LGBT rights in Croatia
|LGBT rights in Croatia|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1977, age of consent equalized in 1998|
|Gender identity/expression||Right to change legal gender, discrimination banned by Anti-discrimination Act from 2009|
|Military service||Gays and lesbians allowed to openly serve|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression protection since 2003 (see below)|
|Unregistered cohabitation since 2003,
Life partnership for LGBT persons is proposed,
Same-sex marriage not recognized
|Adoption||as an individual|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Croatia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Croatia, but households headed by same-gender couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-gender couples.
- 1 History
- 2 Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 3 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 4 Laws concerning gender/identity expression
- 5 LGBT parenting
- 6 Access to in-vitro fertilisation for same-sex couples
- 7 Discrimination issues
- 8 Hate crimes legislation
- 9 Blood donation issues
- 10 Sexual orientation and military service
- 11 Living conditions
- 12 LGBT tourism
- 13 Summary table
- 14 See also
- 15 References
There is no record of treatment towards homosexuality in Kingdom of Croatia that existed between the years 925 and 1102. The Penal Code of 27 May 1852 in the Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia, first modern one in Croatian language, didn't incriminate homosexuality. However, under a draft of the new Penal Code of 1879 for the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia male homosexual acts were to be punished with up to five years of prison, but the draft was never adopted.
During the World War II LGBT people were among the Holocaust victims of Europe, although there is nothing documented for the area of Independent State of Croatia and there was no legislation aimed specifically against homosexuals. However, the Yugoslav Partisans issued several death sentences during the war against Partisans whose homosexuality was revealed.
During the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia male homosexual acts were illegal and punishable with up to two years of prison under the Penal Code of 9 March 1951, although the repression of homosexuals in Yugoslavia began right after the end of the war. The situation changed when Croatia as one of the republics that Yugoslavia consisted of gained more control over its legislature. Constitutional reform in Yugoslavia in 1974 resulted in abolishment of the federal Penal Code, thus allowing every republic to create its own. Socialist Republic of Croatia created its own Penal Code in 1977, and legalized same-sex sexual activity. Interestingly, the Croatian Medical Chamber removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, 4 years before the introduction of the new Penal Code, and 17 years before World Health Organisation did the same. Even though being a member of Yugoslavia meant Croatia was a socialist country, it was never under Iron Curtain, thus making it a relatively open country that was heavily under influence of social changes that affected democratic world.
The 1980s brought changes towards visibility of LGBT population. In 1985 Toni Marošević became the first openly gay media person who briefly hosted a radio show on Youth Radio (Croatian: Omladinski radio) that dealt with marginal socio-political issues. He later revealed being asked on several occasions by the League of Communists of Croatia to form a LGBT fraction of the party. First lesbian association (Lila initiative) in Croatia was formed in 1989, but ceased to exist in 1990.
The 1990s brought a slowdown in terms of LGBT rights as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia followed by the Croatian War of Independence, when most of the Croatian LGBT people, then involved in various feminist, peace and green organizations, joined the Anti-war campaign of Croatia. Followed by the independence of Croatia in 1991, first LGBT association under the name of LIGMA was formed in 1992, but existed only until 1997 as the socio-political climate was not ripe enough to deal with LGBT rights. The only other significant change that happened in the 1990s was the equalizing of the age of consent in 1998. The situation stagnated until the year 2000 when the coalition mostly consisted of centre-left political parties led by Ivica Račan overtook power from HDZ after their ten-year rule.
The 2000s were a turning point for LGBT history in Croatia with the formation of several LGBT associations (with LORI in 2000 and ISKORAK in 2002 being the first ones), introduction of unregistered cohabitations, outlawing all anti-LGBT discrimination including recognition of a hate crime based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the first gay pride in Zagreb in 2002. Several political parties and both presidents elected in 2000s have supported LGBT rights, with some of the politicians participating in LGBT prides ever since.
