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Greece urged to combat intolerance, Cypriot Pride parade goes on

Despite the national LGBTQ+ equality plan, LGBTQ+ pupils continue to face “intolerant and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in school

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Courtesy of Accept-LGBTI Cyprus

STRASBOURG – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released its overview report this week of efforts by the Grecian government of President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, to curb continued discrimination to LGBTQ+ pupils in the nation’s schools and address intolerant hate speech in public especially by national media outlets.

The ECRI report congratulated the Greek governmental efforts as outlined in its 2020 National Action Plan against Racism and Intolerance, and acknowledged Greek broadcasters who have adopted use of a technical delay function, whereby the actual emission of “live” broadcasts is slightly delayed, permitting stations to stop hate speech from being broadcast.

However, the ECRI expressed concerns that Greece’s equality body – the Greek Ombudsman – still lacks competence to provide legal representation to victims of discrimination or intolerance in court, to pursue strategic litigation or to bring cases before the courts.

The report also noted that despite the national LGBTQ+ equality plan, LGBTQ+ pupils continue to face “intolerant and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in school, including from teachers.”

Another area of concern for the ECRI was that intersex persons, notably children, sometimes face “serious forms” of discrimination and intolerance, including from medical professionals who reportedly often recommend abortion of intersex children to expecting parents, while medically unnecessary surgery on intersex children is also common.

Additional highlights included that ECRI founds that frequent hate speech – at times involving politicians and even state officials – targets migrants, as well as members of LGBTQ+ communities and Roma (Gypsies).

Although the Hellenic Parliament has made improvements, the ECRI report raises concerns over the ability of NGOs in Greece to assist migrants, which was put at risk by a 2020 Ministerial Decision introducing stricter registration and operation rules for NGOs active in the sectors of international protection, migration and relocation, or the social integration of migrants. 

The report’s key findings and recommendations included:

·         Provide teachers with appropriate training to address LGBTI-phobic intolerance and discrimination in schools.

·         Take action to prevent intolerance and discrimination against intersex persons, including by prohibiting medically unnecessary sex-“normalising” surgery on young children and by developing guidelines and training on intersex equality rights for relevant professionals.

·         Establish a comprehensive monitoring system for hate speech incidents (including online), accompanied by public awareness campaigns.

·         Ensure that Roma are not evicted illegally and without proper notice or opportunity for rehousing in decent accommodation.

·         Review the applications of recent registration rules to ensure that all relevant NGOs can provide suitable support services to migrants.

·         Introduce decisive measures to enhance the effectiveness of investigations into police misconduct, be it motivated by racism or LGBTI-phobia, followed by, where warranted, effective sanctions against perpetrators.

Cyprus LGBT+ pride marchers seek equal family rights

This past Saturday, Sept 24, hundreds of activists marched in the streets of the Cypriot capital of Nicosia in a push for equal rights irrespective of sexual orientation, Reuters reported.

“Marriage for all” was the slogan of a parade using the Cypriot vernacular “Gamos Gia Oullous” to emphasize how local mentalities morphed policies. Marriage of same-sex couples is not permitted in Cyprus, while same-sex civil partnerships with a limited set of rights are legal.

Activists say a lack of a family law framework for same-sex couples deprives them from the right to adopt children, or give equal parental rights to a couple in a same-sex civil partnership.

“It’s virtually no-where, no discussion (at an official level) has started,” Antonis Papageorgiou, vice-president of Accept-LGBTI, the organizers of Sunday’s parade told Reuters.

LGBTQ+ activists are pushing the Cypriot government to finalize legal gender change recognition on state documents. Introduced in 2015 the measure approved by the executive has now gone to Parliament where it awaits final approval.

Papageorgiou told Reuters; “We simply cannot wait years for pieces of legislation to pass.”

European Union

Belgian Parliament approves a ban on conversion therapy

“Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights- but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal”

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Federal Parliament of Belgium, Palace of the Nation Brussels (Photo Credit: Federal Parliament of Belgium)

BRUSSELS – The Federal bicameral Parliament of Belgium approved a ban on the practise of conversion therapy according to the State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Sarah Schlitz.

