SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Hundreds of people attended a gay pride march Saturday in the Bosnian of capital Sarajevo, with organizers saying LGBT people have been further marginalized since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the impoverished, conservative Balkan nation.
A colorful crowd walked through central Sarajevo carrying rainbow flags. The march was held under heavy security after hundreds of police had sealed off the area to prevent incidents with counterprotesters.
At the same time, dozens of opponents of the pride march held their own gathering in Sarajevo, saying they wanted to defend the country’s traditional values from an “aggressive” LGBT ideology. No incidents were reported at any of the gatherings.
The pride march was only the third such event ever in Bosnia, an ethnically divided country that endured a devastating war in 1992-95, which killed over 100,000 people and left millions displaced.
Sidelined in the war-ravaged country, Bosnia’s LGBT community have urged resistance against “constant exposure to fear, violence, discrimination, violations of our basic human rights and unequal treatment.”
“We, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans, intersex and queer people, take to the streets because the pandemic restrictions are our everyday realities,” groups behind the pride said in a statement. “In the year behind us, the rights and freedoms of LGBTIQ+ people have further deteriorated.”
One of the organizers, Amar Catovic, told the crowd Saturday that “the time has come to speak openly and clearly about the problems we are facing.”
“I was always taught I should not be visible. But I will be proud of what I am, proud of myself for being a gay man,” he said. “We demand equality! Aware of discrimination, violence and hate speech, we resist and say it’s enough!”
The group’s demands included swift passage of a law on same-sex partnerships and a plan on how to end discrimination and improve the lives of LGBT people in Bosnia.
The first pride march in Sarajevo was held in 2019, while last year’s event gathered only small numbers because of the pandemic.