Hundreds of Pride activists gathered in the Serbian capital amid a heavy police presence, anti-gay messages from the country’s conservative leaders and threats from far-right groups.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Hundreds of Pride activists gathered in the Serbian capital on Saturday, amid a heavy police presence and anti-gay messages from the country’s conservative leaders and far-right groups.
Participants in Saturday’s march held banners reading “We’re not even close” – referring to the current situation of the gay population in Serbia – as well as “Marriage” and “Queer liberation, not capitalism Rainbow “.
A heavy police presence of officers in riot gear blocked central Belgrade. At a rally against the march, about 50 anti-gay protesters and Orthodox priests held up religious icons in front of a downtown church as Pride march participants passed by.
A group of anti-gay activists held a banner on the main street in the city center saying: “I don’t want a gay parade in Belgrade.” »
Ahead of Serbia’s 11th consecutive Pride march, the country’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic said that as long as he is in power, he would not approve a law allowing same-sex marriages or partnerships. He also said he did not allow rainbow-colored flags to be placed on flags at his downtown office during the march.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, a close ally of Vucic, is the first openly gay politician in the Balkan country. However, she has rarely spoken out in favor of LGBTQ+ rights in Serbia.
Ahead of the Pride event, embassies and representative offices of 25 countries and the European Union delegation in Serbia issued a joint statement supporting Pride values and calling for the protection of the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
“On the occasion of Belgrade Pride 2023, we would like to reaffirm our commitment to respect, promote and protect human rights for all,” the joint statement said. “We are proud to support the LGBTQ+ community in Serbia and strongly support the values that Pride represents: acceptance, inclusion and diversity. »
Serbia formally wants to join the EU, but under Vucic’s rule for more than a decade, it has gradually slid toward Russia and its anti-Western policies, including lack of respect for gay rights.