The Brussels Times, an English-language Belgian news website and magazine, reported that in a press statement Schlitz said: “Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights. Numerous legislative reforms and social efforts bear witness to this, but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal,” Schlitz said in a press release.

The Brussels based non-profit educational think tank association, Centre Permanent pour la Citoyenneté et la Participation, noted in a May 2022 report that the practices, which are aimed at changing or removing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, can take many forms ranging from the discussion table to drug treatments or exorcism sessions.

The Centre found that overall the affect of conversion therapy had long term damaging affects. The report went on to note that conversion therapy practices are “deceptive, ineffective and dangerous” practices that aim to change, suppress or eliminate the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of LGBTQ people.

Methods range from psychotherapy and electroshock therapy to beatings and even “corrective rape.” They can take place in religious, medical or sectarian environments, can be carried out by relatives or pseudo-professionals and have terrible consequences for the people who undergo them, The Brussels Times reported quoting the findings.

“The opportunity to be yourself and the freedom to live the way you want is a fundamental principle of our society that must not be compromised under any circumstances,” Schlitz said. “This prohibition is a powerful act to protect the victims from this symbolic, psychological and sometimes physical violence.”

The Times went on to report that anyone caught practising and violating the ban may be facing imprisonment of one month to two years and/or a fine of €100 to €300.

The language of the law also specifies that [the court] will also take into account whether the offence was committed by a person in a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the victim and whether the offence was committed against a minor or a person in a vulnerable situation.

Suggesting or inciting conversion practices, directly or indirectly, will also be penalised. The court will be able to prohibit people convicted of conversion practices from carrying out a professional or social activity related to the commission of these offences for a maximum period of five years, the Times noted.

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Lithuanian filmmaker uses work to advance LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Romas Zabarauskas came out in 2011 at Vilnius Film Festival

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Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)

WASHINGTON — A gay filmmaker from Lithuania who describes himself as the “Baltic enfant terrible” uses his work to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Romas Zabarauskas, 32, grew up in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

He told the Washington Blade during an interview in D.C. in August that he initially wanted to be an actor, but soon realized he wanted to direct films. 

Zabarauskas said the classic films — including John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos” and Douglas Sirk’s “All that Heaven Allows” —he watched in a local library exposed him to “the diversity of the world.” He also said Todd Haynes, Derek Jarman, Gregg Araki and other LGBTQ+ and intersex filmmakers “inspired” him.

“I enjoyed the diversity of the world,” he said. “It wasn’t just in terms of sexuality and gender identity, but also in terms of diversity of styles and ways of expression. It was amazing because it made me feel accepted.”

“It all sounds kind of trivial, but it’s true,” added Zabarauskas. “Cinema captures stories from all across the world in such different ways. That’s kind of amazing. I was definitely inspired by that.”

Zabarauskas studied at Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis University from 2009-2011 and at City College of New York: Hunter College from 2011-2012.

Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)

Zabarauskas’ first film, “Porno Melodrama,” which details a gay man’s decision to make a pornographic movie with his ex-girlfriend in order to make enough money for him and his boyfriend to leave Lithuania, premiered at Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

“There are many other films that have this kind of paranoia about gay villains, queer villains. I almost wanted to do something opposite,” Zabarauskas told the Blade while discussing the film. “It’s as though heterosexuality becomes this villain through the character of this villain, this ex-girlfriend. I wanted to play with that, allow myself that freedom to go very far. The title really hints more so, not to the erotic aspect of the film, because it’s not as explicit reality, but it’s more about the style of the film because it’s so out there.”

“Porno Melodrama” (Poster courtesy of Romas Zabarauskas)

Zabarauskas came out as gay during “Porno Melodrama”‘s premiere at the Vilnius Film Festival.

“Very few people were out (in Lithuania) then in 2011,” he noted. “I got a lot of media attention … I talked about what it means to be gay on TV, print and all kinds of media.”

“It was a double-edged sword,” added Zabarauskas. “I was happy to contribute with my openness and I continue to do so today. On the other hand, I got so much pressure … the direct homophobia is understandable and easy to dissect. You know what it is, but then there was a lot of gray zone. I feel like I was trapped. I went under this huge scrutiny.”