The 2010s have so far been marked with the second gay pride in Croatia in Split, and the return of centre-left coalition after an eight-year rule of coalition led by the conservative HDZ between the years 2003 and 2011. Soon after the elections in 2011 centre-left coalition has announced expansion in LGBT rights through the new law on registered partnerships. The new law that will significantly expand rights and obligations of same-sex couples, and allow them to register their relationships before the registrar is pending.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1977,. setting the age of consent at 18 for homosexuals and 14 for heterosexuals. It was equalised in 1998 when it was specified as 14 by the Croatian Penal Code, but that has been changed to 15 for both homosexuals and heterosexuals with the introduction of a new Penal Code on 1 January 2013. There is a close-in-age exemption of three years.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
In 2003, one year after the first LGBT pride in Croatia, the then-ruling coalition consisted of mostly centre-left parties, has managed to agree and passed a law on same-sex unions. The law granted same-sex partners who have been cohabiting for at least 3 years similar rights as enjoyed by unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners in terms of inheritance and financial support, but not the right to adopt, or any other right included in family law, as this law was not part of it, but rather separate law has been created. Registering those relationship was not allowed, nor have they included rights in terms of tax, joint properties, health insurance, pensions etc.
In early 2005 Croatian Parliament rejected registered partnerships proposed by Šime Lučin (SDP) and independent Ivo Banac. MP Lucija Čikeš, a member of then ruling HDZ, called for the proposal to be dropped because "all universe is heterosexual, from an atom and the smallest particle, from a fly to an elephant". Another HDZ MP objected on grounds "85% of the population considers itself Catholic and the Church is against heterosexual and homosexual equality". Medical profession, physical profession, and media did not support these statements, warning that all the members of Parliament have duty to vote according to the Constitution which bans discrimination.
On 11 May 2012, Croatian prime minister Zoran Milanović announced for further expansion of rights for same-sex couples through a new law which would replace the existing unregistered cohabitations.
Laws concerning gender/identity expression
Gender transition is legal in Croatia, together with birth certificate amendment. Up until June 2013 the change of sex was always stated on the birth certificate. However, on 29 May 2012 it was announced that the government will take extra steps to protect transsexual and transgender people. Under the new rules Sex reassignment surgery does not have to be stated in a birth certificate anymore, thus making sure that information of that kind stays private. This also includes people who have not gone through sex reassignment surgery, but have been going through hormone replacement therapy. This law change has been proposed by the ruling coalition when they were in opposition in 2010, but it was categorically rejected by then ruling right-wing HDZ. The new law took effect on 29 June 2013.
LGBT adoption is not legal in Croatia, but single person is allow to adopt, regardless of sexual orientation. Most members of the Government elected in December 2011 support LGBT parenting, but they are going to take step by step on such delicate issue.
In May 2012, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Welfare Policy and Youth in Kukuriku coalition Milanka Opačić expressed her support for LGBT parenting and said that Croatia should progress to the point where that is acceptable and tolerated, but not just yet as the current situation could lead to discrimination of children from those families and stated that this is the main reason for taking step by step regarding LGBT rights. However, statements coming from her were not welcomed by some NGOs who stated that there are already children in Croatia who live in same-sex families and those families are desperate for law solutions to their everyday problems; so she should not be perpetuating discriminatory policies, but rather help to create acceptable solutions and fight against discrimination.
Vesna Pusić has long been a supporter for full LGBT parenting. In July 2012, Minister of War Veterans and a member of SDP Predrag Matić has also expressed his support for LGBT adoption and said that society should not falter in achieving equal rights due to pressure coming from right-wing and radical circles. This was seen as a major step considering that war veteran associations are usually associated with right-wing politics. Minister of Economy Ivan Vrdoljak said that LGBT adoption should be legal, and expressed his hope that the Government would legalize it by the end of their mandate which expires in 2015. The new law regulating same-sex partnerships is expected to be introduced before the Parliament sometime in 2013, and it is still yet to be seen whether it deals with LGBT adoption or not.
