Belgrade Pride Week: What a Difference a Year Can Make

In 2014 Belgrade saw its first successful Pride March in several years. After the extreme violence of 2010 and several subsequent bans there was an optimistic but cautious mood surrounding the 2015 event. On the 21st of September all fears were laid to rest as the Belgrade Pride March 2015 became the Belgrade Pride Parade winding through the streets of the Serbian capital. Over 1,200 participants thronged the event in what was a party of openness, inclusiveness and togetherness.

Long awaited Belgrade Pride Parade gets underway

Long Awaited Belgrade Pride Parade Begins

No one could have anticipated how well Pride Week would unfold. Although 54 counter demonstrators were arrested for minor offences during the parade the number of police required for the event was reduced by over 50% from 2014. Civil Rights Defenders hosted several events throughout the week dealing with empowering the LGBT community while showing the effects of hate speech and homophobia through interactive exhibitions and a photo exhibition both attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life.

“In 2014 the Pride March took place without any incidents. Belgrade Pride 2015 was an actual parade not a march, where people celebrated openness and diversity without looking over their shoulders for fear of reprisal. We are all feeling very proud today in Belgrade and look to the future with new feelings of positivity. There is a lot still to be done as the human rights of the LGBT community is consistently violated and violence and discrimination is still very much a reality”, says Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.

“But we now really have something to work towards and the future for the LGBT community in Belgrade has new possibilities. We look to 2016 Pride with fresh eyes and a real sense of hope” added Goran Miletic.

Civil Rights Defenders brought LGBT activists from all over the Western Balkans to be part of the events in the Serbian capital. They had several opportunities to network and share their experiences of activism while also meeting with numerous EU legislators, International LGBT human rights defenders and supporters.

The event

The event “From Hate Speech to Acceptance” organised by Civil Rights Defenders.

At the parade itself many nationalities were represented. They came from Albania, Kosovo, USA, Macedonia, Greece, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and many more. In one particular incident as the parade meandered down the relatively quite streets of Belgrade lined with Police, some people from a balcony began throwing flowers onto the street in a show of support. Many more could be seen waving and dancing to the crowds below them.

Earlier in the week Civil Rights Defenders held a particularly powerful event “From Hate Speech to Acceptance” exploring the thin line between hate speech and support to vulnerable groups. The event included a debate, and an interactive exhibition that enthralled everyone who attended documenting hate speech on social media and hate graffiti photographed throughout Serbia. What made this event so unique was that these hate comments could be responded to.

Leaving Comments to Hate Speech in a very powerful setting

Leaving Comments to Hate Speech in a very powerful setting

Civil Rights Defenders also organised an exhibition of photos made by famous Serbian photographer Sever Zolak. The exhibition entitled “We Exist” explored gender, gender roles, sexuality, identities and stereotypes in Serbia. Throngs of people attended the opening. Both events took place in Belgrade city centre in a very relaxed setting that aroused curiosity more than suspicion.

Civil Rights Defenders would like to thank everyone who participated and supported this monumental breakthrough for LGBT rights in Serbia. While there is still a lot of work to be done before full acceptance is achieved in Serbia what Belgrade Pride 2015 provided is a springboard to achieve this goal.

Categories: Events and News.
Tags: Belgrade Pride, LGBT rights, Serbia, and Western Balkans.