Coalition Against Discrimination Annual Award Ceremony

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Award ceremony of annual prizes to individuals who contributed to development of culture of tolerance and struggle against discrimination in Serbia in 2014 will be held on Tuesday, 21st April 2015 at Media Centre Belgrade (Terazije Street, number 3, I floor), begining with 10:00 hours


The award is assigned by the Coalition Against Discrimination, whose members include Center for Advanced Legal Studies, Civil Rights Defenders, LABRIS-Organisation for lesbian human rights, Network of the Committees for Human Rights in Serbia – CHRIS, The Association of Students with Disabilities, Gayten LGBT, Praxis and Regional Centre for Minorities.

The awards are assigned annually to persons, institutions or organisations with outstanding contribution in defending, advocating and promoting the culture of human rights and equality in Serbia. The awards include five categories: public authorities, civil society, media, business sector and public persona.

The Coalition members agree that, despite a succesful and peaceful Pride 2014, Serbia still has a lot of work ahead in building an open and tolerant society, based on principles of constitutional democracy.

We invite all media, civil society organisations and individuals, especially our award winners from previous years, to join us on the ceremony and make the event more festive.

SUPPORT THE CHANGE!

Remind the Ministry of Education and other relevant institutions of their obligation – Demand them change and exclude discriminatory content against LGBT people in high school textbooks!


Do you know that 9 Biology, Psychology and Medicine high school textbooks contain explicit discriminatory content in 18 places, which are not only related to human rights violations but also are breaches of constitutional and other laws in Serbia?

Log in to make your statement against this discrimination:
http://www.diskriminacijaudzbenicima.org.rs

Your call of appeal will be directly sent to 30 relevant institutions.

In 2011, within its mandate, Commissioner for the protection of Equality formed the working group for analysis of primary and secondary school curriculums and teaching materials and issued the Recommendations that were sent out to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, to the National Education Council of the Republic of Serbia and to the Department of improving the quality of education in order to remove such discriminatory content from these materials and practices, while promoting tolerance and respect for human rights.

Those Recommendations were never applied!

In accordance with what is stated above and thanks to the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Serbia, Labris initiated a new analysis of the content of these high school textbooks in order to see if there were any changes regarding the discriminatory content.
The analysis was carried out through qualitative content analysis from a sample of 26 textbooks for Psychology, Biology and Medicine, which were used in the 2013/2014 school year.
The Ministry of Education is a signatory of the Strategy and Action Plan for the implementation of strategies for the prevention and protection against discrimination for the period from 2014 to 2018 and are obligated to fulfill the planned activities and changes – which has not been done.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO URGENTLY CHANGE THE DISCRIMINATORY CONTENT?

Because:

    • It is in violation of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia
    • The content is not in accordance with facts provided by the science community
    • It supports the stereotypes and prejudices in society towards LGBT people and indirectly encourages violence and discrimination against LGBT people
    • Young LGBT people are in a sensitive period of growing up and are in adolescence. They are often in emotional pain and socially excluded as sick and socially deviant due to such discrimination. Based on indicators from various studies, young people, because of rejection and/or the misunderstandings of the family and society related to their sexual orienation or gender identity, are:

about 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide

about 5.9 times more prone to depression

  • The discrimination causes difficulty in the work of teachers who work in high schools, whose mission is to work on tolerance and respect of differences and the prevention of violence in schools.

Marriage Equality Comes to Slovenia

Today, HRC commended the government of Slovenia for passing legislation that will make it the 21st nation to grant full marriage rights to all of its citizens


“We commend the elected representatives of Slovenia for passing such historic legislation ensuring the nation’s LGBT citizens receive the rights they deserve, and we congratulate the LGBT activists and advocates who helped make this momentous day possible,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.

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Slovenia’s national parliament approved the bill by a vote of 51 to 28. The bill will be sent to President Borut Pahor to sign into law.

Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, as well as England and Wales in the United Kingdom, have marriage equality laws that have gone into effect. In addition, Finland is set to extend full marriage rights to their LGBT citizens in the coming year.

The situation for LGBT people around the world varies widely, as some countries embrace equality, while in others, LGBT people continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution and violence.

  • Same-sex conduct is criminalized in 76 countries
  • In 10 countries same-sex conduct is punishable by death
  • So-called anti-LGBT “propaganda” laws inhibit LGBT advocacy in three countries
  • Same-sex marriage licenses are issued nationwide in 21 countries
  • In 2014 there were over 200 documented reports of transgender people murdered in 28 countries. There continue to be countless undocumented cases of violence against transgender people throughout the world.

