Đajić: When it comes to LGBTI rights, Serbia is not a fully democratic country

Photo: Jasmin Sessler for Unsplash

The Belgrade-based NGO the Center of Modern Skills (CMS) has recently published an online handbook “Social Democracy and the rights of LGBTI population in Serbia”.

“It is essential that both parties and citizens understand that as long as the LGBTI community suffers some form of discrimination, no other community or individual can say they are completely free. In those terms, Serbia is not a fully democratic country”, told EWB the author of the handbook, CMS founder Miloš Đajić.

The handbook presents an outlook of the LGBTI movement and provides practical proposals for political action while it primarily, but not solely, addresses the representatives of social democratic parties.

“With regard to the sensitization of social-democratic parties in Serbia for LGBTI rights, things have moved from total disregard to public declaratory efforts to advance the position and respect the rights of LGBTI population”, reckons Đajić.

He also points out that Serbia does not yet have a large number of candidates who talk about their sexual orientation openly during the campaign. “Unlike the last European elections, where there were many candidates, as well as the willingness of political groups to clearly present their public policies in this area, we still do not have that”, says Đajić.

The Head of the Delegation of the European Parliament to Serbia Tanja Fajon greeted the release of the publication on Twitter, stressing the importance of standing up for marginalized groups.

Writing about what politicians can do in order to help societies overcome the patriarchal approach towards the LGBTI population, the author emphasizes the importance of language. “As someone who acts in public, politicians have the opportunity to shape thoughts and attitudes of people they address”, writes Đajić.

Fight against discrimination against LGBTI population is also recognized in the Serbian law. The Prohibition of Discrimination Act bans any discriminatory act, direct or indirect, while its Articles 1, 2, 13, and 21 ban any discrimination based on sexual orientation. Furthermore, Article 54a of the Serbian Criminal Code recognizes the commission of an offense on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, inter alia, as aggravating circumstances in relation to hate crimes.

Đajić also compares the importance of using LGBTI terminology with the feminist approach towards gender-sensitive language. “Both those who use LGBTI terminology, as well as those who are opposing it, know that language forms and creates people’s consciousness [] Never allow yourself to be a politician remembered for discriminatory statements and hate speech”, advises the author. A short dictionary of LGBTI terminology is also provided in the handbook.

The publication stresses the importance of holding the Pride Parade. “By enabling such gatherings, states show that the LGBTI community can express their views and draw attention to the rights they have been denied”, writes Đajić, adding that authorities have to enable the respect for human rights must be a
priority on our political agenda”.

A set of practical proposals about what politicians could do to help to combat the negative attitudes against the representatives of the LGBTI community stresses the importance of public response to homophobia and hate speech, establishing cooperation with civil society organizations dealing with human rights and enforcing the mechanisms for democratic inclusion of LGBTI.

Đajić underlines that fair elections are one of the most important civil rights when it comes to this topic, adding that promoting human rights is therefore relevant for the whole electoral process. “Through the engagement of European MPs, we see how important this topic is for Serbia’s accession to the European Union”, concludes Đajić.

The complete handbook in Serbian language is available on this link