Serbia's gay PM to join Belgrade Pride march

17 Sep 2017 / 11:56 H.

BELGRADE: Serbia's lesbian prime minister is set to take part in Belgrade's Pride parade on Sunday, an event held yearly under heavy security after previous marches were disrupted by anti-gay violence.
Ana Brnabic, 41, became one of the few openly gay government leaders in the world when she came to power in June, but activists say anti-gay prejudice remains a widespread problem in conservative Serbia.
This year is the first time a prime minister is joining the rainbow-clad revellers, who are expected to number around 3,000, according to organisers.
They will march under the eye of 2,000 police officers – less than half the number deployed for last year's peaceful parade, said organiser Goran Miletic.
"Every year is a positive step forward," he told AFP.
Brnabic was selected to be premier by her predecessor, Aleksandar Vucic, after he was elected president. She had entered politics less than a year earlier as public administration minister.
While the surprise move made international headlines, sceptics suspected an attempt at "pinkwashing", with Brnabic used as a puppet by Vucic to improve Serbia's image as it campaigns to join the European Union.
Critics accuse Vucic, who remains the country's most powerful politician, of being a populist authoritarian who has clamped down on media freedom.
At a conference on hate speech on Friday, Brnabic dismissed as "nonsense" the accusation that she had been chosen merely because of her sexual orientation.
A technocrat with a business background, she has expressed hope in interviews that people will look beyond her sexual orientation, distancing herself from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues.
"Diversity and tolerance must not be reduced to recognition and appreciation of members of the LGBT population only, but must encompass other minority groups as well," she said in her speech Friday.
Belgrade's first Pride march, in 2001, ended with police firing in the air to disperse anti-gay nationalists and skinheads who stoned and beat participants.
Nearly a decade later in 2010, another parade was allowed to go ahead but again descended into violence between anti-gay protesters and police, prompting a three-year ban on the event.
Activist groups are currently campaigning for the adoption of a law on the registration of same-sex partnerships, for which they hope to win the premier's support.
A government press release said two other ministers would join Brnabic at the parade, which is due to start at 12.40pm (1040 GMT). — AFP


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