HRC

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, apologized to LABRIS – Lesbian Human Rights Organization for discriminatory statements about LGBT persons

Serbian Foreign Minister met with representatives of the organization Labris and the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and apologized for committing acts of discrimination


Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has met on Saturday, February 21, with representatives of Labris, Jovanka Todorovic and Dragana Todorovic, in the Office of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and apologized for his earlier statements which were qualified by the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Nevena Petrusic, as discriminatory, upsetting and humiliating. At that time Minister Dacic was the Prime Minister of Serbia.

Photo: Beta

Photo: Beta

Labris representatives have discussed the consequences of discriminatory statements with the Minister Dacic (one of which was that homosexuality is “not normal and not natural”) from September 23, 2013, which he made before the Pride Parade, which was scheduled to take place in Belgrade on September 28, and was ultimately banned for alleged security reasons.
Apart from this, the discussion was focused on everyday problems of LGBT persons, which are, according to numerous surveys, are one of the most discriminated social groups in Serbia.

Minister Dacic has expressed remorse for his statements, agreed with representatives of Labris that discrimination against LGBT persons is unacceptable and expressed willingness to intensify cooperation with Labris in implementing international normative standards for the respect and promotion of human rights of LGBT persons, and in particular in implementing Council of Europe Recommendations.

“I am sorry that my statements sounded as an insult to the LGBT population. I had no intention of offending anyone,” Dacic told media reporters on Saturday, February 21, after the meeting with representatives of Labris.

Together with 14 organizations and 11 individuals, Labris has filed a complaint to the Commissioner for Protection of Equality who ascertained that the dignity of LGBT individuals has been violated, and recommended Minister Dacic to invite a Labris representatives to a meeting.

In 2013 Minister Dacic has said that members of the LGBT population are equal with other citizens and that one should not go to the other extreme and ingratiate oneself with them. “I feel no hatred towards them. I just cannot accept that that is normal, because that is not natural,” Dacic said, posing the question: “Should I become gay so that this be pro-European?”
This is the first time since the adoption of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in 2009, that the perpetrator of discrimination met with the complainant, which is a big step forward towards the development of a culture of dialogue and respect for human rights in Serbia.

Lithuanian MP Warns LGBT* Human Rights Defenders about “Massacre [as] in Paris”

On January 18th, 2015 the Member of the Lithuanian Parliament Algirdas Vaclovas Patackas publicly warned the Board Chair of the national LGBT* human rights association LGL that the organization is “playing with fire” and that its activities might result in a “black, repulsive and totally unacceptable response” similar to that which “happened in Paris.” The statement by the MP was issued as a response to the organization’s humour-based suggestion to store 10-litas notes as LGBT* souvenirs


A.-Patackas-356x210In the message, initially published by the right-wing news portal alkas.lt, the MP accused the LGL’s Board Chair Vladimir Simonko of “provocation” that might result in “dead bodies”. “For black, repulsive and totally unacceptable challenge-provocation you might face no less than black, repulsive and totally unacceptable response. Because in Lithuania, as in every land which calls itself Christian, not everyone turns the left cheek; there are many, who believe in the principle “an eye for an eye”, i.e. the main cause of what has happened in Paris” – warned the MP. As a result, the MP Patackas urged the Board Chair of the national LGBT* organization to “cancel the provocation”.

LGL has immediately approached the national law enforcement officials with the request to investigate comprehensively the truthfulness of the alleged threats to the organization. According to the LGL’s Board Chair Vladimir Simonko, the news were highly disturbing. “Despite the fact that this message is directed to me as the head of the organization, all staff members view this message with great unease. If these allegations are real, we place our trust in the national authorities. If this is some sort of a “joke”, I believe that the MP Patackas has very poor sense of humour, which is totally unacceptable in the light of recent tragic events in France,” – said Mr. Simonko. LGL is of the position that in case the MP Patackas has any information about planned attacks against the organization or its staff members, he must share this information with the law enforcement officials immediately.

The MP Patackas is the author of the controversial draft amendment to the Lithuanian Criminal Code, removing criminal liability for homophobic hate speech. The proposed amendment states that the “criticism of sexual behavior or sexual practices, convictions or beliefs, or persuasion to change this behavior, practices, convictions or believes cannot be per se qualified as harassment, humiliation, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discriminate.” On December 16th, 2014 the draft bill was returned to its drafter for the improvement.

