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Serbian Gays Protest Govt’s Blind Eye to Anti-Gay Violence

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 21, 2011

Gay Serbs publicly denounced what they felt to be the government's blind eye to their concerns, including an incident of anti-gay violence in which a lesbian was attacked by a knife-wielding youth who police promptly let go.

A crowd of about 200 hundred gathered with placards and flags before a government building in Belgrade, reported on Oct. 19.

The protest was partly a response to a knife attack that targeted a 26-year-old lesbian, evidently because she had been wearing a shirt emblazoned with a message of GLBT equality and acceptance. The police apprehended the attacker, but immediately let him go again. The official explanation was that because he was a minor, police could not charge him for the crime.

Meantime, the victim of the attack sustained severe injuries to the tendons of her right arm. She sent out a letter from her hospital bed in which she encouraged GLBTs to stand up for themselves.

"I know that my friends are afraid to report similar attacks that are happening to them but I have decided not to withdraw," the young woman wrote. "I defended myself that night, and now I do not want to keep it quiet! And it does not matter whether I'm lesbian or straight--someone tried to kill me!"

The letter said that the victim was "bitter and angry" about the perpetrator being set free instead of charged by the police.

"What should have happened for the authorities to keep such a dangerous guy and remove him from the streets? If I had not resisted and if he had managed to stab or kill me, would that be a sufficient cause for his detention?" the young woman demanded.

"I want to live and I want my life to continue," the letter continued. "I do not want to go anywhere, this is my city that I love and I will not let these maniacs force me to leave it. I do not want them to be the picture of Serbia and our future!"

The protest, called "Enough!" by its organizers, demanded that police and the government take anti-gay violence seriously. The group was forced to set out their concerns in a letter because government officials refused to meet with them in person, the article said.

"In theory, gays are entitled to protection under an anti-discrimination law adopted in March 2009," reported. "The law banned any kind of discrimination, whether based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or other factors.

"In practice, public expressions of homophobia remain tolerated," the article added.

Serbia's GLBTs were recently denied permission to host a Pride event, even though permission had previously been granted. The reason given was concern on the part of the government's security forces that Pride celebrants would be attacked and possible riots might ensue.

Just such violence took place in 2010, when anti-gay right-wing extremists sought to attack Pride celebrants, leading to struggles with the police, looting, and the burning of cars. GLBT rights groups characterized the government's cancellation of the 2011 Pride event, and the lack of government prosecution of right-wing radicals, as a surrender to extremism.

Meantime, in the Ukraine, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for the media to "promote homosexuality." Such legislation could mean the suppression of information relevant to the needs and concerns of the country's GLBT population, including fact-based medical information.

But at least one Ukrainian lawmaker failed to see gays in terms other than pathology and criminality.

"Ukraine must be protected from sodomy, brought here by Europe, and homosexuals must be offered a treatment," Evgeny Tsarkov, a politician with the Communist Party, told the media, according to

Tsarkov adapted some American-style rhetoric to defend and rationalize his position.

"When I walk along the street with my son and see newspapers with kissing men, it violates my constitutional rights," the anti-gay politician declared. He then compared gays to pedophiles and individuals who have sex with animals.

"Zoophiles and pedophiles also have desire for animals and children, but we don't defend them," he said.

Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog organization, appealed to the Ukrainian government not to "isolate itself" from the wider world by adopting a flagrantly discriminatory law.

"Those who support this draft bill doom Ukrainians to ignorance rather than defend the population from any harm," a letter to Ukrainian lawmakers from HRW warns.

"If the parliament approves the document Ukraine will isolate itself from other countries," a representative of the group, Boris Dietrich, said in an address.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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