Monday, September 13, 2010

State Department:

Attacks on Gay Serbs = 'Serious Problems'

The 2009 country report on human rights practices and violations from the U.S. State Department for the Republic of Serbia, which was issued in March, contained a lengthy section on the extreme violence, and constant threats of assault, perpetrated against gay Serbs.

I've excerpted key passages, in an effort to build better understanding among American gays, including myself, regarding the situation for our brothers and sisters in the Balkan nation. Click here for info on the October 8 rally in NYC at the Serbian Mission to the UN.

From the State Department:

Violence and discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons were serious problems. Societal perceptions of homosexual conduct and attitudes towards the LGBT population continued to be negative. Several Serbian-based neo-Nazi Web sites, nationalist Web forums, and Facebook pages hosted anti-LGBT forums and groups. [...]

Members of the LGBT community continued to be targets of attacks. Psychologist and Professor Zarko Trebjesanin estimated that 25 percent of the country's population believed homosexual conduct was a disease that needed medical treatment. [...]

In January Marko Karadzic, state secretary of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, announced that representatives of LGBT organizations experienced constant threats and attacks by "organized profascist groups." During the year there were several attacks against gay clubs in Belgrade and against LGBT individuals on public transportation and on the streets.

On February 26, management of the state-owned Sava Center in Belgrade did not allow the NGO Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) to hold a press conference on its premises. The broader NGO community, the Liberal Democratic Party, the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, and the Social Democratic Union strongly criticized the decision, and the Sava Center director, Dragan Vucicevic, and Belgrade's mayor, Dragan Djilas, eventually issued public apologies to the GSA.

On March 9, a group of approximately five masked individuals broke windows and attempted to enter the Student Cultural Center in Kragujevac during a press conference held by the GSA to present its annual report on gay rights in Serbia. This was the press conference that was supposed to have been held in the Sava Center.

The GSA alleged that the attackers had been emboldened by the government's decision to withdraw a draft law against discrimination from parliamentary procedure in response to pressure from the Serbian Orthodox Church and right-wing groups. [...]

Organizers from the LGBT community cancelled a pride parade scheduled for September 20 after the government proposed an alternate venue away from downtown Belgrade, citing security concerns. In advance of the event, right-wing and nationalist organizations openly threatened violence against the participants. The nationalist movement "1389" also sent a letter to the press offering to buy close-up photographs of the parade participants for future posting online so that "parents will be able to recognize sexually deviant persons and protect their children from this harmful influence." [...]

Although the broadcasting law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, some media carried slurs against LGBT persons. The tabloid press continued to publish articles with hate speech against the LGBT population and interviews with homophobic right-wing groups. The anti-LGBT campaign peaked before the March adoption of the law against discrimination and again before the Belgrade pride parade planned for September. The right-wing organization Nasi continued its campaign against the LGBT community through leaflets and articles on its Web site.

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