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.
Croatia, as a whole, is still considered to be relatively conservative, especially in public reactions regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights and visibility of LGBT people. In the last few years there has been no mass organized or group violence towards LGBT activism and manifestations, however, hate speech and incidents against LGBT community and individuals occasionally happen. There has been a significant improvement in terms of LGBT rights since the first LGBT pride in 2002. Republic of Croatia bans all anti-LGBT discrimination, unregistered cohabitations have been introduced, people are becoming increasingly gay friendly, and more and more politicians and celebrities support LGBT rights, with some decided to go out of the closet.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity 
Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1977. The age of consent in Croatia is 15. It was equalised in 1998 when it was specified as 14 by the Croatian Penal Code, but that has been changed to 15 with the introduction of a new Penal Code on 1st January 2013.
Recognition of same-sex relationships 
In 2003, one year after the first LGBT pride in Croatia, 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 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 they include 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, but change of sex is always stated. However, on 29 May 2012 it was announced that the government will take extra steps to protect transsexual and transgender people. Sex reassignment surgery will not have to be stated in birth certificate anymore, thus making sure that information of that kind stays private. Same law treatment is planned for people who have not gone through sex reassignment surgery, but have been going through hormone replacement therapy. This law change has been proposed by ruling coalition when they were in opposition in 2010, but it was categorically rejected by then ruling right-wing HDZ. The new law has so far passed its first reading.
LGBT parenting 
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 has 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.
Discrimination issues 
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 1st 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 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) homosexuals 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 has also been reports and personal experiences suggesting that Croatian Armed Forces take discrimination very seriously and do not tolerate homophobia among its members.
Living conditions 
Acceptance for LGBT people is growing in the main cities, with the rural areas remaining homophobic. There exists a small gay scene around the country, which is growing, as well as a number of strong lesbian and LGBTIQ activist groups. There are a few gay clubs in Zagreb, regular gay/queer parties in Zagreb and Rijeka, and several gay friendly or gay safe spaces in Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Osijek. The situation is improving, and Croatia is considered to be relatively progressive in terms of LGBT rights especially comparing it to its Eastern and Southern neighbouring countries.
LGBT prides 
Zagreb Pride 
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 4000 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.
Split Pride 
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. 
Other marches 
There are differences in attitudes towards LGBT rights between 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.
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 has 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. 
LGBT Tourism 
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 Jose 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 and gay friendly places in the city. In June 2012 Croatian Minister of Tourism Veljko Ostojić welcomed all gay tourists to Croatia, and supported Split Pride. 
Summary table 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2012)|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal since 1977|
|Equal age of consent since 1998|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment under Labor laws|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech, hate crime)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Adoption by same-sex couples|
|Gays allowed to serve in the military|
|Right to change sex legally|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|
|Recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity for asylum request|
See also 
- List of LGBTQ organizations in Croatia
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Croatia
- LGBT rights in Europe
- Zagreb Pride
- Split Pride
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