Belgrade Pride is held with success

After three years of consecutive bans, Serbia guarantees the freedom of assembly of LGBT people

28 September, Belgrade – Even though under the protection of more than 7000 police officers, maximum attention of the Government and the counter-demonstration of 50+ anti-gay protesters, the Belgrade Pride was held successfully with the participation of 1000-1500 LGBT activists and supporters who marched along the most important institutions of the Republic of Serbia.

Protection was guaranteed by anti-riot police, special police units, armored vehicles and water cannons to guarantee protection from eventual attacks by far-right groups, who had made continuous threats against the Pride.

The Pride was attended by many public personalities, including the Mayor of Belgrade, Sinisa Mali, who told media that: “Belgrade is a free city, which means that it welcomes everybody and that everyone here is free”.

The Prime Minister of Serbia, Alexander Vucic, was reluctant about the Pride taking place meanwhile did not hide his lack of support for LGBT people, by making sure to let the public know his personal opinion on the matter.

During his speech for the media he said “No mirror was broken today and this is thanks to the special security forces showing that they can guarantee safety. The state can, should and knows how to respect the Constitution. We are also grateful for those who think differently, who make up the majority and who decided not to cause incidents.”

“We have not done this to join the EU, or because we respect the gay population more than the church, but because we respect our constitution and human rights, even though this has not been easy or in accordance with our personal convictions.”

“We showed today that the state is able to abide by the rules and secure the rights of everyone. Today we showed that Serbia is a serious state that can secure public order.”

Despite the PM remarks, it is widely believe that the main reason for allowing the pride was further integration of the country in the EU and the continuous pressure of the international community, denouncing Serbia for not respecting human rights, by citing security as a justification.

In 2010 the LGBT Pride was attacked by a large group of ultra-nationalists. As a result the centre of Belgrade was destroyed and more than 150 suffered injuries.

The night before the Pride, on September 27th, opponents of LGBT rights protested in Belgrade under strong Police security.

Serbia, as most of the Balkans, remains a very homophobic and transphobic country, which usually is stirred by conservative religious groups or extreme right-wing parties. Despite the low popularity of the cause in the region, progress has been made in order to improve the legal framework, to implement plans of measures and to raise awareness on the needs, issues and demands of LGBT people in these countries.

Many LGBT activists see the Belgrade Pride as a benchmark to a further improvement of this community’s visibility in the region.