive Board, also praised Serb authorities: “Today, the Serbian authorities proved they are serious in their respect for everyone’s right to exercise their fundamental rights, and for European integration.”
Serbian Gays Ask Church To Condemn Anti-Gay Violence
July 16th, 2010
Serbian gay group has asked to meet with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, to seek his help in curbing anti-gay violence. The Gay-Lesbian Info Center says in a statement posted on the group’s website that gay people “are suffering violence on a daily basis” and that many assailants justify attacks with religious beliefs.
The church has not responded to the request. Serbia is predominantly Orthodox, and the church holds considerable influence in the country. Last year’s planned Pride was canceled over threats from extremists.
Guess Who Else Isn’t On Board With the U.N. Resolution to Decriminalize Homosexuality
December 5th, 2008
Mark, at Slapped Upside the Head, has a good take on yesterday’s news that the Vatican is opposing a U.N. resolution calling on member states to rescind laws outlawing homosexuality — which in some countries includes the death penalty. We discussed the Vatican’s intrinsically disordered logic here. Mark has his own take here.
There are a lot of countries which have already signed on to the declaration, including: Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Those last three are rather surprising. Also surprising co-sponsors are three African countries: Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. That’s quite an impressive list.
So, who’s missing? Well, let’s see. Oh look: the United States and Australia.