LGBT in the Balkans: "Two steps forward and one step back"

Published: May 12, 2014

Dutch MEP Marije Cornelissen (Greens/EFA) – a member of the Parliamentary Group for the rights of homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons—describes the current state of the fight against homophobia and for LGBT rights in the Balkans

During the past EP legislature you have been working on the issue of homophobia in the Balkans. How have things changed over the last five years

A few weeks ago at the European parliament we inaugurated a photo exhibition, mainly focused on gay prides, that we entitled “Two steps forward and one step back.” This, in general, is my vision of things. There has been progress in nearly every country. Take Montenegro: the first time that I visited this country, a Montenegrin minister told me, “Here, we don’t have any problems with discrimination, because here we don’t have any homosexuals. We are a conservative country. There are no people here of this nature.” In response, we began to work on visibility issues. Some people opened an LGBT organization, and the Montenegrin Parliament finally adopted a plan of action against homophobia. I think this is an optimal result. In four years we went from pure and simple denial to the launch of an action plan. Nevertheless, there are still stories like that of Zdravko Cimbaljevi?, who had to leave his country and now lives as a refugee in Canada, because he was menaced.

I was in Serbia for the 2010 Gay Pride parade, which went rather well. However, the fighting between the police and the hooligans was horrible. Since then there has been no Pride parade. On the other hand, there’s been Boban Stojanovi?, a local activist, who managed to appear in Serbia’s version of Big Brother. He did a great deal for the visibility of homosexuals in the country, and even attracted sympathy for them. I hope that the following May 31, they will manage to have a Gay Pride parade. I’ll be there for it.

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