In Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, the recognition of freedom of appearance and freedom of assembly and association as fundamental rights is being questioned. These rights are acknowledged in the European Convention on Human Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other human rights instruments. It is crucial to evaluate whether these countries uphold these rights since they are signatories to these declarations. This study aims to explore the connection between the lack of acceptance towards sexual minorities and the strong religious national identities prevalent in these nations. By examining societal values and those who promote them, we can gain insight into the context surrounding violent attacks against sexual minorities. The nationalist political leaders that emerged after Yugoslavia's dissolution played a significant role in shaping national identities based on rigid representations rooted in religion, culture, and nationality. These representatio...
ns demonstrate an elevated level of intolerance towards individuals who deviate from them, including sexual minorities.
When discussing sexual minorities, I am referring to groups of individuals who are identified by their sexual orientation and gender identity. This term includes homosexual, tribade, bisexual, and transgendered people. These individuals are often seen as having a shared culture known as LGBT culture, Queer culture, or cheerful culture.
Both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a shared history with the Communist Yugoslavia. Therefore, I will begin my paper by briefly analyzing the Communist government's impact on these countries in terms of social liberation. This analysis will focus particularly on women's rights since it is closely related to attitudes towards sexual minorities.
In the second part of this chapter, I will explore the post-communist transition period and specifically examine how religion shaped national identities
in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The purpose of this text is to examine the development of national identity from a gender perspective, as well as explore how sexual minorities are treated in today's societies. In Chapter 2, we will analyze both international and national laws that relate to freedom of expression and assembly, providing a legal viewpoint on these issues. Additionally, we will investigate the attitudes towards homosexuality held by religious leaders of major faiths such as Islam and Orthodox Christianity. Furthermore, Chapter 3 aims to discuss two specific events - Gay Pride in Belgrade and Queer Sarajevo Festival - in order to illustrate how religious patriotism contributes to public opposition and suppression of these events.
In the first part of the paper, I will mainly focus on the works of Sabrina P. Ramet and Robin Okey. I will consult their work on the communist period in the lives of these states, with particular emphasis on 1989 as a significant year. To analyze the formation of national identities and the role of religion during this period, I will also refer to the writings of Sabrina P. Ramet, Spyros Sofos (who approached it from a gender perspective), and Vjekoslav Perica.
The text below analyzes and compares international papers on freedom of speech and assembly with Serbia and BiH's national laws. It refers to NGO studies, newspaper articles covering events like Gay Pride Belgrade and Queer Sarajevo Festival, as well as relevant articles to gain insights into the status of sexual minorities in these countries. Additionally, it examines the transformation of societies from communism to post-communism in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a focus on the period
when Communist Yugoslavia transitioned into fragmented nations with developing national identities influenced by religion and ethnicity. Throughout this chapter, emphasis is placed on the gender perspective due to its relevance to the topic.
The fundamental principles of Communist Yugoslavia were centered around concepts such as 'Brotherhood', 'unity', 'solidarity', and 'reciprocity towards all'. These principles aimed to establish a society where equality was upheld. However, it is essential to provide some context about the video before delving into the value system of communist Yugoslavia. Following World War II, Yugoslavia primarily depended on agriculture and had a predominantly rural population. The Communist government initiated societal transformation in Yugoslavia, primarily driven by industrialization and the resulting increase in the labor force. "By the mid-1980s, around 98 percent of the country's workers were employed in state-controlled industries." This shift occurred due to various reforms implemented in Yugoslavia during the 1950s, including their unique economic system based on worker's self-management.
The Communist government in Yugoslavia implemented economic reform and focused on reducing illiteracy rates after World War II. According to Robin Okey, the government's achievement of mass secondary education alongside mass primary education significantly decreased illiteracy among the population. While there may be various reasons for the government's emphasis on education, such as propagating its ideology, I cannot explore this further due to paper constraints. Women's emancipation was also a priority for the Communist government, aligning with its ideology of equality. To understand women's position in society at that time, we can consider the public/private duality.
During the communist era, women faced exclusion from public life and were restricted to roles associated with the private realm. They were confined to being mothers and
wives without any involvement in the male-dominated public sphere. However, the communist government aimed to challenge this hierarchical structure by implementing gender policies that aimed at improving women's status.
Consequently, these policies resulted in positive changes for women including obtaining civil and political rights as well as increased opportunities for education and employment. Despite these advancements, it is difficult to assess the extent of women's liberation during this time due to the enduring presence of traditional motherhood and wifehood roles that were not entirely replaced.
Sabrina Ramet questions the government's commitment to women's emancipation, particularly in autocratic regimes like communist Yugoslavia. However, it should be noted that the government in communist Yugoslavia did implement certain societal emancipation measures through economic reforms, education and healthcare reforms, and gender policies. These initiatives were in line with the government's ideology of equality, unity, and fraternity.
During this period, religion posed a threat to the Communist regime as it had the ability to sway people and undermine state authority. Consequently, the state sought to diminish its influence within society.