The Berlin Film Festival then screened “Porno Melodrama.” 

“I traveled the world, but then because I got so much media attention in Lithuania I was scrutinized by the critics and by film lovers and a lot of people (said) that I’m more of an activist,” said Zabarauskas. “I’m more of a public speaker than a filmmaker. The way I see it: Artists should be engaged or can be engaged, and it doesn’t contradict the art.”

The Lithuanian Film Center funded Zabarauskas’ third feature film, “The Lawyer,” which debuted in 2020.

“The Lawyer” highlights Marius, a gay corporate lawyer who forms what Zabarauskas describes as “an unexpected, human relationship” with Ali, Syrian refugee who is unable to leave Belgrade, Serbia, after his estranged father dies. Zabarauskas noted to the Blade that “The Lawyer” is the first Lithuanian film that portrays a male same-sex relationships and is one of the few made in Eastern Europe that shows LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees.

“I’m always interested in delving into very complicated political situations, but rather than to educate or send a direct message, I’m looking to find nuance and I’m looking to find interesting human drama,” he said. “I also don’t shy away from the kind of dialogue that they [Marius and Ali] have, in which they criticize [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad. It’s so important not to forget that that was still ongoing and actually its fueled by Russia and by Putin.”

Lithuanian television showed “The Lawyer” for the first time on Nov. 11.

Lithuanian Shorts, in 2021 screened “Porno Melodrama,” which coincided with the film’s revival. Zabarauskas’ films have also been screened at the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival and at New York City Pride’s human rights conference.

“The Lawyer” (Flyer courtesy of Romas Zabarauskas)

Zabarauskas spoke with the Blade nearly six months after Russia began its war against Ukraine.

Lithuania borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus, whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, a year before it dissolved.

Zabarauskas noted then-Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė in 2014 labeled Russia a “terrorist state” after it annexed Crimea. Lithuanian MPs in May unanimously approved a resolution that described Russia’s war against Ukraine as an “act of genocide.”

“It’s the first time that I can be so proud of my country,” Zabarauskas told the Blade, referring to Lithuania’s posture towards Russia. “I’m actually very proud that Lithuania is right in terms of its foreign policy towards Russia and has been for a while.”

Zabarauskas acknowledged there is “fear” among Lithuanians about whether Russia will target their country, but he said, “that primal fear isn’t there anymore.” Zabarauskas also noted Lithuanians have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes.

“That’s been inspiring,” he said.

Gay U.S. ambassador ‘setting a personal example’

Lithuania bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and has lifted restrictions for male blood donors who have sex with men. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, is among the more than 15,000 people who attended Baltic Pride 2022 in Vilnius in June. 

Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, the country’s second openly gay MP, is running to become Vilnius’ next mayor in 2023. Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Audra Plepytė met with Zabarauskas when he was in D.C. 

“Us artists, we have this opportunity to build bridges, to make pressure,” said Zabarauskas. “We sometimes have more freedom than politicians in what we can say and what we can do. I always try to use that in meeting diplomats and politicians and reminding them that the Lithuania LGBT+ is a part of Lithuanian society and we should celebrate our rights and our lives and that’s important.”

Baltic Pride 2022 took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, on June 4, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius)

The Harvey Milk Foundation in 2021 honored Zabarauskas for his work. Zabarauskas noted this recognition to the Blade and applauded openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist’s “personal leadership” on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

“I appreciate his leadership and I appreciate that he’s setting a personal example,” said Zabarauskas. “He’s making some impactful speeches at different events.”

Lithuania is one of only six European Union member states that do not legally recognize same-sex couples.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky in August announced his support for a civil partnership law for same-sex couples. Zabarauskas told the Blade he hopes Lithuanian lawmakers will follow the Ukrainian president’s lead and back an identical measure that has been introduced in Parliament.

“It’s so huge and a lot of people are inspired by those words, including in Lithuania,” said Zabarauskas. “I think it will be impactful in terms of our chances to get the civil unions law passed because it’s going to be very difficult to twist those words.”

