Showing posts with label Serbia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Serbia. Show all posts

August 9, 2016

Openly Gay Minister in Serbia, Thank You EU!

Minister Ana Brnabic 
Serbia's prime minister-designate said Monday that his new government will include an openly gay minister for the first time in the conservative Balkan country.

Aleksandar Vucic said his future Public Administration Minister Ana Brnabic does not hide her sexual orientation. He says he is aware it may draw public attention in a country where gays often face harassment.

"I am only interested in her results in the hard work that lies ahead," Vucic said, while announcing the composition of his new Cabinet. "She has exquisite energy and I am looking forward to working with her."

A gay rights group hailed Vucic's move, describing it as a "historic moment in Serbia and a huge step in building a society of equal chances." The Gay Straight Alliance group added that political inclusion of gay people is important for reducing discrimination and promoting tolerance.

Vucic's center-right government is expected to be voted into office by the end of this week, more than three months after the April 24 snap election.

Serbia has pledged to boost gay rights as it seeks to join the European Union. Gay marches in the past few years were held under police protection because of threats from extremists.



Thank You EU!

While Brexit has dominated the headlines since the UK’s referendum, other states continue to aspire to join the European Union and are presently working toward accession. Jim Fitzgerald writes on the EU’s efforts to promote equality law reform in Moldova, which signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014. He notes that although there has been substantial progress in establishing new legal protections, there still remains much to be done in implementing these new laws in practice. 
In the wake of the UK’s historic referendum decision in favour of leaving the EU, a great deal has been written about the economic impact – for both the UK and the EU – of Brexit. This overwhelming focus on Brexit and its fiscal implications is both inevitable and understandable, given the scale of the expected impacts, but ultimately, it can obscure the many other benefits of the EU to its member states and the wider world.
One such area of benefit is that of equality and non-discrimination. The EU has been a significant force for the advancement of equality within the EU’s member states. In the UK, for example, the first statutory prohibitions of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief, and age in the UK were introduced in order to comply with the EU Employment Equality Directive. Likewise, the UK has also played a central role in expanding equality law in the EU: as William Hague and others pointed out during the referendum campaign “the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 inspired the European Union to adopt EU-wide measures to tackle workplace discrimination against disabled people”.
Even outside the EU member states, the EU has been arguably the biggest single driver of equality law reform in the world in the last decade. This is true both on the European continent, where the EU has insisted on reforms in its negotiations with countries seeking to associate or accede, and more broadly through its European Union Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which supports projects to promote equality and combat discrimination across the globe.

