Belgrade queer community defiant at Serbia Pride, despite anti-LGBTQ+ leadership and religious groups

Hundreds of LBGTQ+ activists gathered in the Serbian capital to celebrate Pride on Saturday, 9 September.

Belgrade’s queer community has once again marched defiantly at Serbia Pride, amid hate from religious groups and the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ president refusing to support the community. 

On Saturday (9 September), hundreds of LGBTQ+ activists joined together in the Serbian capital to spread queer joy amid a heavy police presence of officers in riot gear who blocked off central Belgrade. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ messages by the country’s conservative leadership, religious bodies and religious groups were unable to stop participants flying Pride flags and marching with pro-LGBTQ+ banners for all to see.

Banners read “we are not even close” – referencing demands the government hasn’t fulfilled – “marriage” and “queer liberation to rainbow capitalism”, to name a few. 

Marching against Pride, about 50 anti-LGBTQ+ protestors and Orthodox priests displayed religious icons in front of a church, while another group held a banner on the main downtown street that read: “I don’t want a gay parade in Belgrade.”

Many people in Serbia are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church and neither same-sex marriage nor gay civil partnerships are recognised in the country, meaning same-sex couples are also not allowed to adopt children.

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Last year’s Pride saw fights between police and anti-LGBTQ+ groups who called for the event to be banned, arguing that it goes against their Serbian Christian Orthodox values, as reported by AP. 

Although Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić threatened to postpone indefinitely or outright ban the 2022 march, it went ahead and attracted thousands of LGBTQ+ activists and allies.

Saturday’s Pride march – the 11th consecutive Pride in Serbia – follows Vučić stating that as long as he is in power, he won’t approve a law allowing same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Ana Brnabic became Serbia’s first female and first openly gay prime minister when she assumed office on 29 June, 2017, but she has rarely spoken in favour of LGBTQ+ rights in the country. 

Serbia has been petitioning to join the European Union since lodging an official application in 2009. One of the biggest issues preventing accession is the country’s shaky history on human rights and its closeness to Russia’s anti-Western policies, including lack of rights for LGBTQ+ people. 

In January 2023, Vučić said he was “pessimistic” about Serbia entering the European Union any time soon, as reported by Politico.

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