Thereby the translation of the full message by the MP Patackas is provided in English.

“A. Patackas. A warning to citizen Simonko

An announcement appeared in the press that LGBT and his leader, that is Simonko, intends to distribute ten litas banknotes with a playful note that Darius and Girėnas are gay. If two men standing next to each other seem to appear to be gay, there is a name for it – paranoia. „LNK“ television also spoke about this intention in an overly playful, supposedly indignant tone, and mocked exasperated Gražulis, but not the author of this provocation. This piece of news, however is not playful, it threatens with no less miserable consequences as the recent massacre in Paris. Everything there also began in a playful manner but ended with dead bodies, because words hurt like a knife.

Will there be another attempt to “expand the boundaries of freedom of speech“? We say in advance – it will fail. Lithuania is not France where in the Parisian Bastille and the communes the heads of Marie Antoinette and Robespierre Marije were chopped, many priests were killed, nuns were desecrated, and where the secularist state recently revealed its black side. Lithuania was not all that (except Carine and Soviet periods, but the occupants did it). Lithuania has its heroes, noble men to respect by every normal Lithuanian for their deed and especially for their testament for young Lithuania that will remain of eternal value.

This is why citizen Simonko must be warned – stop, it is neither witty nor playful – you are playing with fire. For black, repulsive and totally unacceptable challenge-provocation you might face no less than black, repulsive and totally unacceptable response. Because in Lithuania, as in every land which calls itself Christian, not everyone turns the left cheek; there are many, who believe in the principle “an eye for an eye”, i.e. the main cause of what has happened in Paris. (emphasized by author) And hardly anyone in Lithuania would bear an inscription “I am Simonko“. Fight to satiety for your colored rights – every citizen is entitled for it by democracy – but in a civilized, non-provocative way.

And still, who are you, citizen Simonko, to dare to make fun of a fellow citizen, his sacredness and values? Who taught you and what values were instilled by your family? You live in Lithuania, but you speak Lithuanian with an accent, apparently you first heard of Darius and Girėnas when their images appeared on the litas. But you are a citizen of Lithuania, so you must always act responsibly and civilly.

So, wishing namely citizenship based on common sense, but insisting to cancel the provocation, disrespectfully – the author.”

Source: LGL

Statement on Nigel Warner’s inclusion in New Year’s Honours List 2015

ILGA-Europe extends our warmest congratulations to close friend and colleague Nigel Warner who was included in the New Year’s Honours list, announced on 30 December 2014.


The awards recognise an individual’s outstanding personal achievement, service or bravery and are usually presented by the reigning British monarch, following advice from the government. Nigel was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his tireless work in support of the LGBTI community, both in Europe and internationally.

Photo: ILGA Europe

Photo: ILGA Europe

Nigel has contributed to ILGA-Europe’s work throughout much of its existence, with involvement in the early campaigning of the organisation in the late 1970s and 80s, acting as treasurer from 1986 to 1993, preparing its first applications for consultative status at the Council of Europe and at the Economic and Social Council of the UN in the late 1980s, and helping develop ILGA-Europe into a professional, funded organisation in the early 2000’s. He served on the board of ILGA-Europe as treasurer from 2000 to 2005. He currently serves as ILGA-Europe’s Council of Europe Advisor, a position he has held since 1998.

Nigel led ILGA-Europe’s work in advocating for the world’s first-ever comprehensive intergovernmental agreement on LGBT rights, namely the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on LGBT rights in 2010. Paulo Corte Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, remarked: “In his work at the Council of Europe, Nigel has earned the respect of fellow advocates and Council of Europe staff alike for his sound expertise, his thorough analysis and constructive contributions. But even more importantly, he ensures that the voices of LGBTI people are heard in all debates. His dedication is unparalleled.”

Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe Executive Director, also commented: “Speaking as a colleague, Nigel is someone I admire hugely. He has been at the forefront of the LGBTI movement for decades and continues to be an unwavering supporter for LGBTI activists across Europe, consistently sharing his knowledge and empowering them to advocate for their own rights. And speaking as a friend, rarely have I met someone of such integrity, kindness and humility. This is why Nigel is a role model for so many of us”.

Heartfelt congratulations to Nigel from the staff, interns and board members of ILGA-Europe. We simply cannot thank you enough.

