Serbia’s openly gay Prime Minister says her sexuality has never been an issue
Serbia’s out Prime Minister Ana Brnabić insists her sexuality has never been an issue in the country.
Ms Brnabić was appointed as the country’s PM by Serbia’s conservative President Aleksandar Vučić, making her one of three out leaders in office around the world today.
The other two openly gay leaders, Ireland’s Leo Varadkar and Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, both serve in countries that have made substantial progress on LGBT rights, but the legal situation is bleak for couples in Serbia.
Ms Brnabić was interviewed on CNN this week by legendary journalist Christiane Amanpour.
The PM insisted: “I’ve been openly gay throughout my life and I’ve never had a problem in Serbia. I would like to think that Serbia is not that conservative or homophobic, or xenophobic for that matter.
“There’s certainly room to improve and change and there’s certainly still people who think, ‘this is not okay, that this is not part of our tradition and part of our accepted values’, but I do think that they are a minority. A loud minority, granted, but a minority.
“I do feel I have huge support from the people in Serbia.”
Much of the interview focused on the country’s increasingly close relationship with Russia.
Amanpour questioned whether the appointment of a gay leader was a tactical ploy for the country’s conservative pro-Russian government to bring in a “more acceptable face to the West”.
Ms Brnabić responded: “The government is pro-Serbia. It’s neither pro-US or pro-Russia, it’s a pro-Serbian government dedicated to improving the lives of Serbian citizens.”
However, she said: “Serbia needs new jobs, we need new companies but for that, we need to keep our ties to Russia, and that is one important source of our growth.”
Asked if Russia was using ties in the region to gain influence in the EU, she said: “I don’t see that happening, and to be honest I haven’t seen any proof of those allegations. Our strategic path is towards the EU.
“The EU is where we’re going. Russia is our friend and our economic party. That is nothing really more to it than that.”
Her appointment was still met with scathing attacks from misogynists and homophobes, as well as those who accuse her of being a puppet for Vučić.
There are also those who accuse Vučić of choosing Brnabić simply for show, to demonstrate how progressive Serbia is so that it can join the European Union.
Brnabić previously hit back at detractors.
Facing the insults defiantly, she said: “I expect to receive them also in the future.
“I will respond with truths and facts that I will defend with dignity.
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“I have big goals as I look to the future.
“Let’s put the past together where it belongs – to the past.”
Brnabić is no activist, though. Last year she refused to lend her support to a proposal to push for legalising same-sex partnerships in Serbia.
Zoe Gudovic, 40, a social justice activist in the country, told The New York Times: “The only thing I share with Ana Brnabic is that we are both lesbians.”
She said Brnabić deserved “credit for shattering the deeply rooted notion of how a woman in the highest position of government should look like, what she should wear and how she should behave in this homophobic society.”
She added: “[But] I find it impossible to accept that she is willing to be part of the nationalist, authoritarian regime that will ruin our economy, sell our country to foreigners and abolish whatever is left of a social state.”