Montenegro Gay Marchers Show Pride Under Pressure


News
02 Nov 14

Montenegro Gay Marchers Show Pride Under Pressure

Gays and lesbians are preparing to march through the streets of the Montenegrin capital today, defying homohobic threats – and a leading bishop’s warning not to attend a ‘parade of death and self-destruction’.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN

Podgorica

Gay activists were preparing to march through the streets of Podgorica today, with some saying they felt optimistic that this year’s Gay Pride would be more peaceful than last year’s.

Montenegrin society today is a “little bit more mature”, LGBT activist Danijel Kalezic told BIRN on Friday.

“It’s not like there has been some kind of dramatic progress or a huge drop in homophobia, but there has been less fiery language in public compared to previous years,” he added.

Kalezic is head of Queer Montenegro, the principal group behind Montenegro Pride 2014, which was scheduled for November 2.

Gay activists like him say they also feel encouraged by the announcement of the state prosecutor – that attacks on participants in the parade or on the police will be prosecuted as hate crimes.

Gay activists will walk the same route as last year after police estimated that the 1,400-foot-long trail in the centre of Podgorica was easiest to secure.

Police have already drawn up a stringent security plan for the event. Some 1,800 officers, almost half the country’s active police force, will be deployed in five rings of security in the area near the former government headquarters.

Due to the high security risk, the street in the centre of the capital was closed to traffic several hours prior to the walk.

On Friday, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic said the parade would show that Montenegrin society respected the right to diversity and that the state was determined to protect that right.

Earlier, the Minister of Human and Minority Rights, Suad Numanovic, called for tolerance and condemned any hate speech being directed at the LGBT community in the country.

During the first Pride march in Montenegro, last October, more than 500 protesters, mostly football hooligans, hurled rocks and bottles in an attempt to disrupt the march by several dozen gay activists.

Twenty police were injured, one of them seriously. Among the 60 people detained, a third were youngsters under 18.

While the government is fully behind the march, calls for tolerance and warnings of possible prosection have not stopped anti-gay activists from daubing offensive graffiti on walls near the planned parade.

A number of infomal Facebook groups have also called on people to stop the gay activists from holding a march.

Organizers said they did not feel intimidated, because the police promptly responded to violence during last year’s event.

The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, the most powerful religiuous community in the country, remains bitterly opposed to the march – and to gay rights in general.

A week ahead of the parade, its leading bishop, Metropolitan Amfilohije, called the planned march “a parade of death and self-destruction.”

Because of these and similar statements, Bishop Amfilohije will be declared “homophobe of the year” at the Pride Parade.

The Serbian Church’s views cut little ice with the country’s pro-Western government, or with EU dipomats in the country, however.

The head of the EU Delegation in Montenegro was expected to be among the participants on Sunday, together with the Montenegrin Ombudsman Sucko Bakovic, the Dutch Ambassador Laurent Stokvis and representatives of the British and US embassies.

The Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Human Rights and some political parties have appointed representatives, but it is not certain whether any senior officials themselves will attend the parade.

The government has taken a forward position on gay rights, in spite of the fact that the issue is controversial and unpopular in what remains a conservative and patriarchal society.

Surveys show that about 70 per cent of Montenegrins still consider homosexuality an illness. Around 80 per cent believe gay people should keep their sexuality private.

Danijel Kalezic rejected claims that the symbol of this year’s parade – a moustache – was a deliberate insult to the country’s traditional pride in masculine virtues.

“In Montenegro the moustache is a symbol of courage, respect, bravery, pride… It belongs to us in the LGBT community, too, not just to the other Montenegro,” he said.

Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)