Zabarauskas also said he and his fiancé want to get married in Lithuania.

“We got engaged earlier this year and we don’t want to get married abroad because it wouldn’t change anything in Lithuania,” he said.

Romas Zabarauskas (Photo by Arcana Femina)
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Poland’s highest court rules same-sex marriages aren’t forbidden

Poland has drawn condemnations from the European Union for its discriminatory laws surrounding LGBTQ+ people

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Warsaw Pride 2022 (Screenshot from video by Krystian Dobuszyński)

WARSAW, Poland – The Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny, NSA) issued a ruling this week on Thursday that same-sex marriages of Polish citizens legally married in other countries were not expressly forbidden under the country’s constitution.

Article 18 of the constitution states: “marriage as a union of a man and a woman, family, motherhood and parenthood are under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.”

“Article 18 of the constitution cannot in itself constitute an obstacle to transcribing a foreign marriage certificate if the institution of marriage as a union of persons of the same sex was provided for in the domestic [legal] order,” the court ruled.

“The provision of the constitution in question does not prohibit the statutory regulation of same-sex unions,” said the court, adding that it was simply the case that “at present the Polish legislature has not decided to introduce such solutions” into Polish law.

The suit had been brought by Jakub Kwieciński and Dawid Mycek, a gay couple who are popular vloggers and social media celebrities who had legally married in Portugal. The case was litigated in the lower courts after the governor of the Polish province of Mazovia refused to acknowledge that their nuptials were legal.

Ordo Iuris, a Polish ultraconservative legal group that has campaigned against what it labels “LGBT ideology,” tweeted that the decision was “fake news.”

LGBTQ rights have become a hotly contested issue in Poland in recent years that has been met by a conservative backlash in this heavily Catholic nation.

The majority of Polish people support LGBTQ+ rights surrounding marriage and family, according to research by Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude). 

The survey found 56% of respondents believe same-sex marriage should be legal to ensure the safety of their children. Even more, 65%, said they felt “a biological parent raising a child with a same-sex partner” fits the definition of family. And 58% of people said a same-sex couple is a family even without children. 

According to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland is one of only six European Union member states where same-sex couples cannot marry or register a civil partnership. 

The survey reveals a stark difference between the Polish government and public opinion on LGBTQ+ rights. 

As a result of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, and the continued limits on LGBTQ rights in Poland, the country has for the last three years been ranked as the worst in the European Union for LBGTQ people by ILGA-Europe, a Brussels-based NGO.

Poland has also drawn condemnations from the EU for its discriminatory laws surrounding LGBTQ+ people. 

In September, the European Commission threatened to withhold pandemic relief funds, totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million), in Polish jurisdictions that passed measures forming “LGBTQ Free Zones.” 

Some regions have since repealed the anti-LGBTQ+ resolution. 

In 2020, Poland narrowly re-elected President Andrzej Duda, who ran a campaign that regularly attacked the LGBTQ+ community, according to Pink News

Polish LGBTQ+ advocates are also pushing back against a proposed law that would ban the so-called “promotion” of LGBTQ+ lifestyles. It would also make Pride parades illegal.

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Giorgia Meloni: Italy’s far-right anti-LGBTQ party leader wins

After years of activism she carved a space for herself in the Italian political arena & is now set to be Italy’s first female prime minister

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Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party speaks to supporters Sunday after polls close (Screenshot/YouTube)

ROME – Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, appeared to have won in Sunday’s snap general elections according to exit polling. In a coalition with other right wing parties, Meloni’s right-wing alliance now looks to have control of both houses, with a projected 42.2% of the Senate vote.

This will lead to her forming Italy’s most right-wing government since World War Two and Meloni is now set to be Italy’s first female prime minister. However, the final say will rest with Sergio Mattarella the President of Italy, a decision that is expected to take some time according to political observers in Rome familiar with the inner workings of the Italian government.

Turnout for Sunday’s elections was dramatically low – 63.82% by the time polls closed – said Italy’s interior ministry, almost 10 points down on 2018. Voting levels were especially poor in southern regions including Sicily.