Access to in-vitro fertilisation for same-sex couples
In 2009 the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party passed a very controversial law restricting access to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) solely to married couples and heterosexual couples who could prove that they had been cohabitating for at least three years. HDZ initially attempted to pass the law restricting access to IVF solely to married couples, but due to strong public pressure HDZ amended the proposed law to allow access to IVF for non-married heterosexual couples as well. The Catholic Church actively supported first proposal of this law, advocating that access to IVF should only be granted to married couples. HDZ have declared themselves as a Christian democratic party and then Minister of Health and Social Welfare Darko Milinović indicated that the government took the Church's position on the issue seriously.
In December 2011 the newly elected Kukuriku coalition government announced that modernisation of IVF law would be one of its first priorities. Proposed changes to the law would allow single women access to IVF as well as other changes concerning freezing embryos and the fertilization of eggs. The Catholic Church immediately opposed to these changes, stating that they were not involved in discussion as much as they should have been. The Church began a petition against the law, but Minister of Health Rajko Ostojić said that the law is going into procedure, and that there will be no compromise. When asked about his attitude on lesbian couples having access to IVF Ostojić said: "Gay is OK!"
On 13 July 2012 new law came into force with 88 MPs voting for, 45 voting against, and 2 abstaining. HNS MPs who are also members of the ruling coalition wanted for lesbian couples to be included in this law as well, and have expressed disappointment for their amendment not being accepted, but it has been explained that this law deals with infertility only, and that issues concerning LGBT parenting will be included in future laws, expected to come into force in 2013.
The 2008 Anti-Discrimination Law includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as prohibited bases for discrimination in access to public and private services and to establishments serving the public.
Other anti-discrimination directives are included in many acts since 2003:
- Penal Code (includes hate crime legislation and "racial and other discrimination")
- Gender Equality Law
- Criminal Procedure Law
- Law on Science and Higher Studies
- Media Law
- Electronic Media Law (anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression)
- Law on Same-sex Relationships
- Labour Code
- Sport Law
- Asylum Law
- The Law on volunteering (anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression)
In 2009, the European Committee on Social Rights found several statements in a Croatian mandatory Biology course textbook, including that “Many individuals are prone to sexual relations with persons of the same sex (..). It is believed that parents are to blame because they impede their children’s correct sexual development with their irregularities in family relations. Nowadays it has become evident that homosexual relations are the main culprit for increased spreading of sexually transmitted diseases (e.g. AIDS)”, or “The disease [AIDS] has spread amongst promiscuous groups of people who often change their sexual partners. Such people are homosexuals because of sexual contacts with numerous partners, drug addicts (..) and prostitutes” to be discriminatory and in violation of Croatia's obligations under the European Social Charter.
In November 2010 the European Commission's annual progress report on Croatia's candidacy stated that that Croatia's numerous homophobic incidents are worrying since inquisitions need to make further efforts in combating hate crimes. The European Parliament, as stands in its 2010 resolution, expressed "its concern at the resentment against the LGBT minority in Croatia, evidenced most recently by homophobic attacks on participants in the LGBT Pride parade in Zagreb; urges the Croatian authorities to condemn and prosecute political hatred and violence against any minority; invites the Croatian Government to implement and enforce the Anti-Discrimination Law”.
On 1 March 2013, Minister of Science, Education and Sports Željko Jovanović announced that his ministry will start an action of removing all homophobic content from the books used in elementary schools, and high schools in Croatia. He is especially targeting Religious education books. Religious education in Croatian schools is optional.