Between 1945 and the early 1950s, despite the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, the government took various actions against the church. These actions included imprisoning, torturing, and killing clergy members. Although a policy of reconciliation was later implemented, there was continued pressure on religious communities until the 1980s.
Openly practicing a spiritual religion often resulted in limited job opportunities and lower social status. However, with political liberalization in the late 1980s, spiritual communities began to experience greater freedoms.
According to Sabrina Ramet's analysis , Kenneth Jowitt attributes this change in government attitude towards religion. The initial phase involved dismantling systems by seizing church properties and imposing
fines on clergy members, specifically targeting Orthodox churches.
During the Catholic Church's rule in the 1950s and 1960s, the clergy faced more harassment and imprisonment. Ramet refers to this time as a "decade of strategic accommodation." In the 1980s, which was known as the "liberalization stage," the Church became an important part of national identities. The period of transition after communism, from the late 1980s to early 1990s, was a crucial moment for national identities and religion played a bigger role. Perica argues that post-Yugoslav patriotism involved combining cultural, national, and religious identity. This era saw a closer relationship between the Church and government.
Perica introduces the term 'ethnoclericalism' to describe a phenomenon in which the spiritual hierarchy and secular authorities are jointly regulated, legitimizing their power and ensuring the continuity of the cultural state. This concept can be observed not only in the Serbian Orthodox Church but also in Croatian Catholicism and Bosniac Muslim Islam. In other words, the dominant religions in these countries have adopted this behavior. Sabrina Ramet provides evidence supporting the idea of a symbiotic relationship between the Church and the authorities in her writings on the Serbian Orthodox Church.
According to Ramet, the pretentions of the Serbian Orthodox Church were similar to the pretentions of Serbian politicians like Vojislav Seselj and Vuk Draskovic, who desired to create a "Greater Serbia" that would be an Orthodox state. The Church remained committed to this idea throughout the entire war, opposing the Vance-Owen peace program and the Dayton Peace Agreement because it felt they were unfair and would abandon the concept of "Greater Serbia". Perica explains that individual churches act as interest groups with their own
agendas and aims. Their goal is to establish themselves as national churches in ethnically based national provinces. This was evident in the mainstream religions of Serbia, Croatia, and BiH during the process of forming national identities.
The rhetoric used by Church representatives in this period was interesting to analyze. It was similar to the rhetoric used by politicians as well. For example, in Serbia, the focus was on history, specifically World War II, which conveniently portrayed Serbs as the victims and Croatians as the criminals. This narrative of history portrayed all Croatians as criminals, not just Ustashas. This rhetoric was effective during the time of conflict because it justified the actions of Serb patriots. Of course, this was not only the case in Serbia.
In Croatia, there was a similar process of thought, but the history was reorganized to benefit Croatian politicians. The church representatives used history, or rather their interpretations of history, to "ethnicize spiritual and public discourse" according to Perica. This was evident in sermons, speeches, publications, and the symbolism of shrines, saints, celebrations, and rituals that aimed to shape national identities by replacing history with mythical narratives. This collaboration between religious leaders and the government is also prevalent in Serbia and BiH today. Before the 2006 national elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, spiritual community representatives began promoting specific politicians by employing "spiritual speeches and services for political campaign purposes."
Compared to the communist period, the influence of faith increased significantly. The church aligned its rhetoric with the authorities' rhetoric, giving it the opportunity to promote its values to the public. The relation between patriotism and faith during this period will be further explored in the
following section, with a focus on the gender perspective.
Gender and the formation of national identities
By analyzing patriotism in BiH and Serbia in the 1990s from a gender perspective, we can gain insight into certain phenomena present in these societies today. However, it is important to first define the term gender.
One definition describes it as "a construct of one's own identity and expression that can confirm, reject and/or challenge the male and female gender roles, as defined by society." It is important to acknowledge that society is responsible for creating these roles, which are later considered to be 'traditional'. Annamarie Jagose argues that the intolerance towards sexual minorities stems from the "existing dominant and rigid conceptualization of sex and gender created by society." When considering the conceptualizations of sex and gender in these countries, the influence of nationalism must be emphasized. Nira Yuval-Davis explains that when discussing the formation of nations, it is crucial to understand that "nations exist within a specific historical moment and are constructed through competing nationalist discourses from groups vying for social influence and power in establishing values and rules of the majority, essentially competing for hegemony. The gendered nature of nations can only be understood within this context."
"During the period of creative activity of national individualities, the conceptualisation of gender was predominantly centered on the idea of national communities as primarily consisting of males, forming brotherhoods ( ... ). Spyros Sofos argues that this gendered notion of patriotism was not limited to the former Yugoslavia but emphasizes that its prominence and impact on the conflict in that region should be examined. Sofos suggests that the masculinist discourse in the politics
of ethnicity within the former Yugoslavia manifests in two ways. Firstly, it diminishes the role of women by reducing them to mere 'biological reproducers of the state'. Secondly, it utilizes rape as a 'weapon' in the cultural struggle, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina
[ 25 ]
. Additionally, the role of men as warriors and defenders of the nation cannot be ignored."
