Serbia: Gays and lesbians “temporarily” declared personae non-gratae

© picture alliance / EPA-EFE | VALDRIN XHEMAJ  

In the conservative worldview of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić – and in that of his electorate – same-sex partnerships and alternative lifestyles have no place, although the president recently confirmed Ana Brnabić, who lives in a lesbian partnership, as prime minister. For years, Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has been leading the country socially back into the past: the separation between church and state is becoming increasingly blurred, medieval-sytle monuments to Serbian national heroes are being erected, and “traditional Serbian values” such as family and fatherland are being unduly upheld.

In this social climate, the debate over the EuroPride 2022 – a pan-European LGBTIQ event held in a different European city each year – planned for mid-September in Belgrade, heated up radically, with a Serbian-Orthodox bishop even going so far as to say he would “curse” the participants and “If I had a gun, I would use it!”

Sometimes Vučić cannot get rid of the spirits he conjured. On Sunday, he unilaterally cancelled EuroPride 2022, which is actually covered by the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly: According to the President, Serbia had enough on its plate with the Kosovo conflict, with food shortages, drought, and energy problems, and could not do everything at once. In truth, there are other reasons behind the cancellation, as Stefan Šparavalo from the foundation’s LGBTIQ partner “Da se zna!” (“Make it known!”) in Serbia explains in an interview with . President Vučić justified the cancellation of the 2022 EuroPride by saying that Serbia currently has enough to do with “Kosovo, food shortages, drought and energy problems” and thus cannot “take care of everything”. What are the actual reasons behind this severe restriction of fundamental rights for LGBTIQ people?

Šparavalo: I believe the real reason for this political skirmish with the EuroPride is an attempt to contain the increasingly powerful extreme right in Serbia, and I mean the extreme right that is not under Vučić’s control. At the same time, he does this to please the right-oriented part of his own electorate. In the end, I believe this attempted ban was also imposed as a publicity stunt to minimize the repercussions of the latest compromise with Kosovo on the recognition of personal documents.


What are the reactions of the Serbian LGBTIQ community to the cancellation? Are people appalled, or do they resign because discriminatory behaviour on the part of the government has become a habit?

The reaction of the organizers of EuroPride was decisive and responsible – the President of the Republic cannot cancel EuroPride because he did not even organize it. The Pride parade can only be banned not by a verbal decree of the President, but by a decision of the Ministry of the Interior. Organizations and supporters have stated firmly and unequivocally that the walk will take place, regardless of the decision of the authorities. I believe this is brave and the right decision – because this will make the EuroPride a real protest, not just a ceremonial walk.

Are there ways and means to support the Serbian LGBTIQ community in its struggle for equal rights and social participation from within the EU and its member states?

The European Union and its member states should exert as much pressure as possible on the ruling coalition of President Vučić and Prime Minister Brnabić because that kind of external pressure is the only thing they take into account. If this is the only way to enforce the constitutional rights of LGBT persons, then so be it. Any appeals or protest that come from domestic actors simply will not bear fruit, because they do not recognize the EuroPride as a topic that is meaningful in the domestic debate.

Stefan Šparavalo

Stefan Šparavalo