March 25, 2015

Gay man in Serbia attached to Wheel Chair Still Carries Thousand of Viewers


 Nenad Mihailovic flouts Serbian taboo. He's openly gay in a notoriously macho culture. He uses a wheelchair in a society that shows little sympathy for the disabled. And he's a voice of liberal thinking in a nation where strong leaders have a tendency to quash dissent.
So it's perhaps surprising that Mihailovic has attracted tens of thousands of viewers to his independent talk show — in which he grills politicians, actors, pop stars and activists on such hot-button themes as gay adoption, same-sex marriages, government corruption and relations with Russia.
The program, filmed in his living room and broadcast on YouTube and local TV networks, has struck a chord in Serbia because many ordinary people feel increasingly starved of independent information and analysis, as the right-leaning government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic seeks to sideline journalists who criticize his rule.
Mihailovic launched his unusual program out of revulsion over what he describes as overwhelming pro-government propaganda in Serbia's mainstream media. He turned his home into a TV studio in order to “ask the questions no one else would." 
Filmed by a small camera operated by his partner, Mihailovic has so far conducted around 20 interviews with public figures and celebrities in the "hot chair." They tackle issues ranging from politics and the economy, to gay rights, euthanasia, abortion and faith.
Since launching in mid-December, Mihailovic has won praise from liberals and threats of violence from right-wing viewers. The show follows a wider trend of news-hungry audiences turning online amid reports of official censorship in the main newspapers and television stations.
"There is no longer anything to hear on any of the television networks," Mihailovic told The Associated Press. "To say that the government is stifling the media would be putting things mildly."
Late last year, Nenad Mihailovic welcomed his first guest — popular Serbian actor Nikola Djuricko. Mihailovic, wearing a tuxedo and bow tie for the occasion, asked the actor to sit in a wheelchair like him: "So, is it comfortable?" Mihailovic asked. "Oh yes, seems it's a new model," Djuricko answered with good humor.
Several shows on, he invited right-wing activist Vladan Glisic to the program, grilling him on same-sex marriage and gay child adoption. When Glisic blasted the West and urged closer ties with Moscow, Mihailovic asked him if he was driving a Western-made car.
Glisic told the AP he felt the interview was a "media ambush." He said he accepted the invitation only because he wasn't aware Mihailovic was a gay activist.
Since then, a string of politicians has appeared on the show to face Mihailovic's relentless questioning about corruption scandals. They seem to feel it shows the Serbian people that they aren't afraid of being in the line of fire. But Mihailovic said some of them do complain later: "You pushed too hard."
Like many in Serbia, Mihailovic accuses Vucic, who won a sweeping election victory last year by promising Western-style reform, of carrying out a media clampdown in the style of the late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic.
Vucic vehemently denies that his government has exerted political and economic pressure on the media. But critics have cited several incidents of alleged muzzling, such as the detention of three men for online posts criticizing the government's handling of disastrous flooding. A leading political TV host has accused Vucic of personally orchestrating the removal of her talk show from the commercial B92 television network — once a beacon of Serbia's independent journalism under Milosevic.
Draza Petrovic, a journalist at the liberal Danas daily, said authorities have been using the mainstream media to push their own agenda and sideline opponents.
Petrovic appeared on "Personal View" weeks ago: "Those were the best questions I have ever heard from a TV interviewer, and I have met quite a few," she said. "I had to think hard before answering."
Opposition politician Goran Jesic also appeared on the program. He said he wanted to show support for Mihailovic and for online journalism — which he described as the only forum for opposition views.
"Of course there is censorship in Serbia," Jesic said. "It's worse than during Milosevic."
Depending on the guest, Mihailovic's interviews have attracted from several hundred to nearly 30,000 viewers online. The show also airs on two local television stations in central Serbia. It is ignored by national networks.
Mihailovic has received a deluge of hate mail from extremists. Some of the worst came after he pressed Glisic on gay marriage and adoption.
"I would cut people like this into pieces and throw them to cats," one viewer wrote. Another message said: "Kill, slaughter gays, so they no longer exist."
Mihailovic suffers from amyotrophia spinalis progressiva II, or SMA II, a progressive nervous system disease that wastes the muscles. A life-time wheelchair user, Mihailovic, 44, could never live without help. In his youth, Mihailovic could still move his hands, and his body looked "as if I would jump up and start to walk any second." As the illness progressed, Mihailovic's body became deformed and he lost almost all ability to move.
Still, Mihailovic says he has always lived as actively as possible, fighting passionately for minority rights in Serbia. He heads an association of disabled gays, and ran at an opposition list in last year's municipal election in Belgrade. He didn't make it into the city assembly.
Journalists should break the "barrier of fear," he said: "If I, in my condition, can do the job, why can't the others who are healthy?"
And in adversity, Mihailovic can still joke about being doubly stigmatized in Serbia for being gay and disabled.
"I am double-trouble," he said, a twinkle in his eye.           

September 29, 2014

Gay Pride in Serbia takes place No Violence

Social media—legitimately praised as democratic mobilizing tools in the Arab world—now are being used for major civil rights violations in Egypt. Authorities have taken to scouring the internet and social media in their crackdown on the country’s LGBT community. Six men were sentenced to two years in prison for advertising their apartment on Facebook as a place for men to engage in sexual acts; they were allegedly charging around $200 a night. This follows another recent high-profile case, in which eight men were put on trial for appearing in a YouTube video purportedly showing Egypt’s “first gay marriage,” on a small boat on the Nile.

Egyptian officials told BuzzFeed they are closely monitoring some social-media sites. While sexual relations between consenting same-sex adults (in private) are not illegal (pdf) in Egypt, other laws have recently been used to imprison gay men. The defendants in the video trial, for instance, were arrested for “inciting debauchery.”
As a result of the regime’s online snooping, Grindr, a smartphone hookup app, has issued a warning to all of its Egyptian users.