Source: ilga-europe.org

Wartime rape victims should not be subject to jokes

A talk show host on the Prva srpska televizija (First Serbian TV Station), Ivan Ivanović, mocked victims of rapes committed during and in relation to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in his show broadcast on November 30th, 2014, thus seriously offending thousands of rape victims in BiH. Human rights organizations demand that Prva srpska televizija and Ivan Ivanović make a public apology to victims of rapes committed during the war in BiH, and that they show the movie Grbavica, which discusses the fate of women who were raped in BiH, at the usual time dedicated to this talk show, in order to indicate respect for these victims.

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The host of the “Evening with Ivan Ivanović” talk show made the following statement in the part of the show dedicated to jokes (8:25 min): “The number of Bosnian women who have given birth to children before the age of 15 has increased since 1995. And then people say that ‘the blue helmets’ did not do a thing over there.”

Ivanović’s “joke” reinterprets one of the most horrific episodes of the war in BiH in a morbid and offensive manner, showing the mass rapes of young girls and womenas a funny episode in the deployment of international peace keeping troops in BiH, at the same time seriously neglecting a number of judicial facts about the victims and the extent of wartime rapes of women in BiH.

Human rights organizations point to the fact that Ivanović’spossible reference to allegations about the rape of Bosniak women in one of the Serb concentration camps during the war by members of the UN peacekeeping troops, who have not yet been prosecuted, represents a particular insult for the rape victims, who have not seen justice to date.

Autonomous Women’sCenter
Center for Modern Skills
Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies
Center for Cultural Decontamination
Civic Initiatives
Civil Rights Defenders
FLIPSUR – Feminist List Against Wartime Rape in Countries of Former Yugoslavia
Humanitarian Law Center
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
I.A.N. International Aid Network
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM
Regional Minority Center
Victimology Society of Serbia
Women Against Violence
Women in Black
Youth Initiative for Human Rights

Draft Amendment XXXIII to the Constitution of Macedonia – Protection of Marriage or Limitation of the Right to Private and Family Life?

With this letter, BABELNOR Network calls on the international community and ask for public reactions that would prevent the constitutional definition of marriage and civil unions exclusively as unions between one woman and one man


The Government of the Republic of Macedonia has proposed changes to the Constitution
including Amendment 33 which defines marriage and civil unions, but also any other
form of registered life partnership, exclusively as a union between one man and one
woman.
Below is the text of Amendment 33 that regulates marriage, civil unions and any
other registered form of life partnership:

AMENDMENT XXXIII

1. Marriage shall be a life union solely of one woman and one man.
2. A civil union, or any other registered form of life partnership, shall be a life union
solely between one woman and one man.

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On the 7th of July 2014, seven proposed constitutional amendments, including the
Amendment XXXIII that was meant to provide for a ‘clearer definition’ of marriage as a
union between one man and one woman entered into Parliamentary debate along with the
other proposed constitutional amendments. These amendments, however, contained only
the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The definition of
civil union as a union between one man and one woman was not included in the proposal
but was nonetheless included in the draft amendments, which was a flagrant violation of
the procedure for constitutional changes and an audacious abuse of the decision of the
Parliament to proceed with the originally proposed constitutional amendments. On the
27th of August 2014, the seven draft amendments were passed in national Parliament and
there, the proposed Amendment XXXIII contained definitions of civil unions, or any
other registered forms of life partnership
as life unions solely between one woman and
one man.

Therefore, we are writing you to express our concerns regarding the draft constitutional
amendments in Macedonia which include the definition of marriage and civil unions
exclusively as unions between one man and one woman. We are deeply concerned about
LGBTI rights in Macedonia for there are numerous instances of human rights violations
and absence of effective protection and persecution by the state authorities. Therefore we believe that this change will only enhance discrimination, violence, and hate speech
toward the LGBTI community. The exclusive constitutional definition of marriage,
civil unions, and any other form of registered partnership is discriminatory toward
LGBTI people by restricting their right to family life and all the civil and social
rights arising from it.

