HRW goes after Serbia over its gay climate

Serbia’s government should quickly take visible steps to end a spate of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to President Boris Tadic released Nov. 23.

“Homophobic violence in recent months has threatened LGBT people’s access to basic freedoms,” said Boris Dittrich of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program.

In September, the government cancelled Belgrade’s second gay pride parade, saying it couldn’t protect the marchers from anti-gay thugs who had broadcast their intentions to attack the march.

Pride opponents had covered walls in the city center with graffiti that said, “We will get you,” “Death to faggots” and “Blood will flow,” and had spoken openly to reporters about planned assaults.

Other recent homophobic incidents include the cancellation of a Gay Straight Alliance press conference by a business center that called the group’s message inappropriate, and an assault on the then-relocated press conference by youths who threw rocks and yelled, “Faggots, we will kill you.”

HRW urged President Tadic to denounce violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, to ensure that the 2010 gay pride parade takes place, and to promptly investigate all threats and allegations of anti-GLBT violence.

The group further urged the government to train prosecutors, police and judges to respond effectively to violence against LGBT people; to institute training in schools about equality and the need to prevent discrimination; and to ensure that children receive an education in an environment free of bullying or discrimination.

“Freedoms on paper are worthless if the state cannot or will not protect people who are threatened when they try to exercise them,” said Dittrich. “Hatred and prejudice have kept too many Serbs from full participation in society for too long.”

Belgrade’s first gay pride march — in 2001 in what was then Yugoslavia — was attacked by hundreds of thugs from ultranationalist youth organizations, skinhead groups and soccer clubs. The hoodlums kicked and beat the marchers and chanted, “Death to homosexuals.” Police fired pistols into the air to chase the miscreants from the city’s main square.

By Rex Wockner


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