Meloni’s Facebook post made after the results had been announced translates to:

History we made today.

This victory is dedicated to all the militants, managers, supporters and every single person who – in these years – has contributed to the realization of our dream, offering soul and heart spontaneously and selflessly.

To those who, despite the difficulties and the most complex moments, have remained in their place, with conviction and generosity. But, above all, it’s dedicated to those who believe and have always believed in us.

We won’t betray your trust. We are ready to lift Italy up.

THANK YOU ! 🇮🇹

Meloni is seen as polarizing figure with some of her political stances and rhetoric on the European Union aligning her close to Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban. However, Professor Gianluca Passarrelli of Rome’s Sapienza University told the BBC he thought she would avoid rocking the boat on Europe and focus on other policies: “I think we will see more restrictions on civil rights and policies on LGBT and immigrants.”

Meloni has long displayed antagonism and intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. She has stated that she perceives sees LGBTQ as menacing and threatening Western civilization.

The BBC noted that earlier this year she outlined her priorities in a raucous speech to Spain’s far-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”

As LGBTQ+ equity and equality rights are foundational to the European Union and its governing commission, some see Meloni as combatting the EU over LGBTQ+ issues in the same vein as Hungary’s Orban.

On other issues Meloni doesn’t claim to “oppose” Europe, but rather she outlines a model of integration that may or may not go down well in Brussels euronews reported.

“If we had an EU more like the one we imagine, we would have developed a more effective defence policy, invested in energy security and maintained short value chains to avoid reliance on third – often untrustworthy – countries for gas, raw materials, commodities, chips and other goods,” she stated.

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EuroPride 2022 ends with no major incidents or disruptions

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people, advocates, activists and allies marched under rainy skies in the Serbian capital Saturday afternoon

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EuroPride Pride march September 17, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia (Photo Credit: EuroPride)

BELGRADE- As thousands of LGBTQ+ people, advocates, activists and allies marched under rainy skies in the Serbian capital Saturday afternoon, there were only minor clashes between anti-LGBTQ+ protestors and Serbian Police, who had been deployed in overwhelming force along the parade route.

According to the Serbian Ministry of Interior nearly 6,000 uniformed police in riot gear and accompanied by plainclothes security personnel cordoned off the march area around the Constitutional Court in Central Belgrade. The Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin had warned in a statement that “we will not tolerate any violence in Belgrade streets, any more than illegal marches.”

European media outlets France 24 and Agence Presse France reported that 64 people were arrested as anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrators clashed with police in attempts to disrupt the Pride march. Once group of half a dozen people carrying crosses and religious icons managed to get past police cordons to where the EuroPride parade participants were gathering, treading on the rainbow flag which was on the road, praying and singing. Police managed to remove them in minutes.

Serbian state media outlets reported that anti-pride protesters were also stopped by police in riot gear at the central Slavija square. The large group of protesters wanted to get past the cordon and head towards the parade gathering.

An N1 reporter said that a large group of football hooligans clashed with police near St Sava Temple, throwing firecrackers and torches at the police. The police cordon managed to push them back.

“I am here to preserve Serbian traditions, faith and culture which are being destroyed by sodomites,” Andrej Bakic, 36, a counter-protester in a group surrounded by riot police told AFP on Saturday.

During a routine Saturday press conference at the end of last month Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital city from September 12-18 was cancelled.

The Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Reaction to the Serbian leader’s remarks was swift with the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride writing in a statement that any ban would be in violation of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to human rights and protections for sexual minorities.

The government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its late August decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event this past Thursday, Serbian state media reported.

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Serbia, where homophobia remains deep-seated despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.

More than 20 embassies — including the US, France and Britain — had issued a joint statement urging the authorities to lift the ban.

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

Media outlet euronews reported that a group of about 10 Albanian LGBTQ+ activists, who had attended the EuroPride parade were attacked by Serbian extremists, but the attack occurred roughly a couple of hours after the parade had ended as the Albanians were apparently headed into their hotel. 

A local journalist, Isa Myzyraj , said that 2 of the group ended up in hospital.  He added that the group was not identifying themselves as parade participants with clothing signs etc. and that even though the Serbian police were literally not but a few meters away they didn’t intervene. 

