LGBT rights in Serbia

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LGBT rights in Serbia
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal nationwide since 1994,
age of consent equalized in 2006
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption -
Military service No mention. In practice it's a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2001 (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Serbia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Serbia, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Laws against homosexuality

Male homosexuality in Serbia was banned by law since 1977, but there are no records that law was ever applied. Laws never addressed female homosexuality, mostly because of lawmakers' negligence on the topic .

In 1978, male homosexuality became legal in Vojvodina, the northern province of Serbia, when Serbian provinces had a certain degree of law-making power; this move complied with relaxed public opinion on this issue in the province. The legalization lasted until 1990, when Vojvodina was reincorporated into the legal system of Serbia, which was forbidding male homosexuality at that time.

Finally, in 1994 male homosexuality became legal in Serbia, with an age of consent of 18 for anal intercourse between males and 14 for other sexual practices. Then, an equal age of consent of 14 was introduced on January 1, 2006, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

While same-sex couples have never been recognized by law, the new Serbian constitution, adopted in November 2006, explicitly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman in Article 62.[1] However, other forms of recognition, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, are not explicitly mentioned.

Military service

Homosexuals were unofficially banned from military service; however, proving that an individual is a homosexual is uncommon since the process for doing so is very difficult and embarrassing, with numerous psychological sessions every couple of years. The Serbian army went by a Don't ask, don't tell policy similar to the one in the United States armed forces. Today, with the possibility of civilian army service (serving in cultural, health-care and public institutions for 9 months, compared to 6 months of regular army service), majority of homosexuals uses that possibility in order to avoid homophobia.

Discrimination protections

Until 2002, Serbia had no special protection on LGBT rights.[2]

In 2005, through a change in the Labor Law, discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment was put out of legality. However, there are no public records that this ban was used for prosecutions so far.

On March 26, 2009 the parliament approved a unified Anti-Discrimination Law which prohibited, among other things, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status in all areas.[3]

Laws against anti-LGBT speech

Since 2003, regarding hate speech in media, there is a ban against discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was introduced in the Information Law. Additionally, the same ban existed previously in the Radio Emitters Law, adopted 2002. However, these laws are not obeyed, and Radio Emitters Agency, an independent governmental agency that should force those bans on registered emitters, hasn't done anything so far, regardless of LGBT NGOs demands. The Anti-Discrimination Law of 2009 further prohibits hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation.[4]

Living conditions

Gays and lesbians continue to face discrimination and harassment in Serbia. The majority of Serbian people display vast anti-gay attitudes. There have been numerous instances of violent gay-bashing, the most extreme during the first Belgrade Gay Pride.

There were three other plans for Pride Day celebration in Serbia, one in Belgrade in 2004 initiated by activists around GSA and another in Novi Sad initiated by LGBT Vojvodina in 2007, but because of low cooperation between activist groups and inability to provide adequate safety against violence due to limited funding, these two never made it. The third one, Belgrade Pride 2009, was canceled for similar reasons - police could not guarantee security to participants.[5]

Official medical textbooks that classify homosexuality under "Sexual Deviations and Disorders" are widely used through. After several requests to do so, Serbian Medical Society has finally stated that same-sex orientation is not a disease in official letter to Labris in 2008.

The gay scene is small with clubs proclaiming themselves as LGBT (friendly) opening and closing frequently. As of 2008, Loud & Queer is the only official LGBT club, working in Belgrade. Additionally, few gay and gay-friendly cafes are located in the downtown area of Belgrade and Novi Sad, but their existence is a public secret.

The protection of LGBT people in Serbia is further complicated by the existence of various nationalist and pro-fascist associations like 'Obraz', '1389' and 'Stormfront', which are well-funded and supported by some right-wing political parties. These groups have, on several occasions, made their threats to LGBT people publicly known, with little or no reaction from the media or police.

Development of LGBT rights and culture in Serbia is contributed by LGBT sites such as the oldest Adriatic LGBT Activism mailing list in the region, Gay-Serbia and Queeria which are important online points for organising gay activism, as well as for meeting other gay and gay-tolerant people.

It should be noted that the depth of Serbia's homophobia played a role in the breakup of Yugoslavia: one of the major landmarks of escalating tensions between Albanians and Serbs was an affair involving the forceful [insertion of a bottle|rectal foreign object] up the anus of Đorđe Martinović, a Serb resident of Kosovo. At first, he said it was due to accidental injuries, but later he said that an Albanian had done the deed, leading to mass media attention and a nationalistic outcry in Serbia (see the article on Đorđe Martinović). There was later circulation of nationalistic material comparing the "impalement of Đorđe Martinović" with Turkish forms of torture due to the shared Islamic religion between Albanians and Turks, as well as nationalistic rhetoric stereotyping Albanians as sodomites.

Summary table

Homosexuality Legal Yes
Equal Age of Consent; since 2006 Yes
Anti-discrimination Laws in Employment under Labor Law Yes
Anti-discrimination Laws in the Provision of Goods and Services Yes
Anti-discrimination Laws in the Media (note: this law is frequently violated with impunity) Yes
Anti-discrimination Laws in all Other Areas (indirect discrimination, hate speech by individuals, others) Yes
Same-sex Marriages No
Recognition of Same-sex unions No
Adoption by Same-sex couples No
Gays Allowed to Serve in the Military Yes No mention. In practice it's a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy
Right to Change Legal Gender Yes
Access to IVF for Lesbians No
MSMs Allowed to Donate Blood (if had an anal intercourse in the last six months) No

See also


  1. Serbian Constitution
  2. Anti-discrimination paragraphs in Laws, in Serbian
  3. [1]
  4. European Commission, Serbia 2009 Progress Report, p. 14
  5. "Pride Parade won't be held", B92, September 19, 2009. Retrieved on September 19, 2009. 

External links


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