The contemporary international jurisprudence has already taken a position on this issue.
In the case of Schalk and Kopf v. Austria (No. 30141/04, ECHR 2010), European Court
for Human Rights stated that the relationship of a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a
stable de facto partnership is falls into the category of ‘family life’, just as would be the
case with different-sex couples in a comparable situation. In the case Vallianatos and
others v. Greece
(29381/09 and 32684/09), the court ruled that the legislative exclusion
of registered civil same-sex partnerships presents a violation of Article 14 (Prohibition of
discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (Right to respect for private and
family life). In its Opinion on the Fourth Amendment of the Fundamental Law
(Constitution) of Hungary, from 14-15 June 2013, the Venice Commission clearly stated
that a formulation with similar restrictions to family life was not aligned with Article 8 of
the European Convention on Human Rights, calling upon the reasoning provided in
Schalk and Kopf v. Austria (see above). In other words, the state is truly completely free
to define marriage as a form of union and the forming of a family (Art.12, ECHR), but as
soon as it begins granting other rights and privileges inherent to marriage to de-facto
partnerships that cannot be considered as ‘married’ under national laws (registered
partnerships), then and sexual orientation and gender identity of such individuals must
not be an obstacle to the exercise of those rights.

If this effort of the Macedonian Government gets voted by the national Parliament and
incorporated into the national Constitution, it will create precedence in European law on
restricting the right of family life through the use of Constitutional mechanisms. This
presents a danger to the development of human rights in Europe, because it is a model
that can easily be later applied in other national contexts. To be more specific, the
constitutional restriction of international human rights standards is not regulated equally
among states in Europe. Those countries that claim supremacy of domestic constitutional
law over international law can impose constitutional restrictions that are not aligned with
international human rights law and standards, and in the same time are superior in the national legal system. In return, this can make the reaction of the International
community much more difficult and much less fruitful.

We call for and encourage all our international friends, human rights and democracy
advocates to demand from the Macedonian Parliament, President and Government not to
support Amendment 33 of the constitutional changes. Also, we call for and encourage all
our partners to inform their respective Governments of the violations that this
Amendment can impose on the right to family life, and the consequences it can have in
other national contexts.


Labris is a member of Babelnor – network for LGBTQ*-youth


LGBTI children have the right to safety and equality

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) children are often victims of bullying and violence in schools, at home and via social media. This has a serious effect on their well-being and prevents openness about their personal identity. Like all children, LGBTI children are entitled to enjoy human rights and require a safe environment in order to participate fully in society.

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Responses to bullying

According to a survey carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), at least 60%  of LGBT respondents had personally experienced negative comments or conduct at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 80% had witnessed negative comments or conduct as a result of a schoolmate being perceived as LGBT. Given the frequency of negative behaviour directed at LGBT students, it is not surprising that the survey also found that two out of three LGBT children hid their LGBT identity while at school.

This situation is unacceptable. It puts a heavy burden on LGBTI children, many of whom are at high risk of suicidal behaviour. According to an Irish study, over half of LGBT respondents aged 25 or younger had given serious consideration to ending their lives. It is clear that bullying affects LGBTI children’s educational achievement and impedes their right to education without discrimination, in addition to their right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

School should be a safe environment for all students. The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that homophobic speech in educational settings is not protected by the European Convention’s guarantees of free expression. Confronting homophobic and transphobic intimidation requires continuous and focused attention from schools and educational authorities. UNESCO and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) have provided detailed guidance on effective responses. Ireland has introduced legal requirements and a mandatory policy for addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, along with a concrete action plan.

Right to information

Children have the right to receive factual information about sexuality and gender diversity. Anti-bullying efforts should be supported by education on equality, gender and sexuality. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education has highlighted children’s right to comprehensive sexual education without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is necessary to question stereotypes about gender and sexuality in schools. The European Committee of Social Rights has found a violation of the European Social Charter with reference to teaching materials which were “manifestly biased, discriminatory and demeaning, notably in how persons of non-heterosexual orientation are described and depicted”.

The protection of children is sometimes evoked as an argument to block the availability of information about LGBTI people to children. The Venice Commission has stressed that such arguments fail to pass the essential necessity and proportionality tests required by the European Court. There is no evidence that dissemination of information advocating a positive attitude towards LGBTI people would adversely affect children. Rather, it is in the best interests of children to be informed about sexuality and gender diversity.

Family and homelessness

Many LGBTI children experience prejudice and violence within their own families. The acceptance of LGBTI children is still difficult for many parents and other family members. The FRA survey found out that 35 per cent of young adults were not open about being LGBT within their family.  In Montenegro, I visited a shelter and a social centre for LGBTI persons where I met young people who had been rejected by their families and forced to leave their homes. The NGO running the facility was engaged in mediating between the families and LGBTI persons, and had achieved family reconciliation in some cases.