The attackers were thought to be far right nationalists who were still in the area after the parade ended.  Myzyraj said that he was not sure if the Albanian group was attacked specifically because of being LGBTQ+ or if their nationality played a role. 

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Serbian government U-turns on ban of EuroPride parade

“Serbia has made important steps towards strengthening equality for LGBTIQ+ people and their rights to non-discrimination”

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Belgrade Pride in 2019 (Photo Credit: Belgrade Pride)

BELGRADE – The government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its late August decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event Thursday, Serbian state media reported.

The Serbian government informed the European Commission and the European Pride Organizers Association, that licenses EuroPride, the march would take place as planned although Serbian authorities altered the pathway with a new shorter route.

The parade commence at 5pm local time outside the Constitutional Court near the National Assembly of Serbia, and walk to the Tasmajdan Stadium where a concert and formal closing ceremony of EuroPride will take place.

On September 12, officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride, commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade with a ceremonial flag raising. On Friday led by the Dutch Embassy, members of the European Union and other non-EU states issued a joint statement applauding the Serbian government’s roll-back of the ban.

“Serbia has made important steps towards strengthening equality for LGBTIQ+ people and their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence. Hosting EuroPride in Belgrade is a celebration and an acknowledgement of that progress.

“We commit to listening and supporting the work of grassroots human rights defenders, civil society organizations, and community leaders. Their work on the frontlines makes a positive impact on LGBTIQ+ rights, often at a personal risk.”

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Massive far-right protests as EuroPride commences in Belgrade

On Sunday several thousands of protesters took to the streets many carrying huge Serbian & Russian flags & chanting anti-LGBTQ+ slogans

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U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Christopher R. Hill with EuroPride & Belgrade Pride officials marking start of EuroPride 2022 (Photo Credit: Embassy of the United States, Belgrade/EuroPride)

BELGRADE – Officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in the Serbian capital with a ceremonial flag raising Monday as the event gets underway this week.

Concerns however, have been raised over safety for attendees and participants in the wake of massive anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations and the government of Serbia issuing a ban.

During a routine Saturday press conference two weeks ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held from September 12-18 was cancelled.

In his remarks the Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Undaunted, EuroPride and Belgrade Pride defiantly announced that the event would go on as scheduled.

“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” the President of the European Pride Organisers Association Kristine Garina said.

“During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured,” she added.

The kick-off was also attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher R. Hill, who tweeted:

“Gratified to see a safe, secure start to #EuroPride2022. Congratulations @BelgradePride, @CDREurope, and the entire team of organizers behind @EuroPride. Looking forward to a week of great events with safety, security, and basic freedoms guaranteed for all.”

On Sunday, Sept. 11, several thousands of protesters took to the streets of Belgrade, many carrying huge Serbian and Russian flags, chanting pro-Russia, pro-Putin and anti-LGBTQ+ slogans and marching to Belgrade’s St Sava cathedral for prayers.

Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porfirije led clerics and faithful in a prayer “for the sanctity of marriage and family” that accused “invisible forces” of imposing “ungodly and unnatural unions as a substitute for marriage and family.”

Radio Free Europe/Liberty reported that Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is openly lesbian and was a participant in a 2017 Pride event in Belgrade, declined to intervene to support holding the EuroPride events in light of the ban decreed by President Vucic.

She responded angrily on September 12 to a local newspaper editor who accused Brnabic of selling out the LGBT community to become a “Progressive,” a reference to Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which she joined after becoming prime minister as an independent five years ago.

Brnabic accused the editor and other “enlightened elites” of cubbyholing gay people as incapable of holding diverse political views.

“[To them] if you’re gay, you can only be gay, period. It’s the only thing that defines you,” Brnabic tweeted. “You are not the prime minister — but LGBT.”

The translation of the tweet below reads: “The essence of discrimination that the “enlightened elite” neither sees nor cares about. If you’re gay, you can just be gay, period. It’s the only thing that defines you. You are not the prime minister – but LGBT. You are not a member of SNS – but LGBT. And they don’t see a single problem with it, they think it’s something smart.”