Hate crimes legislation
Since 2006 the country has had hate crimes legislation covering sexual orientation. This law was first applied in 2007, when a man who violently attacked the Zagreb Pride parade was charged and convicted to 14 months in prison. Police arrested a 25-year-old Josip Šitum and charged him with a hate crime for the incident of the attempted to throw five or six Molotov cocktails on Zagreb Pride in June 2007. This was the first time that someone was indicted for a hate crime since this type of crime was introduced into the Criminal Code in June 2006. Josip Šitum was sentenced by a first instance court to 14 months in prison and 14 months in mandatory psychiatric therapy in February 2008. In his defense he claimed he is "a Catholic and a believer" and that he is "troubled by events such as Gay Prides and wanted to raise awareness about this problem." The court decided to keep Šitum in custody, where he has been for about eight months, until his ruling is finalized. State Attorney's Office stated, after the conviction, that they are displeased with the length of the prison sentence and have asked for it to be increased. On 1 January 2013 new Penal Code has been introduced with the recognition of a hate crime based on a gender identity.
Cooperation with the police
LGBT associations Zagreb Pride, Iskorak and Kontra have been cooperating with the police since 2006 when Croatia first recognized hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and as a result of that cooperation the police have included education about hate crimes against LGBT persons in their curriculum in 2013. In April of the same year Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić, together with his ministry, and Iskorak and Kontra have launched a national campaign encouraging LGBT persons to report hate crimes. The campaign included city light billboards in four cities (Zagreb, Split, Pula, and Osijek), handing out leaflets to citizens in those four cities, and distribution of leaflets to police stations throughout the country.
Blood donation issues
According to the regulations of the Croatian institute for transfusions (Hrvatski zavod za transfuzijsku medicinu) people who practised sexual acts with the persons of the same sex are banned from donating blood.
Sexual orientation and military service
LGBT persons are not banned from the military service. Some reports suggest that most gays serving in the military decide to keep their sexual orientation private, but there have also been reports and personal experiences suggesting that Croatian Armed Forces take discrimination very seriously and do not tolerate homophobia among its members.
Acceptance for LGBT people in Croatia is growing. Gay scene and activities are mostly concentrated in the biggest cities. Gay scene around the country is growing, as well as a number of strong LGBTIQ activist groups. The capital city Zagreb is home to the biggest gay scene, including gay clubs and bars, plus many other places advertised as gay-friendly in an official guide for LGBT community. Zagreb is also home to the first LGBT centre in Croatia, and a Queer Zagreb organization, that among many other activities promoting equality includes Queer Zagreb festival, and Queer MoMenti (an ongoing monthly film program dedicated to queer cinema). Other places that host gay/queer parties, and are home to gay-friendly places such as bars, clubs, and beaches are Rijeka, Split, Osijek, Hvar, Rab, Rovinj, Dubrovnik etc.
First gay pride in Croatia took place on 29 June 2002 in the capital city of Zagreb. It has become an annual event since then. Public support is growing and number of participants is also increasing rapidly year after year, but they have experienced violent public opposition. LGBT rights activists criticized government for the lack of punishment of the offenders and called this a violation of human rights. Pride held in 2006 had a regional character and it was organized in support to those participants coming from countries where the sociopolitical climate is not ripe for the organization of Pride events and where such a manifestation is expressly forbidden by the authorities. 2011 is considered to be a turning point in a Pride's history as it was held a week after the first unsuccessful Split Pride, and it was emphatically supported by the media and politicians. Around 4,000 people marched while many of the bystanders loudly supported the LGBT community. It was the biggest Pride rally in Croatia at the time, and took place without violence. It was also reported that number of policemen securing pride was lower than previous years. Pride held in 2013 was the biggest one so far, with record-breaking 15,000 participants.
