Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 439, 22 September 2021

Europe: Pride Marches in Serbia and Ukraine
Joeana Cera Matthews

In the news
On 18 September, hundreds joined Serbia's annual Pride parade in Belgrade. Celebrating 20 years since their first parade, organization committee member Marko Mihajlovic said: "In the past 20 years the situation has improved LGBT noticeably but not decisively... (The participants of) this year's Pride demanded a law on same-sex unions. We want this to be the last Pride that we don't have this law."

On 19 September, over 7000 people attended Ukraine's annual March in Kyiv for Equality, supporting the rights of the LGBTQ community. Ukraine ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova asked radical groups to refrain from violence and wrote on Facebook: "(the Constitution recognizes all people) equal in their rights from birth, regardless of any characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Issues at large
First, the pride rallies. Kyiv's tenth Pride rally saw marchers calling for substantial changes to be made concerning how they were treated. Banners referencing eight demands made to the Ukrainian authorities, including the legalization of LGBT civil partnerships and other laws against LGBT hate crimes, were seen. A similar scene was witnessed at Belgrade; marchers were heavily policed and demanded the adoption of a law on same-sex unions. The slogan of this year's parade was 'Love is the law'. Last year, due to the pandemic, Kyiv cancelled its rally while Belgrade held it online.

Second, the opposition to LGBTQ. Concerns of violence loomed during Ukraine's Pride rally; around 100 far-right activists counter-demonstrated in a nearby park. Despite recent progress, homophobia and opposition to same-sex partnerships are prevalent in Kyiv. LGBTQ rights groups claim police were downplaying homophobic or transphobic motives of attacks as 'hooliganism', which further contribute to the problem. LGBTQ associated groups and events are regularly attacked by conservative groups and members of far-right organizations. In Serbia, consistent with past marches, police avoided clashes between far-right protesters who burnt the rainbow flag and pelted stones and eggs at the marchers. According to polls conducted in Serbia, homosexuality is widely considered to be a 'disorder.'

Third, the government response. The Serbian and Ukrainian governments largely support the rights of the LGBTQ community and actively work towards substantive measures. Ever since pro-West leaders came to power, the Ukrainian government has increased support for LGBTQ rights. Amendment banning LGBTQ discrimination at workplaces was also a long stride in ensuring the rights of the community. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is openly gay and has attended previous marches, is said to have been unable to join this year's rally. However, the Serbian law on same-sex unions remains stalled since President Alexander Vucic refuses to ratify the law without which it won't come into force.  

Fourth, Europe's LGBTQ stance. Widespread criticism against bloc members who promote state-sanctioned homophobia is becoming increasingly common. Poland and Hungary, which have been reprimanded through legal and financial actions, are prime examples. The European Commission – responsible for approving and handing out the bloc's pandemic recovery fund – has yet to approve Hungary's reconstruction funds. This delay is due to Budapest's failure to repeal its anti-paedophilia law, which is a disguised anti-LGBTQ law.  

In perspective
Over the past decade, support for the LGBTQ community and their rights has significantly grown globally, especially in Europe. This could be due to the increased presence of Pride parades, which call for safeguarding the community's rights and ability to live peacefully without being victims of hate crimes. Meanwhile, providing leadership in the global arena, the EU has reiterated it will not tolerate undemocratic and inhumane acts committed against any community by member states. It has since discovered ways to discipline those states which fail to comply with its measures.

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