EU has a role to play in tackling Serbian homophobia

Published: September 12, 2010

Men beat a gay activist in Belgrade, during the city’s first pride parade in 2001. Photograph: Mulan Putnik/EPA”Cekamo vas.” The message, sprayed on walls across downtown Belgrade, is simple but effective: “We’re waiting for you.” The messages seem vague, but the identities of their targets – and of those who paint them – are obvious to all who see them. They are a message for those who would think to stage a gay pride parade in the city: think again.

Belgrade’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community last attempted to hold a pride parade in September 2009. From the start, it looked a hopeless task. Threats were made, anti-gay leaflets handed out across the city; extremist groups threatened to storm the parade if it went ahead, to send a message that homosexuality was not welcome in Serbia. The city government and the police decided, somewhat spinelessly, that they could not adequately ensure the safety of the participants, and the parade was cancelled.

In fairness, they had good reason to fear for the safety of the parade: they had only to think back to 2001, when the first attempt to hold one had ended in tragedy. As the parade progressed through central Belgrade, a crowd of 2,000 protesters converged upon it. Many held banners: “Serbia is for Serbia, not for homosexuals”; “No to immoral homosexuality and depraved orgies”; “Orthodox for a morally clean Serbia.”

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