By Bryan Yeoh Quan Jin, International News Writer
On September 17, Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabic took part in the country’s gay pride march in Belgrade, becoming the first government leader in the Balkan region to do so. Ms. Brnabic is no stranger to setting trends. When President Aleksandr Vučić appointed her back in June, she became the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold the office in Serbia’s history. Ms. Brnabic, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland are currently the only openly gay heads of governments in the world.
Amidst security fences and police in riot gear, Sunday’s march went on smoothly despite increased security measures taken by the Serbian police force. Such measures were to ensure that the violent attacks that happened in 2010 would not reoccur. Any attempts at organizing a gay pride parade in Serbia after 2010 were largely unsuccessful. Organizers finally persuaded the government to allow a pride parade in late 2014 and the tradition has continued successfully till date
Speaking to BBC News, Ms. Brnabic said, “Serbia respects differences. This is my message today, that the Serbian government is here for all citizens and it will respect the rights of all the citizens.” It is the hope of members of minority groups in Serbia that Ms. Brnabic’s appointment as prime minister will signal a change in Serbia’s policy. The European Union (EU) criticized Serbia in 2016 for its lack of respect for the rights of minorities including the Roma, disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Ms. Brnabic’s support for the LGBT community in Serbia is an illustration to the EU that it is committed to a more inclusive Serbia.
It will be a tough road ahead for Ms. Brnabic if she intends to push for a more inclusive Serbian society. Serbia remains a conservative country under the massive influence of the Orthodox Church. According to Reuters, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest in a statement last week. As co-organizer Goran Miletic remarked on the state of human rights to a Reuters reporter, “We still have to work a lot more to make it even better.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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