Marching under the slogan ‘’I’m not giving up’’ #NeOdricemSe, Sunday evening saw thousands take part in Belgrade’s eighth Pride Parade.
The latest Balkans capital to hold Pride events, the walk passed the main government institutions, to which protesters have been addressing their demands for improved LGBT rights.
Despite the appointment of openly gay prime minister Ana Brnabic in 2017 who attended this year’s Pride, Serbia’s LGBT community still faces widespread discrimination.
One of Belgrade Pride's organisers Jovanka Todorović, told Euronews, ''Serbia is still conservative society where LGBTIQ topics raise a lot of public turmoil, especially surrounding Pride''.
A police cordon was in place at Sunday’s Parade to separate participants from anti LGBT protesters, "calling for public morality and demonstrating at LGBTIQ presenting christian values and religious values as their own" says Todorović.
Goran Miletic, Civil Rights Defenders' Europe Programme Director who was at the Parade told Euronews, "the protest group was smaller than in previous years, only comprising of around one hundred".
"Whilst not extraordinary in number, we should not underestimate the power of the Orthodox Church in the Balkans region, their nationalistic and homophobic sentiment - means their role amongst communities is not good’".
Participant and LGBT activist Stefan Shparavalo told Euronews,
"In terms of LGBT rights, whilst things have improved in the last 10 years, we are still far from reaching equal legal footing, still the same sex partnership act has not been adopted, and a gender identity law doesn’t exist’".
Both pleas feature on the Pride Parade website’s list of demands, alongside a call for better healthcare provisions for members of the trans community.
"We also expect Parliament to recognize the problems of the LGBTQ community and adopt the legislation in a form that will enable us to tackle those problems", says Jovanka Todorović speaking on behalf of Pride.
Serbia’s turbulent LGBT history saw key legislative developments in 2009, when Parliament approved a new anti-discrimination law, and in 2012 when Serbia’s Ministry of Justice incorporated hate crime into draft amendments to the criminal code.
Though Stefan remains sceptical, "Translation into reality is almost non existent - so for instance, the hate crime law adopted in 2012 has been taken into account by courts only once - so as you can imagine the application of the law is rare".
The first verdict passed under the law was in November 2018, an incident of domestic violence against an LGBT person.
Stefan says the community is, "Seeking confident authorities to be more vocal on LGBT rights, to be more vocal on combating widespread and ubiquitous homophobia in the public domain".
He is also asking the government, "to reprimand homophobic slurs, especially those coming from ministers and MPs".
Earlier this year Serbian politician Nenad Popović came under fire for accusing Croatia of attempting to import Children’s books featuring same sex parents. Popovic Tweeted, “We need to stop those who want to convince us that it’s OK for ‘Roko to have two moms, and Ana two dads".
2019 has also seen Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, become a parent after her same sex partner, Milica Djurdjic gave birth.
Serbian family law does not recognise a same sex union, Goran Miletic, Civil Rights Defenders noted that some members of the LGBT community "are not happy, some believe Brnabic should do more".
Commending the success of this year’s Pride and Brnabic’s participation, Goran says "In every society in the world, a Prime Minister’s presence and care for Pride is a positive force’’.
"Brnabic spoke with protesters holding differing and diverse opinions, she is a great example to society that criticism can form a civilised discussion".
A frontrunner in the EU accession process, Serbia has been involved in accession negotiations since 2014.
EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi applauded the Parade as an embodiment of EU values.
With a turnout of almost 2000 people, and social media awash with #NeOdricemSe, like many activists Stefan hopes the Pride Parade will be used to raise the visibility of LGBT rights and the position of LGBT people in Serbia.
"We hope we will achieve equality as fast as we can in the given social context and atmosphere, where unfortunately homophobia remains pretty dominant".