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Friday, April 15, 2011

Montenegro Poised for First Pride Parade

Zdravko Cimbaljevic
Zdravko Cimbaljevic
By Kilian Melloy -

The country of Montenegro will host its first Pride parade on May 31--and the nation’s government says it is completely on board with the event.

The Southeastern European nation, situated in the Balkans, still suffers from "institutionalized homophobia," and organizer Zdravko Cimbaljevic says that he’s gotten death threats. But the Montenegran government said in a statement that its support for the event is a clear indication that the country is moving toward greater inclusiveness and acceptance, reported the AssociatedPress on an Apr. 14 article.

That may be motivated in some part by Montenegro aiming eventually to join the European Union.

Montenegro, located on the Adriatic Sea, is famed as a location for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Tourism companies tout the country’s natural beauty and claim it as among the top 10 tourist destinations.

Though Montenegro decriminalized homosexuality in 1977, and the law of consent was equalized that same year--sex is legal for both gays and straights at age 14--homophobia remains part and parcel of society there. An Oct. 16, 2009, article at relates the story of two gay men who were discovered in a park by policemen, forced to strip naked, and then beaten up. A human rights activist named Aleksandar Sasa-Zekovic gathered evidence to take the police to court for the misdeed, but the two victims were too terrified at being outed to allow the case to go forward.

"Montenegro is well known for its traditional, patriarchal and tribal attitudes that determine people’s positions on numerous social issues and phenomena," said sociologist Srdjan Vukadinovic.

As used to be true in nations like India--where homosexuality was only recently decriminalized--gays are often the victims of blackmail. The law may not punish a gay person who has been outed, but society will.

"When you have a traditional mentality like that in Montenegro, being targeted as a homosexual is the least desirable thing," Zekovic said.

Montenegro is a tiny nation of about 600,000. Its constitution forbids marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, and no other legal acknowledgement is offered to same-sex couples, according to a Wikipedia article.

But in a sign that things may start to change from the top down, LGBT Forum Progress--the group behind the Pride Parade--met with Deputy Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, who offered reassurances that the government would not only allow the event, but also provide "full institutional support" in order to display "commitment to European values of tolerance, equality and social inclusion." The nation’s police chief also vowed to ensure that the Pride event would be safe.

Anti-gay fringe elements swore that they would attack the event.

Hooligans disrupted a Pride parade in Serbia last year, and the last Pride celebration in Belarus involve fleet-footed demonstrators unfurling rainbow banners and marching for only a few minutes before scattering as police arrived in vans.

But a Valentine’s Day demonstration in Belarus went peacefully last Feb. 14.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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