European Western Balkans

Pride marches held in Skopje and Sarajevo without incidents

Pride March 2019; Photo: Tanjug / Andrija Vukelić

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Skopje and Sarajevo during the annual Pride events on Saturday. In the two weeks before that, the Pride march took place in Pristina, while International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was celebrated in Tirana on 17 May.

Pride marches in other Balkan capitals usually take place during the second half of the year. Traditionally, Belgrade Pride is scheduled for September, while Montenegro Pride will take place in Podgorica in October.

According to Macedonian and Bosnian officials, no incidents were reported. During the preparation of Pride in Sarajevo, the community demanded less security than in previous years and share a feeling „progress has been made“.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) reported that public support getting louder, and more visible, after two howling attacks on members of the LGBTQ+ community in Banja Luka, the capital of Serbian entity Republika Srpska, where local police banned a preparatory public event in March.

BIRN also reported on a counter-protest in Sarajevo, attended by several dozen Muslim conservatives, which held banners reading „The people does not want you“, „You have stolen the rainbow“, and „We love Prophet Mohammed“.

Key messages from Skopje Pride 2023 included appeals to the whole of society to help solve basic safety issues for LQBTQ+ people, such as violated body autonomy, hate speech and social exclusion. Participants addressed the authorities in particular with demands to end impunity for discrimination and hate crimes, and to provide protection of fundamental human rights for all in North Macedonia.

Although pride marches are held across regional capitals, according to Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research (ISPPI) survey shows that Western Balkans are “championing” homophobia in Europe.

The results of the survey revealed that citizens of North Macedonia are among the most homophonic and most xenophobic in Europe, as well as declaring themselves among the most religious, while 61 percent of respondents from North Macedonia confirmed that they would “feel ashamed” “if a close member of their family is a gay man or lesbian,” a significant percentage of respondents in neighboring countries also agreed: 39 percent in Montenegro, 37 percent in Bulgaria, 30 percent in Croatia, and 29 percent in Serbia.

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