LGBT rights in Serbia

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LGBT rights in Serbia
Location of Serbia (green) – Kosovo (light green) on the European continent (dark grey)
Location of Serbia (green) – Kosovo (light green)
on the European continent (dark grey)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal nationwide since 1994,
age of consent equalized in 2006
Gender identity/expression right to change gender, discrimination banned by Anti-discrimination Law since 2009
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2001 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex relationships.
Restrictions:
Same-sex marriage constitutionally banned.
Adoption

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Serbia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Serbia, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Male homosexual activity in Serbia was criminialised in 1977, but there are no records that law was ever actively applied. No legislation was in place specifically to deal with lesbian activity.

In 1978, male homosexuality became legal briefly in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, when some decision-making powers had been devolved from the centre; and this move complied with relaxed public opinion on this issue in the province. However, in 1990 Vojvodina was reincorporated into the legal system of Serbia, and male homosexuality once again become a criminal offence.

Finally, in 1994 male homosexuality was decriminalised throughout Serbia, with the age of consent set at 18 years for anal intercourse between males and 14 for other sexual practices. Then, an equal age of consent of 14 was introduced on 1 January 2006, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

While same-sex couples have never been recognized by law, the new Serbian constitution, adopted in November 2006, explicitly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (Article 62).[1] However, other forms of recognition, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, are not explicitly mentioned nor prohibited.

In January 2011 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave permission to the British Embassy in Belgrade to conduct civil partnership ceremonies between two Britons or a Briton and a non-Serbian national. The French Embassy in Belgrade also offers Pact Civil to French citizens and their foreign partners.

Military service[edit]

In 2010, the Serbian Army agreed that gay men and women may openly serve in the professional army, but that news was not broadcast widely across media. Nevertheless, Serbian LGBT rights activists transmitted the news within their communities, encouraging people to apply.

Discrimination protections[edit]

Until 2002, Serbia had no special protection specifically aimed at LGBT rights.

But that same year, parliament approved the Broadcasting Law (Article 21) which permits the Broadcasting Agency to prevent the spreading of information encouraging discrimination, hate and violence based on sexual orientation (among other categories).[2]

In 2005, through a change in the Labor Law, discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment was banned. However, there are no public records of any prosecutions being made.

In 2005, parliament approved its Law on Higher education, which guarantees equal rights regardless of sexual orientation in those institutions (among other categories).

On 26 March 2009 parliament approved a unified Anti-Discrimination Law which prohibits, among other things, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status in all areas.[3]

On 5 July 2011, the parliament approved a Youth Law, prohibiting discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

On 28 July 2011 the parliament approved a change in the Health Insurance Law, based on which sex change surgeries will be fully subsidized by the State, beginning in 2012.[4]

Laws against anti-LGBT speech[edit]

Since 2003, regarding hate speech in media, there is a ban against discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was introduced in the Information Law. Additionally, the same ban existed previously in the Radio Emitters Law, adopted 2002. However, these laws are not obeyed, and Radio Emitters Agency, an independent governmental agency that should force those bans on registered emitters, hasn't done anything so far, regardless of LGBT NGOs demands. The Anti-Discrimination Law of 2009 further prohibits hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation.[5]

Hate crime[edit]

On 24 December 2012, the parliament approved changes in Penal Code introducing hate crime, with the recognition of a hate crime based on sexual orientation and gender identity. [6]

Living conditions[edit]

Gays and lesbians continue to face discrimination and harassment in Serbia. The majority of Serbian people display vast anti-gay attitudes. There have been numerous instances of violent gay-bashing, the most extreme during the first Belgrade Gay Pride.

There were three other plans for Pride Day celebration in Serbia, one in Belgrade in 2004 initiated by activists around GSA and another in Novi Sad initiated by LGBT Vojvodina in 2007, but because of low cooperation between activist groups and inability to provide adequate safety against violence due to limited funding, these two never made it. The third one, Belgrade Pride 2009, was canceled for similar reasons – police could not guarantee security to participants.[7] The second Belgrade Pride Parade took place on 10. October 2010, with participation of one thousand people. It was followed by violent reaction and riot that gathered 6,000 anti-gay protesters and extreme nationalist group members.

Official medical textbooks that classify homosexuality under "Sexual Deviations and Disorders" are widely used. After several requests to do so, Serbian Medical Society has finally stated that same-sex orientation is not a disease in an official letter to Labris in 2008.

The gay scene is small but growing. As of 2011, Loud & Queer operates monthly club nights at different venues throughout Belgrade. Pleasure and Apartman operate Fridays and Saturdays in the city. Bars and cafes include Fenix, Smiley, Espeho, 24 and Mystik in the capital (as well as the gay-friendly Downtown Cafe), alongside others in the downtown areas of Novi Sad and Subotica.

The protection of LGBT people in Serbia is further complicated by the existence of various nationalist and pro-fascist associations like 'Obraz', '1389' and 'Stormfront', which are supported by some right-wing political parties. These groups have, on several occasions, made their threats to LGBT people publicly known, though the media and the police are increasingly reacting to deter such threats publicly.

Development of LGBT rights and culture in Serbia is contributed by LGBT sites such as the oldest Adriatic LGBT Activism mailing list in the region, GayEcho and Gay-Serbia; the last two are primarily online gay portals.

The depth of Serbia's homophobia played a role in the breakup of Yugoslavia.[dubious ] One of the major landmarks of escalating tensions between Albanians and Serbs was an affair involving the forceful insertion of a bottle into the anus of Đorđe Martinović, a Serb resident of Kosovo.[8] At first, he said it was due to accidental injuries, but later he said that an Albanian had done the deed, leading to mass media attention and a nationalistic outcry in Serbia.[9] There was later circulation of nationalistic material comparing the "impalement of Đorđe Martinović" with Turkish forms of torture due to the shared Islamic religion between Albanians and Turks.[10]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1994)
Equal Age of Consent Yes (since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (since 2005)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (since 2009)
Anti-discrimination laws in the media Yes (since 2002; violated with impunity)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas Yes (since 2013)
Same-sex Marriages No (since 2006; constitutionally)
Recognition of same-sex unions No
Adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes (since 2005)
Right to change legal gender Yes (since 2007; hard to achieve)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gays No
MSMs allowed to donate blood; with active sexual life in last six months No

Resources[edit]

Organizations, sorted by founding date, descending[edit]

Online Communities and News Portals, sorted by founding date, descending[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Marek Mikuš: “State Pride”: Politics of LGBT Rights and Democratisation in “European Serbia”, East European Politics & Societies, November 2011; vol. 25, 4: pp. 834–851

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Serbian Constitution
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ European Commission, Serbia 2009 Progress Report, p. 14
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ "Pride Parade won't be held". B92. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009. 
  8. ^ Julie A. Mertus, Kosovo: How Myths and Truths started a War, pp. 100-10. University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 0-520-21865-5
  9. ^ Jasna Dragović-Soso, Saviours of the Nation?: Serbia's Intellectual Opposition and the Revival of Nationalism, pp. 132-135. C. Hurst & Co, 2002. ISBN 1-85065-577-4
  10. ^ From "Kosovo 1389, Kosovo 1989", Serbian Literary Quarterly, Writers' Association of Serbia, 1989, p. 94. Quoted in translation in Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East, fn. 10, p. 241. I.B. Tauris, ISBN 1-86064-868-1