Serbia: Gay Rights, Human Rights, Tolerance and Homophobia


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey – Pravda

The Republic of Serbia is a meeting point of numerous peoples, religions and cultures and over the centuries, by and large, they have coexisted in peace. How sad it is that this Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade ended in an orgy of violence caused by a handful of homophobic bigots which left over fifty people injured.

This was Serbia’s first Gay Pride Parade, an opportunity for society to make a public display of tolerance at the beginning of the Third Millennium, allowing people to express their sexuality in public, to go out wearing what they wanted to and feeling happy. Instead, there was a crescendo of violence, insults, missile throwing and finally a pitched battle between around one thousand anti-Parade demonstrators and the police, resulting in 57 injuries, 47 of these being policemen, one hospitalised in a serious condition. The drunken orgy of mindless violence continued with the destruction of property.

However, the Parade went ahead and ended in a party at the Centre of Student Culture in the center of Belgrade. Various Serbian politicians and representatives of NGOs took part in the country’s first Gay Pride event.

Gay rights, human rights, intolerance and homophobia

What is the difference between racism, xenophobia and homophobia? Apart from the labels, none. All are primary, knee-jerk reactions of the worst kind from individuals afraid of what is different and who, without having the intellectual wherewithal to voice their opinions, satisfy their basic instincts with insults, threats and often, violence.

Societies change. At one time homosexual relationships were considered as perfectly normal expressions of love and in many cases coexisted alongside heterosexual unions. It is not considered historically correct to remember the reports that Julius Caesar’s legions used to sing songs about the Regina, or Queen, leading them. Alexander the Great is better known for his battles and his two wives than for his lover Hephaestion.

At one time it was considered extremely effeminate for a man to wear trousers, which were basically to cover up the legs of women while men wore a tunic, the precursor of the dress. Wearing the Kilt in Scotland is a sign of virility.

If a young man pecks a young lady on the cheek in public, people smile knowingly. If he pecks her on the lips, ditto. If he kisses her mouth to mouth, tongues entwined, people say it’s unnecessary. If two girls meet and kiss, nobody bats an eyelid. If two boys meet and kiss, they are branded with labels.

Yet Russian men traditionally greeted a friend with a kiss on the mouth. Latins are more tactile than Anglo-Saxons, the further south you go the less personal space you need, yo soy yo en mi circunstancia (Ortega y Gasset, I am myself any what surrounds me).

So in a globalised world of globalised values and concepts, who has the right to complain or to point fingers, throw stones and apply insulting labels? Surely we deserve to have reached a point where a person’s sex, colour, race, creed, attire or sexuality do not matter.

Sexual activity is a private matter to be exercised between consenting adults behind closed doors. However sexuality and sexual expression is a basic human right and if two men want to walk down the street holding hands, happy, so what? And if one of them is wearing a skirt, so what? And if your boss is a lesbian, so what?

And for those who cast stones and shout names and throw insults, how many of them are “normal” behind their closed doors? Happily, today Serbia’s first Gay Pride Parade ended in a festivity for those involved and in utter defeat for the Neanderthals who tried to impose their homophobic will over the freedom of others to express themselves.

And that is a victory not only for Serbia but also for Humankind.

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