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

On Tuesday morning Sept. 13, the European Union’s Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued a statement regarding Serbia’s stance on EuroPride and the ban by President Vucic:

“It is highly regrettable that the Serbian authorities have decided to ban the Europride march scheduled for 17 September. Weeks of uncertainty concerning the holding of this march have sent a wrong message to the public and made space for hateful rhetoric and more threats against LGBTI people, including from religious leaders”, said

“Instead of bowing to threats and hate by banning the Europride march, the Serbian authorities have the responsibility to ensure that everyone in society can exercise their right to enjoy the same freedoms and is equal in dignity.” Mijatović said

“Instead of bowing to threats and hate by banning the Europride march, the Serbian authorities have the responsibility to ensure that everyone in society can exercise their right to enjoy the same freedoms and is equal in dignity,” Mijatović noted continuing:

“As I have stressed in my conversations with the Serbian authorities at the highest level over the past two weeks, the fact that Europride takes place in Serbia this week is also of great significance for the south-eastern European region, where much still needs to be done to combat discrimination and hate against LGBTI people. Hosting Europride sends the signal that the march toward equality is in progress. It is positive that Pride marches have taken place peacefully in recent years in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Tirana, Podgorica and Skopje and I call on the Serbian authorities to be on the right side of history by enabling a peaceful and safe Europride march next Saturday.”

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Serbia says EuroPride cancelled; organizers say ‘Not so fast’

“The Prime Minister promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured”

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Out Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic (Screenshot/YouTube AFP)

BELGRADE – During a routine Saturday press conference Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital city from September 12-18 was cancelled.

In his remarks the Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Reaction to the Serbian leader’s remarks was swift with the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride writing in a statement that any ban would be in violation of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to human rights and protections for sexual minorities.

“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” the President of the European Pride Organisers Association Kristine Garina said.

“During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured,” she said continuing:

“Aside from the illegality of such a ban, it must be noted that those opposing EuroPride in Belgrade are using tired old tropes, inaccuracies and downright lies to discredit what is, in fact, a celebration of human rights and equality. They say that we are against family values, when all of us comes from a family and many of us have families of our own. They say that we are child abusers, when we all stand firm against all child abuse. They claim that Serbian authorities have invested €40 million into EuroPride, despite the event costing a fraction of this and not receiving any funds from government. Every one of their claims is a lie, and to try to ban EuroPride would mean authorities had fallen for their lies.”

“EuroPride in Belgrade will not be cancelled and will bring together thousands of LGBTI+ people from across Europe with LGBTI+ people from Serbia and the wider western Balkans. It will bring many millions of Dinar into the local economy, and allow Serbia to show that it is on the road to being a progressive, welcoming European nation. What Serbian authorities must do is stand firm against these bullies, and protect the event,” Garina said.

In Belgrade, an activist with Belgrade Pride, Marko Mihailovic tweeted:

“The state cannot cancel EuroPride – it can only try to ban it, which would be a clear violation of the Constitution as well as the judgment of the Constitutional Court banning Pride from 2011, 12, 13. year declare unconstitutional.
Pride takes place as planned on September 17. at 5 pm in front of the National Assembly!”

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is a lesbian, and her partner joined the Pride marches since 2017 although in 2019 more than 100 far-right activists gathered, some holding Orthodox Christian banners and crosses and singing religious songs.

Serbian Police scuffled with several after they refused to move from the route of the march, and at least five people were detained Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reported at the time.

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Ukrainian activists participate in Berlin Pride march

Russia launched war against Ukraine in February

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Ukrainian LGBTQ activists are among those who took part in the annual Berlin Pride parade on Saturday. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BERLIN — Members of Ukrainian LGBTQ rights organizations are among the upwards of 500,000 people who took part in Berlin’s annual Pride parade on Saturday.

The Christopher Street Day march — which began near Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz — passed through the city until it ended at the Brandenburg Gate. Members of Kyiv and Kharkiv Pride and the Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Refugee are among those who took part.

The march took place less than five months after Russia launched its war against Ukraine.

