Banning Gay Pride
UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2022
The EuroPride march went ahead today, after a last minute reversal of position by the Serbian authorities.
We congratulate the President of Serbia and the Prime Minister of Serbia for the brave and principled stance they took which allowed the internationally recognised march to proceed.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE STARTS BELOW
An international event called EuroPride, celebrating the so-called LBGTQ community (lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transgender and queer) was scheduled in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia,
for this coming Saturday 17 September 2022. Belgrade was chosen by EuroPride for its September 2022 event, with the agreement of the the Serbian LGBTQ community and the Belgrade City Government. It was also supported by the Serbian Prime Minister, who is openly a lesbian.
We wish to emphasise that we have the highest respect and admiration for Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in openly declaring herself to be a lesbian in a society that is not just conservative about sexual matters but in which a lot of people, including in the supposedly liberal capital Belgrade, harbour prejudices against people who are not heterosexual and are prone to expressing those prejudices in public.
Serbia is possibly the most sexually conservative country in Europe: so much so that this author, in order to avoid ad hominem attacks, feels it is appropriate to declare that he is a (demonstrated) heterosexual and a Roman Catholic, a branch of the Christian religion that traditionally regards homosexuality as a sin. Nevertheless this author supports the rights of the organisers of the EuroPride festival to celebrate their cause in Belgrade, the largest city in the Balkans.
Today, 13 September 2022, the President of Serbia banned the forthcoming festival this Saturday. His action was so internationally controversial that it made the pages of some of the world's most widely read international media (we cite only one but the reader can find the rest for him or herself).
Serbian President Alexander Vucic is not a homophobe and he is personally responsible for appointing Ana Brnabic as Prime Minister. So what on earth was he doing? We do not have a privileged insight into his reasoning. Nevertheless we would like to make the following observations.
Serbia has hosted Gay Pride festivals / marches before, in 2000 and 2010 inter alia, and hence the argument that such a demonstration in 2022 would outrage the sexually conservative domestic populace of Belgrade to such an extent that there might be a risk of civil unrest is tenuous. It happened before without substantial incident; it can happen again.
Serbian people in 2022 are surely more liberal than they were in 2010 or 2000; hence problems arising are likely to be of a lesser order of magnitude.
To allow homophobic Serbian hooligans through threats of violent counter-protests to suppress the rights of demonstration of some 10 per cent or so of the population that are gay (if we are to follow the research in the Kinsey Reports of 1948 and 1953 that sought to establish what percentage of the population is homosexual) is profoundly illiberal and contrary to contemporary European values of liberalism and freedom of expression.
In 2000 and 2010 the Serbian Police proved themselves entirely adequate at managing homophobic counter-demonstrations. As a general matter the Serbian police are one of the region's better and more disciplined police forces. We see no reason why they might not be able to manage homophobic demonstrations in 2022.
We understand that many people in Serbia's very conservative society might take objection to homosexual people marching in favour of their identities through their capital city. Our answer to them is that tolerance of sexual difference is a contemporary European value, and they must tolerate such things if they aspire to be members of the European Union. They have no right to complain that they are wrongfully prevented from EU accession if they advocate the prohibition of people engaging in lawful activity relating to the expression of their sexuality.
Belgrade has several gay bars and nightclubs. Lots of Serbs are gay: probably the same proportion as in any other European country. Gay Serbs have civil rights and should not be ashamed of their sexualities. No Serbian person has the right to persecute a person for being gay.
The adverse publicity Serbia is receiving for banning this parade will cause the country to lose tourists, her principal source of foreign currency revenue.
The reason for this knee-jerk reaction banning a gay pride parade at the last minute, that has been planned for months, is because the ill-formed opposition coalition, funded from foreign sources that are frankly somewhat unsatisfactory, is threatening itself to fund a right-wing Neo-Nazi counter-demonstration against the Gay Pride Parad on Saturday; and they would like to see clashes and blood. The difference between 2022 and 2010 / 2000 is that the people who are now the real (if somewhat hidden) Serbian opposition were, in 2000 and 2010, in power. Hence then they had an incentive to ensure that the event passed off peacefully; now they have an incentive to ensure the opposite.
The Serbian police ought not to be held hostage to this kind of ransom by violence. They should be supported in undertaking their professional role in keeping the peace on the day of the demonstration, by the entirety of the international community who consider the propagation of tolerance and harmonious living between Belgrade's different groups to be a matter of the common good.
We urge the President of Serbia to reverse his decision and to permit this Saturday's festival to proceed. And we urge him to police the event well, as he has the capacity to do so with high quality police, to prevent troubles.
A successful and nonviolent event this Saturday would be immensely profitable for Serbia's international reputation. It is in everyone's interests that it take place.