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Humans

The Balkans – a place where being gay is not okay

May 26th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, The former Yugoslav Republic of, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia
tags:Balkan, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, LGBT

If you live somewhere in the Balkans, and you say to your mother: "Mum, you know, you'll never have grandchildren. I'm gay“, then the support is the last thing you can expect.

Especially because coming out here, in this part of Europe, means you have labelled not only yourself but your whole family, your friends and everything you do.

A 36-year-old man from Bosnia, as well as all the others non-straight interviewees, spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not wish to attract the attention of the local community. Let's call him Mladen. He has been in a relationship for ten years.

"It took years for my mother and my brother to accept I'm gay. Now, I may say we are fine. She used to go to shopping with my boyfriend, my brother is a kind of bodyguard whenever I arrange some gay-friendly parties. They both have created defensive mechanisms, somehow they have become more protective when it comes to problems", he told fairplanet.

Mladen has been running a local non-governmental organisation which fights for human rights mostly, but the things became more dangerous few years ago when its activists started to force the very painful process of facing the past, two decades after war broke up former Yugoslavia.

"Until then, there was physical and verbal violence regarding my sexual orientation, but after I started to speak loudly about the war crimes committed in my hometown by the ethnic group I belong to, it obviously was too much for them", he remembers.

He was beaten by five men in the middle of his hometown, he got beaten in many different towns all over former Yugoslavia where he had attended gay-friendly events, he used to be spat in the streets, he used to get threats too, but his worst experience were graffitis all over his hometown with his full name, with a swastika - the emblem of the German Nazi Party, and with derogatory term for gay populations.

"Another disturbing case was graffiti right to my door 'ubij pedera' /kill the gay/ when police said it wasn't their jurisdiction and switched it to communal police; communal police said it wasn't their jurisdiction neither since it was the private property and so on. And usually, when it is obviously about the hate speech – which is a criminal offence, both police and prosecutor simply avoid to qualify it like that, they usually treat it as a violation of public peace and order", Mladen added.

His mother works in the local municipality where some of her colleagues believe she should be fired because of his son's sexual life.

"If my son was gay, I'm sure I would have lost my job immediately“, one of them told fairplanet.

His boyfriend, who did not give his name, told to fairplanet he used to be attacked many times and he has been regularly reporting it to police and then following up all the cases through the judicial system. Moreover, he had found out over the years that the local police and local authorities usually do their jobs more professionally if a whole range of domestic and international human rights organisation were alerted about every single case.

"Recently we reached the stage where the police are very sensitive about two of us because they are aware we would take all the legal possibilities to protect our rights. So if someone puts an offending sticker on our door, police searches of the building from the basement to the roof. I am afraid not all the LGBT people would've had such protection. Meanwhile, our organisation became the place for young LGBT people, coming more and more out, asking for support, help or simply place for gathering and we believe the things start to move on", he said.

However, there are terrible personal stories such as a 16-year-old boy who came out to his parents and who has been beaten heavily and permanently since then. Meanwhile, he met the girl and start to pretend he is straight, but still, he is suffering domestic violence.

"The worst thing is that we are completely helpless. He doesn't want us to take any action about it, to alert any institution, to talk with his parents, simply nothing, otherwise his parents reaction could become even more cruel, so we can't find the way to help this young man and often this type of pattern lead to suicidal ideas", he added.

Mirjana Ćuskić from Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which runs an antidiscrimination campaign for LGBT people in several Bosnia's regions, told fairplanet the local communities should provide the shelters for victims of domestic violence caused by their sexual orientation, but this society is still far, far away from it.

"For instance, we had the case the high school student was badly attacked by his peer because he was a gay. We hardly prevented the victim's exclusion from the school since the competent authorities have been reported the victim was one who couldn't have adopted the school rules and environment and therefore he should have been away, not the bully", she said.

According to non-governmental organisations, LGBT persons are mostly discriminated, stigmatised and violated in education, healthcare, media, social care and employment.

"Police usually deny discrimination showing their own statistics with no attacks reported. Working with the LGBT communities we realise they don't report the violations to the police because of lack of trust. LGBT people are not allowed to become blood donors. Transgender people are being diagnosed with mental disorder. Does it look like there is no discrimination?", Ćuskić added.

Although the first gay pride in the former Yugoslavia countries took place in 2001 /Belgrade in Serbia and Ljubljana in Slovenia/, Bosnia is still the one and only Balkan country which still didn't manage to organise it. There was the first attempt earlier this month, but it failed because the authorities hadn't allowed it. Instead of marching, the LGBT community organised a kind of gathering to raise the voice against the violence against LGBT people.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
„It took years for my mother and my brother to accept I’m gay. Now, I may say we are fine."
„Until then, there was physical and verbal violence regarding my sexual orientation."
He was beaten by five men in the middle of his hometown, he got beaten in many different towns all over former Yugoslavia where he had attended gay-friendly events, he used to be spat in the streets, he used to got threatens too, but his worse experience were graffitis all over his hometown with his full name, with a swastika.

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