By Lydia Aroyo, Europe and Central Asia Press Officer at Amnesty International
Amnesty International members are arriving today in Belgrade to take part in tomorrow’s Belgrade Pride 2010. They are going to support Serbia’s lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community (LGBT) in their march against discrimination and for tolerance for the first time in nearly ten years. Last year’s Pride had to be cancelled at the last moment because the authorities declared they could not ensure the safety of the participants.
This year hopes are high. Goran, one of the organizers, tells me police appear to be taking adequate measures, some politicians come out in support of Belgrade Pride 2010, the discourse in the media is much more tolerant. Extremists’ views are given less space.
“However now they go out in the street, there are more anti-gay posters and graffiti, the discourse in cyberspace is full of hate against LGBT people and activists continue to receive threats,” says another activist.
And while LGBT activists and their supporters from different countries were gathered in the media centre in central Belgrade discussing the importance of Belgrade Pride 2010 for the affirmation of human rights in Serbia, a so called “Family walk” passed by in the street with slogans that were far from asserting tolerance.
The “Family walk” was organized by nationalistic movements and started with a rally in front of Belgrade University in central Belgrade supported by a local pop-group. More than a thousand people, predominantly young man in black but also some families with small children and a couple of Serbian Orthodox priests had gathered there picking leaflets calling against the Belgrade Pride 2010.
I followed a TV reporter who was going around looking for young fathers with small children to talk to. The fathers invariably told her that they were there because they are for “normal” way of life. A young girl was going around distributing leaflets that were calling for people to go out in the streets tomorrow during Belgrade Pride 2010 to try to stop it.
So, what are we to expect tomorrow? A recent survey in Serbia has revealed that about 70% of the population consider homosexuality a disease.
One of today’s tabloids Press is warning that a Gay Parade is threatening Serbia. At the same time the liberal newspaper Danas is devoting several pages Belgrade Pride 2010, with messages for tolerance, diversity and human rights.
In the last couple of days since I am here I notice how anti-gay graffiti are being erased and anti-gay posters are being torn down.
Tomorrow’s march will be a litmus test for the rights to freedom of speech and assembly without discrimination.