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Belgrade Braces Itself For Gay-Pride Parade


An injured riot police officer is cared for by colleagues during Belgrade's last gay-pride parade, in 2010.
An injured riot police officer is cared for by colleagues during Belgrade's last gay-pride parade, in 2010.
Serbia's lesbian-and-gay community has been garnering attention this week as Belgrade's third Pride Week gets into full swing.

Under the slogan, "Love, Faith, Hope." a number of events are being held in the Serbian capital from September 30 to October 7, and organizers hope the week's festivities will contribute to the "construction of democratic society consist[ing] of individuals equal in their rights despite their sexual orientation and gender expression."

If all goes to plan, Pride Week should culminate in a colourful gay-pride parade on October 6.

The city authorities could still scupper this plan, however, amid fears that the rainbow procession may spark violence in a country that is reputed to have a fair share of homophobic thugs.

Last year's gay-pride parade in Belgrade was canceled a couple of days before it was due to take place because the Interior Ministry was afraid it could have resulted in "enormous damage to public order and peace."

The previous year's pageant in 2010 did go ahead but was marred by violence after the procession was attacked by right-wing extremists.

There are concerns that the 2012 pride march could also be sulllied by thuggery, especially as a number of threats have been made in the run-up to the event.

Nonetheless, Pride Week's organizers are determined to press ahead with their celebrations and are hopeful that the parade can go ahead.

One positive sign could be found in the muted response to a flash mob that descended on Belgrade's main pedestrian thoroughfare on September 28 to help promote gay pride.

Participants in the happening staged a lively wedding ceremony in which two brides called Faith and Hope got "married" and kissed each other on the busy street of Knez Mihailova.

The event passed off without incident and even reported that most passersby actually "liked the impromptu performance, although a few covered their children’s eyes, when they realized what was going on."

On the other hand, a few days ahead of the scheduled parade, news agencies have reported that the head of Serbia’s Orthodox Christian hurch is calling on authorities to ban the October 6 procession in Belgrade.

In a written statement issued on October 3, Patriarch Irinej denounced the planned march as a "parade of shame." He said it would threaten Serbia’s centuries-old Christian culture and the model of the heterosexual family as the foundation of humankind.

The situation is being watched by European Union officials. They've called on the Serbian government to protect free expression and human rights to show that the country is ready for the start of official EU membership negotiations.

WATCH: Serbian news report on a flash mob for Belgrade's Pride Week

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