The LGBT community in Egypt has launched a Twitter campaignagainst the crackdown, with the hashtag #stopgjailinggays and #ضد_حبس_المثليين.
According to the ILGA state-sponsored homophobia report (pdf), only three (Jordan, Djibouti, and Bahrain) of the 22 countries of the Arab League deem homosexual acts legal. The rest categorize homosexual acts as illegal, and five (Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and parts of southern Somalia) punish them by death. In Iraq and the Gaza strip, matters are unclear as the penal codes have been undergoing multiple overhauls.

Human Rights Watch condemned Egyptian courts (pdf) for putting the eight men involved in the wedding video under medical examinations to “detect” homosexuality. Moreover, it is not uncommon for families to throw a gay son out of the house or send him to a psychiatrist for “fixing.”
A crackdown is underway across the region. A man in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 450 lashes and three years in jail for for allegedly being gay and tweeting about it. In Lebanon, where the thriving nightlife makes it easy to forget the illegality of gay acts, LGBT rights have been taking a step backward. Twenty-seven men were arrested at a public, Turkish-style bath for allegedly seeking “sexual encounters with other men.” That was followed by additional arrests targeting another public bath and a private home. As a result, Lebanese gay rights organizationshave been working to annul the penal code that has been used to target gay people. The crackdowns also extend to gender identity. Dubai, which prides itself in being the least conservative of Arab cities, jailed two men for wearing women’s clothes.

There’s little sign of relief. This past week, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, and Morocco voted against a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against LGBT violence and discrimination.

But, rather than being a peripheral issue, LGBT rights are an important test of—and component of—any transition by Mideast regimes toward more progressive, less-controlling government. Brian Whitaker of Foreign Policy writes:
Attitudes towards gay rights are [...] an important measure of how far, or not, a society has moved from authoritarianism. Gay rights in the Middle East are not simply about gay people; they are intimately bound up with questions of personal liberty, the proper role of governments, and the influence of religion. Demands for gay rights add to the broader pressure for change and, conversely, progress in these other areas can ease the path towards gay rights.

September 28, 2013

The Right Wing Thread Scares Serbia’s Government into Having Gay Pride Again

A woman walks past a graffiti reading, ''Stop the parade'' in Belgrade September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Serbia's government banned gay activists from marching in Belgrade for the third year running on Friday, citing a threat to public safety from right-wing hooligans but risking EU condemnation before the expected start of accession talks.
The last Gay Pride march in 2010 triggered a day of rioting by right-wing nationalists in the capital, Belgrade.
Western ambassadors had heaped pressure on Serbia to allow this year's event to go ahead on Saturday, as a litmus test of the Balkan country's commitment to tolerance and diversity. The EU is due to launch membership talks in January.
But after a three-hour meeting of government leaders and security chiefs, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said it would not be allowed to proceed.
"After a long discussion on whether the march would pass without severe consequences, the security assessments indicated severe threats to public safety," Dacic, who also heads the Interior Ministry, said on state television.
"This is not a capitulation to the hooligans," he said.
Riot police fanned out through downtown Belgrade on Friday evening and Serbian media reports said more than 6,000 would be deployed to maintain order with a string of anti-gay demonstrations announced for Saturday.
Conservative societies across the Balkans have been slow to accept greater gay rights, which are routinely met with violence when expressed in public.
"Clearly there were people (in the meeting) who believed that for political reasons, particularly because of EU integration, it would be good to have the parade, but what if we lose a human life?" Dacic said.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has spoken out against the march, saying gay rights were destroying the institution of marriage and family values.
Gay Pride organizer and activist Goran Miletic said the decision showed Serbia did not respect basic human rights.
"I cannot understand why a group of people who wanted to march peacefully through the city would bother anyone," he was quoted as saying on the website of the Belgrade daily Blic.
"Everyone's a loser here, except the hooligans who for the third consecutive year have proved they can tell that state what it can and cannot do," he said.
(Editing by Matt Robinson and Angus MacSwan)

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