News 24 Sep 14

Serbia Gives Green Light to Gay Pride Parade

Although right-wing organisations have announced protests against the Gay Pride Parade, officials say the march will go ahead, following a pause of three years.

Gordana Andric

Momir Stojanovic, the president of parliament's Committee for the Control of Security Services and a member of ruling Serbian Progressive Party, announced that the security risks for Gay Pride Parade were significantly lower this year than in previous years, and that the march will therefore go ahead.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, condemned the Pride Parade in a statement that drew criticism.

“If a gay sexual orientation is justified and should be propagated, how come that same rule does not apply to paedophilia, which is massively widespread in the Western world, or incest,” the church wrote in a statement signed by Serbian Patriarch Irinej.

The letter also stated that Serbia should not bear the costs of the event and that the organisers should have “learned the lessons from what previous parades have caused”.

According to the Serbian Church, previous attempts of gay activists to stage Pride Parades encountered “the resistance of the vast majority of citizens, causing riots and awakening aggression and destructiveness in some sections of society, especially the youth.”

“The Pride Parade will be held because the activities of far-right organisations are meaningless this year. Of course, the relevant authorities will deliver the final decision, but I definitely think the march will held,” he told the Belgrade daily Danas newspaper on Wednesday.

He noted that the EU had insisted that the government enable the march to go ahead.

“General opinion in society is that human rights must be respected, including the right to a different sexual orientation. We have to ensure those rights on our EU path, so there is not much to talk about,” Stojanovic added.

While the march itself is scheduled for September 28, the Pride Week, which includes debates, exhibitions and film screenings, has already kicked off after starting on September 22.

The Interior Ministry also announced it was ready to secure the event if the government decided that the parade could be held. They said an announced police union strike would not affect the event.

“I believe that the Pride will be held, there is no reason for it not to be, but the final decision is with the government,” Milosav Milickovic, state secretary at interior ministry, stated on Tuesday.

Far-right and religious organisations have announced their own protests against the march.

The nationalist movement Dver has scheduled protests for September 27 in defence of “family values.” Another group, called Istinoljublje, led by a former Orthodox Church cleric, Dragan Davidovic, has scheduled a protest for the same day.

In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the authorities banned the parade altogether just days before it was scheduled to take place, after police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence.

Serbia's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001 when protesters clashed with police.

The march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem on the streets of the capital, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.

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