First LGBT pride in Split took place on 11 June 2011. The pride was not successful as the security was not strong enough to prevent incidents, and as a result of that the activists had to be led to safety, and several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, so the pride had to be cancelled. Soon after Split Pride, media led the campaign to support LGBT community, calling everyone to "march in upcoming Zagreb Pride". Four days before Zagreb Pride march organizers met with President Ivo Josipović. Pride in 2012 was successful, and enjoyed major support from the Croatian media, celebrities, and politicians. Five ministers from the government participated: Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusić, Minister of Administration Arsen Bauk, Minister of Economoy Ivan Vrdoljak, Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojić, and Minister of War Veterans Predrag Matić. Other notable participants include Mladen Badovinac who is a member of famous Croatian band TBF, Predrag Matvejević, Rajko Grlić, Nenad Puhovski, Damir Urban, Zlatko Gall, Jurica Pavičić, Viktor Ivančić, Ante Tomić, Boris Dežulović etc. Many bystanders showed support for the pride, while opponents were unable to approach the participants. Pride in 2013 went without a single incident, and it was significant as it was the first time in Croatia that a mayor of the city where the pride took place participated.
On 9 June 2012 several hundred participants marched in Rijeka, the third largest city in Croatia. The march was organised to support Split Pride. On 27 May 2013 around 1,500 participants in Zagreb marched in support of same-sex marriage. The march started in the park of Zrinjevac, from where participant marched towards the St. Mark's Square, the location of Croatian Government, Croatian parliament, and Constitutional Court of Croatia.
On 30 November 2013, one day before the referendum on marriage being defined in the Constitution as a union between a woman and a man, around a thousand people marched in the city of Zagreb in support of same-sex marriage. Marches of support also took place in Pula, Split, and Rijeka gathering hundreds of people.
There are differences in attitudes towards LGBT rights between the north and the south of Croatia, where the north is more liberal and open-minded, whereas the south is more intolerant.
Politics and public opinion
Croatian President Ivo Josipović provides strong support for full LGBT rights, along with many other celebrities and centre-left political parties such as SDP, HNS, HSLS, Green List, and Labour Party. He has been one of the most prominent supporters for LGBT rights even before he became president. After he has been elected as a president he has met with LGBT associations several times expressing support. On 1 June 2012, he has published a video message giving support for 2012 Split Pride and further expansion of LGBT rights. He has also condemned violence at 2011 Split Pride, saying that it was unacceptable and that the next Split Pride should not experience same scenario. In October 2013 at the reception at the Presidential Palace he welcomed newly appointed Finnish ambassador and his life partner to Croatia.
Vesna Pusić, a member of HNS, is very popular among Croatian LGBTs, and was named a "gay friendly person of the decade" according to the votes from the LGBT community. She has been very much involved in improving LGBT rights while being a member of ruling governments. A member of SDP and a Minister for Environment and Nature Protection in Kukuriku coalition Mirela Holy has been a notable supporter of LGBT rights for years, and has participated in every LGBT pride so far. Other supporters for LGBT rights in Croatia are famous actor Rade Šerbedžija, Šime Lučin, Ivo Banac, Furio Radin, Darinko Kosor, Iva Prpić, Đurđa Adlešič, Drago Pilsel, Lidija Bajuk, Mario Kovač, Nina Violić, ex-prime minister Ivica Račan's widow Dijana Pleština, Maja Vučić, Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, pop group E.N.I etc. Hundreds of people from public life have so far expressed support for LGBT rights. A poll in June 2011, showed 38.3% citizens supported "gay prides". Furthermore, 51.3% of citizens believe that "gay prides" should not be banned. Damir Hršak, a member of the Labour party, who has publicly spoken about his sexual orientation and has been involved in LGBT activism for years, is the first openly gay politician to become an official candidate for the first European Parliament elections in Croatia, held in April 2013. He had criticized current coalition government for not doing enough for LGBT community, and said that his party would not make concessions, and is in favour of full marriage equality.
