Frenzied mob cheers on as effigy of kissing gay couple and their child is burned to a cinder
An effigy of a same-sex couple carrying a child has been burned at a carnival in Croatia as crowds looked on and cheered.
The town of Imotski literally put its homophobia on display on Sunday – painstakingly decorating the effigy, parading it through the streets, and then burning it.
The effigy bore the faces of two men kissing, wrapped in a rainbow scarf and depicted holding a doll, symbolising a child.
Effigies at the traditional carnival events in Croatia commonly draw on news stories and public events, and the doll bore the face of left-wing Social Democratic Party MP Nenad Stazić, who recently made news in the country by saying same-sex couples should be permitted to foster children.
The crowd, which included very young children in fancy dress, cheered and danced to music as the effigy burned.
An announcer told the braying crowds: “My head is spinning from this culture of death… This year, let’s set this grotesque family with baby Nenad Stazić on fire!”
Carnival organisers say Croatia is a conservative society.
The festival organisers told the Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper: “We are a conservative society, and follow tradition. Give a child to a mother, as the saying goes. We think it’s the right thing to do.”
Croatia officially bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, but gay couples are only able to enter civil partnerships that grant them limited rights.
The country imposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage via a referendum in 2013, with 66 per cent of voters backing the measure after an intense anti-gay lobbying campaign supported by the Catholic church.
The latest overt display of homophobia has been condemned by Croatian LGBT+ campaigners, who say they will file a criminal complaint for public incitement to violence and hatred.
Daniel Martinović, coordinator at the Croatia’s Rainbow Family Association, said of the effigy burning: “The frightening scenes from Imotski cannot be justified by carnival customs. It must be roundly condemned.
“What kind of message is being sent to our children, who are growing up in Croatia with their lesbian mothers or gay fathers?
“Burning a gay couple, and even worse, a child, directly calls for hatred against groups that are frequently discriminated against in society.”
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Martinović added: “Such an act is an unacceptable incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence, and spreads the hostile environment towards both rainbow families and to children in the foster care system.”
The campaigner pointed out that the latest display comes two years after another traditional carnival burned an LGBT+ themed picture book, which – like Nenad Stazić’s comments – had sparked a ‘moral panic’ and spread like wildfire on social media in the country.
Croatian president: ‘Hatred and intolerance are not our values.’
Croatian president Zoran Milanović also condemned the effigy-burning.
He said in a Facebook post: “The symbolic burning of the same-sex couple with a child in Imotski is inhumane, unpleasant and totally unacceptable under the cover of the carnival celebrations.”
Milanovićadded: “Hatred for others, intolerance and inhumanity are not and will never be a Croatian tradition.
“I will be monitoring the response of our public institutions, especially since [the burning] was watched by many children who witnessed the spread of hate and incitement to violence.”