Serbia’s Lesbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. | Photo: Belgrade Security Forum / Flickr
Members of Serbia’s LGBTI community have said that the country’s first openly LGBTI prime minister is not welcome at the country’s annual Gay Pride parade.
Activists are attempting to prevent Prime Minister Ana Brnabic from attending after calling her work on progressing LGBTI rights in Serbia ‘disappointing’.
She is among a group of politicians targeted by the ‘Say No’ campaign, launched by activists from the Gay Lesbian Info Center (GLIC), according to BBC News.
The campaign aims to block politicians who are seen as not doing enough for LGBTI rights from attending Pride celebrations in Serbia.
Brnabic made history in 2017 when she became both the first woman and the first openly gay prime minister of Serbia.
She is also the only openly gay national leader in the Balkans, and the fifth openly LGBTI head of government in the world.
Despite being heralded as a progressive reformer following her election, Brnabic has angered many in the Serbian LGBTI community.
While attending last year’s Pride parade, Brnabic told attendees that LGBTI rights would be a secondary focus, after dealing with issues such as pensions, inflation and the standard of living.
Predrag Azdejkovic, the head of GLIC, called her statement ‘scandalous’.
At Belgrade Pride in 2017, Brnabic also said: ‘As a representative of the state, I am proud that our country has adopted anti-discrimination laws […] The level of discrimination of minority groups and members of national communities is in decline.
‘After an undoubted decrease in the number of physical attacks on people who are different from the majority, it is equally important that we stop hurting ourselves with words,’ she added.
Serbia’s numerous hurdles
While same-sex sexual activity is legal and the government has introduced laws to counter LGBTI discrimination, LGBTI people in Serbia still experience widespread prejudice and fears of violence.
The heavily Orthodox Christian population faces numerous hurdles with regards to progressing LGBTI rights. In 2014, Amnesty International identified Serbia as a country which displayed a lack of will to tackle homophobia and transphobia.
According to polls listed by LGBTI Equality Rights Association (ERA), 51% of LGBTI people in Serbia personally experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation in 2015, and a 2012 poll showed that 48% of Serbs believed homosexuality is an illness.
In previous years, Serbia’s Pride marches have been marred by violence and counter-protests from anti-LGBTI groups, which caused Pride marches to be banned. This only changed in 2014, when the authorities lifted the ban and allowed the marches to go ahead under heavy police supervision.
According to an ILGA-Europe survey from earlier this year, Serbia ranked 28 out of 49 countries in Europe and Western Asia in LGBT rights.