In May 2013, a conservative civil initiative group "In the name of the family" collected more than 700 000 signatures for a referendum, which would constitutionally define marriage as "a union between a woman and a man". They needed a minimum of 450,000 signatures, representing 10% of registered voters. The Government disapproved of the referendum, accusing the Church as the main force behind the initiative. The Catholic Church had a major role in collecting signatures as many volunteers were based in front of the churches. The Government also said that this referendum question is in fact unconstitutional. The initiative had divided Croatian society, and opened many question that haven't been considered so far, such as the reform of the law on referendum. According to the current law, turnout is not a condition for a successful referendum, thus enabling a minority of the voters to change the Constitution. The outcome of the referendum however does not prevent the Government from expanding rights of the same-sex unions, and equalizing them with marriage, thus raising questions on the purpose of the referendum. According to the poll that included 1300 people, 55,3% of them supported this initiative, and 31,1% did not. However, almost 40% decided not to participate in a referendum.
The Parliament voted in favour of not presenting the referendum question before the Constitutional Court. However, after the Parliament had set the date for the referendum, every Croatian citizen had the right to do so. That did happen, and 3 NGOs (Zagreb Pride, Centre For Civil Courage, and CroL) presented the case before the Court. The Constitutional Court did not decide in their favour, stating there is no legal base to ban the referendum. However, the Court was clear in stating that should the citizens support the definition of a marriage as a union between a woman and a man to be included in the Constitution, that must not have any negative effect on future laws regarding same-sex couples, or non-married opposite-sex couples. Conservative Ex-Prime Minister, once a member of right-wing HDZ, and now an independent MP Jadranka Kosor voted in favour of presenting the question before the Constitutional Court, and voted against the proposed Constitutional change on a referendum. This statement was not in line with her previous views on homosexuality and same-sex marriages. She is known for being against the expansion of rights for same-sex couples in the past, and was voted the "homophobe of the year" in 2010 after stating that homosexuality is not natural, and that same-sex marriages should never be legal.
There was much resistance to the referendum in Croatia, with some of the media, like daily newspaper Jutarnji list, donating its advertising space to all the organisations and citizens who felt threatened by the possible referendum. Aside from well-known public figures who were openly against the referendum, Jewish Community in Zagreb, and a Lutheran church were the two religious organisations who also publicly opposed it. Some of the most popular Croatian entertainers including Severina, TBF, Let 3 organised a concert gathering thousands of people in support of equal rights and against constitutional amendment on the main Zagreb square. The concert was organized as the main event of 15 days long "VoteNO campaign" which united 88 organizations led by GONG and Zagreb Pride. Croatian psychologists and psychology students organised a petition against proposed referendum.
The referendum took place on 1 December 2013. 65,87% voted in favour of a constitutional change, and 33,51% voted against. Turnout was very low, and only 37,9% of the people participated. However, not all counties voted in favour of limiting the word marriage to heterosexual couples only. Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar voted against with 58,23% and 53,30% respectively. When it comes to larger cities Rijeka voted against with 59,27%, and Pula voted against with 63,64%. Most cities in these two counties voted against, with Labin being the leader with 70,97%. When it comes to cities outside these two counties Varaždin and Čakovec also voted against with 56,94% and 58,95% respectively. Zagreb voted 55,9% in favour, and 43,50% against.
Croatia is a major tourist centre and there are places advertised as gay-friendly along the Croatian Adriatic coast. Two of the most noted are the islands of Hvar and Rab. Rab is known to be a truly naturist paradise with reports about local people being very gay-friendly. Hvar was listed in the top places to visit for gay tourists. In 2008, Latin American gay couple José Armando and Manuel organised their wedding on that very island. A city gay guide for Zagreb has also been released, offering a list of gay-friendly places in the city.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(since 1977)|
|Equal age of consent||(since 1998)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only||(since 2003)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services||(since 2003)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Same-sex marriage||( Constitution defines marriage as "a union between a man and a woman")|
|Recognition of same-sex couples||(since 2003)|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|
- List of LGBTQ organizations in Croatia
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Croatia
- LGBT rights in Europe
- Zagreb Pride
- Split Pride
- Croatian constitutional referendum, 2013
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