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European Union sues Hungary over its LGBTQ+ rights violations

The EU also sued Hungary for breaching EU telecoms rules over refusal to renew the license of a broadcaster critical of the Orban government

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Court of Justice in the Palais de la Cour de Justice (EU/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

LUXEMBOURG CITY, Luxembourg – In two separate filings Friday with the Court of Justice in the Palais de la Cour de Justice, the European Commission sued Hungary over a Hungarian law which discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The EU Commission also sued the government of Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban for breaching EU telecoms rules with the Hungarian Media Council’s refusal to renew the license of Klubradio, a broadcaster critical of Orban’s government.

The Hungarian law, in particular, singles out and targets LGBTQ+ content that ‘promotes or portrays’ what it refers to as ‘divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality’ for individuals under 18.

The Commission noted in a press release the referral to Court is the next step of the infringement procedure launched by the Commission on 15 July 2021 against Hungary with a letter of formal notice.

As the Hungarian authorities did not sufficiently respond to the concerns of the Commission in relation to equality and the protection of fundamental rights, and did not include any commitment to remedy the incompatibility, the Commission sent a reasoned follow-up opinion to Hungary on 2 December 2021.

Orban, who has publicly proclaimed that he is a “defender of traditional family Catholic values,” has been criticised by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ+ people with this law which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a “disgrace.”

The protection of children is an absolute priority for the EU and its Member States the press release continued and noted:

The Hungarian law contains provisions which are not justified on the basis of promoting this fundamental interest or are disproportionate to achieve the stated objective. It violates the following EU rules:

  • The Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which the law breaches as regards standards for audio-visual content and the free provision of cross-border audiovisual media services. Hungary put in place unjustified and disproportionate restrictions which discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The e-commerce Directive and its country of origin provision. The law restricts the provision of services displaying content portraying different sexual orientations to minors, including when these services originate from other Member States, and Hungary failed to justify these restrictions.
  • The Treaty principle of freedom to provide services (Article 56 TFEU) and the Services Directive. The addressees of parts of the law fall under the definition of a service under EU rules. The freedom to provide services can only be limited if the restrictions imposed by the law are duly justified, non-discriminatory, and proportionate, which Hungary has failed to demonstrate.
  • The right to data protection, in particular because the national provisions do not define precisely who can be authorised to access sensitive personal data stored in the Criminal Records System and whose data can be targeted by such access. Furthermore, the national provisions do not establish objective criteria to justify the necessity of the access to the data.
  • The Single Market Transparency Directive, as Hungary failed to notify the Commission in advance of the adoption of some of the contested provisions despite the obligation to do so laid down in the Directive.
  • In the context of implementation of EU law, the Hungarian law also violates in a systematic manner several fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This includes the inviolability of human dignity, the right to freedom of expression and information, the right to private and family life, as well as the right to non-discrimination. Due to of the gravity of these violations, the contested provisions also violate the common values laid down in Article 2 TEU.

Background

On 15 June 2021, the Hungarian Law purportedly aiming at taking stricter action against paedophile offenders and amending certain laws to protect children was adopted. Some of the new provisions target and limit the access of minors to content and advertisements that “promotes or portrays” the so-called “divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality”.

Prior to its passage over 5,000 people, LGBTQ activists and supporters along with human rights activists demonstrated in front of the Parliament in Budapest, angered by legislation banning any content portraying or promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment to anyone under 18. 

It was sponsored by Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling conservative party and essentially equates sexual and gender diversity people to paedophilia.

In its second referral to the Court, the Commission sued Hungary for breaching EU telecoms rules.

In a press release the EU noted: The Commission believes that Hungary is in breach of EU law by applying disproportionate and non-transparent conditions to the renewal of Klubradio’s rights to use radio spectrum. Moreover, the Commission considers that Hungary applied the relevant rules in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner and that Hungary failed to adopt timely decisions. Through its conduct, Hungary has also violated the freedom of speech as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Hungary’s disproportionate and discriminatory actions prevented Klubradio from continuing its activity in the radio broadcasting sector on the basis of radio frequency.

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