A gay couple are in the fight of their lives to become foster parents in Croatia, where 1,000 children desperately need homes

The effigy was burned town of Imotski, Croatia

A gay couple in Croatia have faced fierce opposition as they attempt to foster one of the hundreds of children waiting for a loving home.

Ivo Segota, molecular biologist, and Mladen Kozic, a sociologist, are registered life partners as Croatian law does not allow them to marry. Longing to build a family, they applied to be foster parents in 2017 after their adoption application was immediately rejected.

Yet the fostering process quickly turned into a vicious cycle of assessments, rejections, appeals and rulings as they were shuffled between Croatia’s social welfare centre, the social policy ministry and courts.

A positive first interview was suddenly halted when the foster centre cited a lack of legal grounds. The staff later ignored a Zagreb court ruling to re-examine the couple’s application, provoking outrage among rights groups and legal experts.

“Our wish for children is deeply intimate and is no different from other couples who want to hear children’s laughter in their home,” Segota told France 24.

“We took the fostering path precisely because these children haven’t had much reason to laugh in their lives, and we want to give them that.”

A recent constitutional court verdict has given them a glimmer of hope, though. In January, Croatia’s top court ruled that everyone should have equal opportunities to foster children, irrespective of their family status.

“We were delighted,” Segota said. “After this ruling… no one should ever undergo what we went through.”

While it may seem like a victory, nearly 64 per cent of Croatians remain opposed to the ruling, and last month an effigy of a same-sex couple carrying a child was burned in front of a cheering crowd.

There are reportedly around 1,000 children in Croatia’s foster care system (Stock photo: Envato Elements)

The strongest challenges against the ruling are being led by the Catholic Church in Croatia. Vice Batarelo, head of the ultra Catholic association Vigilare, called the constitutional court a “dangerous institution” which cast “shame” on the country.

“We’ve turned the children who should enjoy the greatest care in society into guinea pigs,” he said.

Another group, In the Name of the Family, plans to challenge what it terms the “unacceptable” ruling that is “against children’s interests”.

As Segota and Kozic continue waiting for the chance to begin their family, they have gone public with their struggle to show Croatia that same-sex couples are not “some kind of monsters, aliens imported from the West”.

They are urging people to shift the debate away from the morality of homosexuality and back to the children in need. “It has become about us, politics, views, stigmas,” Kozic said.

“But it’s not about us. It’s about those 1,000 children who deserve better care and, due to the poor work of institutions, are losing their future.”