Background 25 Sep 14

Timeline: LGBT history in Serbia

A summary of the key events leading up to this year’s Pride Parade, showing the development of lesbian and gay history in terms of social, political and legislative change.

Bojana Barlovac

1994: Homosexuality is decriminalised in Serbia.

July 2001: A few days after Slobodan Milosevic is sent to stand trial in The Hague, ultra-nationalists focus their rage on a small group of people who have gathered in Belgrade to hold Serbia’s first Pride march. The group disrupts the march and beats up the participants.

July 2002: Parliament approves the Broadcasting Law (Article 21), which obliges the Broadcasting Agency to prevent the spread of information encouraging discrimination, hate and violence based on sexual orientation (among other categories).

March 2003: Well-known transvestite Vjeran Miladinovic, aka Merlinka, is murdered, aged 43. Her body is found a month later. The only arrested suspect, believed to be an ex-lover, is later freed of all charges.

July 2005: A change in the Labour Law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment.

September 2006: Serbia’s new constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman; civil unions or domestic partnerships are neither mentioned nor prohibited.

2007: Queeria Calendar, which comprises photographs or collages of prominent regional cultural figures, is published.

March 2008: A public opinion survey shows 70 per cent of those interviewed consider homosexuality a sickness.

February 2009: The refusal of Belgrade’s Sava Centar to allow a Serbian gay rights group to hold a press conference on the movie “Milk” sparks a debate on sexual minorities. The movie in question recalls the life and death of gay rights activist Harvey Milk in San Francisco.

March 2009: Parliament approves a new anti-discrimination law, which prohibits, among other things, discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and sexual orientation.

September 2009: AmfilohijeRadovic, a leading bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, equates Pride parades with “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

September 2009: Citing an inability to maintain security at the event, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic advises organisers of the 2009 Pride Parade to move their planned rally from the streets of central Belgrade to Usce Park, a venue traditionally used for rock concerts. The organisers of the parade call this unacceptable and cancel the event.

December 2009: Belgrade’s first gay film festival is held in the city’s Dom Omladine.

2010: The Serbian Army agrees that openly gay men and women may serve in the forces.

October 2010: Gay Pride goes ahead, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, cause mayhem on the streets, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.

October 2010: Popular folk singer Jelena Karleusa writes a column in support of gay rights.

December 2010: Gay rights activist Boris Milicevic is elected to the board of the Socialist Party of Serbia. “Great progress has been made in the political landscape,” he says.

October 2011: The authorities cave in to extremists and ban the Belgrade Pride Parade on security grounds. Chanting “This is Serbia” and “We have Pride,” around 200 gay activists hold an unofficial mini-Pride parade.

October 2011: Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic's surreal, comic drama about Belgrade's embattled LGBT parades, Parada [The Parade] hits the cinemas.

October 2011: A youngster stabs a 26-year-old woman wearing an LBGT T-shirt at 4am in the centre of Belgrade. Police arrest him immediately but then release him on the grounds that as a minor he may not be charged.

January 2012: Following a change in the law, Serbs can now change their sex in a state hospital and get the public to foot most of the bill.

March 2012: Mladen Obradovic, leader of the far-right Obraz organization, is jailed for making violent and threatening statements ahead of a planned Gay Pride march in 2009.

June 2012: About 40 gay and lesbian activists throw rainbow-coloured balloons into the air and hold what they called a mini-Pride Parade in Belgrade, some women holding banners that read: “I cannot kiss my girlfriend.”

June 2012: The Constitutional Court bans the far-right organization, Obraz, which became notorious in 2001 for its attacks on the first Belgrade Gay Pride parade.

September 2012: LGBT activists stage a brief, flash mob performance in which two brides called Faith and Hope get married and kiss each other on Belgrade’s main pedestrian street, Knez Mihailova. 

September 2012: LGBT activists table several demands that they wish the authorities to adopt. These include: appointment of contact persons to work on problems that the gay community faces in every police department in each of Serbia's 24 main towns and cities; an article criminalizing hate crimes added to the penal code; parliament to adopt a declaration against homophobia and a national strategy against violence; a new law recognizing sex changes; all those whose threats and calls for violence resulted in the cancellation of Belgrade Pride 2011 to be brought before the courts.

September 2012: A gay youngster is beaten up in a Belgrade park, the Gay Straight Alliance reports.

October 2012: An exhibition of 12 photographs, which depict scenes from the New Testament, and show Christ wearing women’s clothes and surrounded by gays, lesbians, HIV positive persons and transsexuals, is deemed such a security risk that some 2,000 police officers in riot gear block off streets around the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, CKZD.

October 2012: Hackers attack gay websites in Serbia.

October 2012: Authorities again ban a Gay Pride march, citing concerns of violent clashes. However, “A parade within four walls“ goes ahead as part of Pride week, ending in front of the heavily guarded Media Centre in Belgrade.

December 2012: Parliament approves changes in the penal code, introducing hate crime, including recognition that a hate crime can be based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

December 2012: Marking Human Rights Day, activists in Serbia release a report saying the biggest recent failure of the government was banning the Pride Parade.

May 2013: Serbia comes in fifth place in the Balkans in terms of providing a secure legal environment for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The survey was conducted by ILGA-Europe, based on data from 49 countries in Europe.

June 2013: Gays in Serbia for the first time obtain their own premises to socialize and access information.

July 2013: The right-wing extremist group, SNP Nasi, says it is putting up surveillance cameras in apartments near the new lesbian and gay centre in an attempt to shut it down.

July 2013: A pink street sign, with the inscription “Merlinka’s Street”, appears on the corner of Gavrila Principa and Zagrebacka streets in Belgrade on July 23, honouring the murdered transvestite Vjeran Miladinovic, aka Merlinka.

September 2013: The government announces the cancellation of the Gay Pride Parade, which had been scheduled for the following day.

September 2013: Around 200 members of the LGBT community gathered in front of the governement building for an unofficial mini pride parade.

September 2013: A group of students beats up a math professor in Novi Sad, assuming he is gay.

February 2014: An openly gay man from the town of Kursumlija is beaten up by three unknown persons.

March 2014: The Gay Straight Alliance launches a campaign entitled “Your voice, your tomorrow,” which calls on people to vote in elections for parties that advocate gay rights.

June 2014: Gay rights activists organise an impromptu Pride march in Belgrade.

July 2014: Labris, a gay rights organisation, with Forum for Ethnic Relations defines five priority fields for empowering LGBT people that should be integrated into public policy. These include: access to justice and the rule of law; security, prevention of and a fight against violence; a ban on discrimination; education and socio-economic stability; LGBT culture and identity.

September 2014: Labris organises an international conference, “The future belongs to us: LGBT rights on the road to the European Union,” in Belgrade’s Metropol hotel. A German guest of the conference is beaten up later that day. The 26-year-old ends in hospital with severe head injuries.

September 22, 2014: Pride Week, which includes debates, exhibitions and film screenings, kicks off.

September 23, 2014: Momir Stojanovic, president of parliament's Committee for the Control of Security Services and a member of ruling Progressive Party, says the security risks for Gay Pride Parade are significantly lower this year than in previous years, and that the march will therefore go ahead on September 28.


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Timeline: LGBT history in Serbia

A summary of the key events leading up to this year’s Pride Parade, showing the development of lesbian and gay history in terms of social, political and legislative change.