When they are forced to leave their families, young LGBTI people are at high risk of becoming homeless.Research from the UK suggests that up to 25% of homeless youth are LGBT. The current economic crisismakes it even harder for homeless young people to find a job and shelter. When LGBTI youth cannot rely on the support of their families, the result can be long-term marginalisation with a high cost to individual health and well-being. The Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK runs both temporary shelters and more permanent accommodation options for young LGBTI persons along with social and vocational support. Municipal and state-funded services for homeless people should also strive to welcome homeless LGBTI youth.

Right to self-determination

Trans and intersex children encounter specific obstacles when exercising their right to self-determination. As minors, trans adolescents can find it difficult to access trans-specific health and support services whileintersex children are often subjected to irreversible “normalising” treatments soon after birth without their consent. The legal recognition of trans and intersex children’s sex or gender remains a huge hurdle in most countries. Children are rights-holders and they must be listened to in decision-making that concerns them. Sex or gender assigning treatment should be based on fully informed consent.

LGBTI children share many common problems. In their “Vision for 2020, trans and intersex youth in Finland gave high priority to the right to grow up in a safe environment, as well as the right to information. They also stressed “the right to a legally secured life as an equal member of society” and called for inclusive equal treatment legislation.

Empowerment and protection

This vision for the future should be today’s reality. Governments already have a duty to empower and protect LGBTI children. Respect for children’s views and the protection of the best interests of the child are clearly laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Human rights apply equally to LGBTI children without discrimination.

LGBTI children should be able to exercise their participatory rights in all areas of life. Access to information is a basic condition enabling participation and decision-making. At the same time, LGBTI children must be protected from violence and bullying at home, in schools, on the internet, in sports and in public spaces. Child protection services, children’s ombudspersons and the police should make particular efforts to include LGBTI children in their outreach. Governments need to take systematic action to improve the safety and equality of LGBTI children.

Nils Muižnieks

 via coe.int

Serbia Holds Its First Peaceful Gay Pride March in More Than a Decade

Serbia hosted a gay pride march Sunday, the first peaceful pro-LGBT demonstration in the country in more than a decade


The march through Belgrade, the nation’s capital, was held under heavy police security to prevent a repeat of the violence that marred a 2010 demonstration in which hundreds of people were injured.

An estimated 1,000 gay activists and their supporters carried rainbow flags and signs — some bearing the message “Pride. Normally.” — while marching along eerily empty streets with anti-riot police units positioned on almost every corner. The gathering was patrolled by several thousand policemen, who blocked off central streets and avenues throughout Belgrade.

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After the unrest in 2010, Serbian authorities banned pride marches, citing security risks and the threat of violence by far-right groups and ultra-nationalists. Only minor scuffles were reported this year and a group of 50 hooligans stoned a police cordon set up to prevent them from approaching the demonstrators. A local photographer was slightly injured during the scuffle. Another group threw firebombs at a local television broadcaster, slightly injuring two policemen.

Police choppers equipped with cameras flew above the area, and a number of businesses, including a McDonald’s restaurant, pulled down their shutters to avoid a repeat of the damage that resulted when riots broke out during Serbia’s 2010 pride parade. Belgrade police said 50 people were brought in for questioning before and during the march.

“This is just a start,” said Goran Miletic, one of the organizers of the march. “Next year, we will have less policemen, and less every year, until we will all walk free, with no need for such security.”

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Marija, 25-year-old student, came with her best friend to “show that not only gays support the pride.”

“I hope that next time, even more people — gay or straight — will come out to show that we are all equal,” Marija said.

Local media reported that members of special anti-riot police unit beat a brother of Serbian conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and two members of his security team as they tried to pass through a cordon despite warnings.

Speaking to reporters after the march, Vucic said he was “personally sad” about the incident, but refused to elaborate.

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Vucic said Sunday that “there must be no violence during the pride as Serbia respects its laws and constitution.”

“No one is allowed to jeopardize the others, no one should use violence against anyone else and the state’s job is to prevent it,” Vucic told reporters ahead of the march.

A number of foreign diplomats attended the parade, including the EU delegation chief Michael Davenport. For the first time ever, several Serbian ministers and the mayor of Belgrade joined the march.

“For the first time, the [government] institutions have publicly supported the organization of the pride and media reports were more favorable for the LGBT community,” one of the organizers, Boban Stojanovic, told reporters Saturday.

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On Saturday, the ultra-nationalist far-right group Dveri organized an anti-gay counter-march in central Belgrade. No major incidents were reported during the protest, which lasted several hours and was heavily secured by the police.

The head of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, spoke up against the gay pride, saying it was “immoral” and “violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from (western) Europe.”

via VICE from Serbia