Eurovision’s gay fans advised to be discreet while in Serbia
Use common sense and appropriate discretion in public.
That is the advice from gay groups and the British Embassy in Belgrade to gay people planning to visit the city for the Eurovision Song Contest.
A leaflet entitled A Short Guide Through LGBT Belgrade has been produced by the the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) of Belgrade and paid for by the embassy.
It reveals while Serbia has an equal age of consent, 14, “the general public consider homosexuality to be acceptable only when it is not displayed in public.”
Two-thirds of Serbs consider homosexuality an illness and half want their government to work to prevent it.
An estimated 70% of gay people have been physically assaulted or know another gay person who has.
However, GSA also stress that the people are kind, pleasant, outgoing and helpful to visitors.
“Our main advice and message to all LGBT people who are coming to the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 is to use common sense and appropriate discretion in public and to enjoy what should be a fantastic celebration,” the leaflet says.
It recommends two venues in Belgrade and lists embassies and emergency numbers.
There has been concern for the large number of gay people who normally attend the Eurovision Song Contest.
Last month representatives of GSA, Eurovision and the Serbian police officials met to discuss the possibility of homophobic violence at this years event.
The meeting sought assurances that the police will adequately protect visitors from homophobic attack.
Human rights activists have raised concerns that LGBT fans visiting Serbia will be targeted by fascist elements in the country.
Gay men are a particular target, according to the president of the fascist organisation Obraz, who announced his violent intentions in the pages of daily newspaper ALO! last month.
The newspaper ran a story on April 7th, calling Eurovision “gay youth day.”
Obraz, which has links with other far-right groups, is classified as an ‘Orthodox clero-fascist’ organisation.
It is notorious for its extreme homophobic views and taste for attacking gay people.
Their threats have led some to question whether Serbia, which is not in the EU, is a suitable location for a contest that is both a gay favourite and a powerful symbol of European unity.
Serbia won the right to host the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest after their entry at last year’s competition won.
Semi-finals will be held in Belgrade on 20th and 22nd May and the final on 24th May.
The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) wrote to the European Broadcasting Union, which is responsible for overseeing the hosting of the song contest.
“We are sure you are aware of the poor record of human rights in Serbia in general and regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in particular,” wrote the EPOA’s Human Rights Co-ordinator Kurt Krickler.
“In June 2001, the first gay pride march in Belgrade was brutally attacked by a huge violent crowd of nationalist extremists and hooligans.
“Dozens of people were left massively hurt and injured in the streets while the police failed to provide adequate protection. The Serbian LGBT movement has not recovered from these incidents.”
Police representatives have assured Eurovision organisers that there will be increased security for the event and an increased police presence near all tourist attractions.
“The police want to know the “hot spots” in Belgrade where especially large crowds of LGBT people will be meeting,” said GSA.
“Larger groups of LGBT fans booked on a package tour or for example residing in a specific hotel, therefore, should contact GSA at [email protected] and inform them about this.
“They would pass on the information to the police so that extra police men can be placed at such hotels to secure the safety of people.
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“People travelling to Belgrade should make sure to procure, upon arrival, one of these flyers.”
People from the UK, US and other countries that supported Kosovo’s declaration of indepdence from Serbia earlier this year are already at risk.
The US embassy in Belgrade remains evacuated after rioting Serbs attacked the building and tried to set it alight.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to British travellers to the country states:
“The overall security situation in Serbia remains calm, but you are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling around.
“You should keep a low profile and stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations,and pay close attention to local media reports at the present time.”