The protection of adult females was synonymous with the protection of the state, as their sole purpose was reduced to being 'mothers of a state.' These gender roles were established and enforced by chauvinistic political elites through patriarchal discourse, forming an integral part of national identity. Consequently, they constructed the ideal image of a 'good Serb' or 'Good Bosniac,' assigning specific roles to each gender. Women were perceived as mothers and nurturers of the state, while men were regarded as warriors and defenders.
Deviation from the strict notion of a 'good Serb' or 'good Bosniac' will be seen as being 'the Other' and thus an enemy of the state. The significance of gender roles in shaping national identity will not be extensively explored due to space limitations. In 2009, both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina faced obstacles in organizing events promoting rights for sexual minorities. Despite their aspirations to join the European Union and demonstrate respect for democracy and human rights within their borders, such events still provoke tensions and intolerance in societies.
The international legal framework
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracies. Denying individuals the freedom to express their thoughts or access relevant information deprives them of fundamental rights.
According to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948), everyone has the right to the
freedom of sentiment and expression. This fundamental right is recognized at both the European and international levels. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ratified by both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This includes the freedom to hold opinions, receive and impart information and ideas without interference from public authorities and regardless of borders. It is evident that freedom of expression is highly prioritized by human rights guardians. Violation of this freedom seriously affects other freedoms, such as freedom of association and assembly, which is another fundamental right according to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and freedom to associate with others (...)
No limitations shall be placed on the exercising of these rights other than those prescribed by jurisprudence and necessary in a democratic society. Since the violation of the right to freedom of association and assembly occurred in both Serbia and BiH, I will examine the national laws of these states to determine if freedom of association and assembly align with international standards. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of the Dayton Peace Agreement signed in 1995, which was an international intervention to end the armed conflict. The powers of the state were transferred to two entities - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. It is characterized as a minimalist approach in terms of central authority and a maximalist approach in terms of balance of powers. The BiH Constitution explicitly declares that the rights and freedoms outlined in the European Convention
for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms must be respected. (...)
The international legal model holds precedence over all other jurisprudence, including national laws. This applies to the freedom of expression, where national laws must align with the international legal framework. It is also worth noting that the Code on Radio and Television Broadcasting prohibits the dissemination of programs that promote discrimination and/or violence based on cultural background, gender/sex, sexual orientation, leading to harassment or sexual harassment. As for the freedom of association and assembly, the situation becomes more complex.
These political rights are governed by the Constitutions of BiH and Entities, laws, etc.  and international documents such as the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The multitude of different regulations (based on different entities, regions, or territories of the country) can lead to uncertainties and inconsistencies, which is why it is important to emphasize that international laws take precedence over national law. The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia recognizes freedom of expression and thought in Article 46.  Regarding the freedom of assembly, the Constitution states that "citizens may freely assemble." (...
Freedom of assembly can be limited by the law in order to protect public health, ethics, the rights of others, or the security of the Republic of Serbia. While Serbian national law guarantees these freedoms, the actual situation in practice differs significantly. This section will focus on Islam and Orthodox Christianity, which are the two dominant religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, for the purpose of discussing their views on homosexuality. Islam considers homosexuality to be "out and punishable with extreme penalties" according to mainstream interpretations of Islamic
and Sharia law. The opposition to sexual minorities often cites the story of Prophet Lut and the destruction of Sodom as evidence against homosexuality. The people of Sodom were destroyed due to their immoral behavior, including sexual relations between men.
Despite the different interpretations of the narrative, those who oppose homosexuality tend to rely on a simplified reading that condemns it. The Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) is part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which does not define homosexuality as a sin. However, there are many priests within the SOC who believe that homosexuality is a mortal sin. Additionally, certain violent groups within the SOC have perpetuated stereotypes and bias against homosexuality and continue to suppress them. While parts of the Bible, such as Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1:1, Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Jude 7, address the issue, the arguments made from these parts are not based on concrete interpretations of homosexuality. It is interesting to note that there is no specific mention of homosexuality in the holy texts; it is only the interpretations that are presented as evidence against it. On the other hand, the legal framework provides clear definitions of freedoms for sexual minorities and their protection.
Why are events like Gay Pride in Belgrade or Queer Festival in Sarajevo consistently met with violent attacks on participants? Despite both countries having strong legal protections for the fundamental freedoms of their citizens, the reality on the ground tells a different story. A prime example of the disconnect between the law and what actually happens is the failed organization of the Queer Sarajevo Festival and Gay Pride 2009 in Belgrade.
Queer Sarajevo Festival
In October 2008, Udruzenje
Q, an LGBT non-governmental organization, organized the first Queer Sarajevo Festival. Unfortunately, this resulted in at least 10 people being injured. According to Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of IGLHRC, and Dirk De Meirleir, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, this was a result of "publicly promoted hate speeches and incitement to violence."
Before the Festival, the organizers and individual LGBTQ+ rights activists were subjected to ongoing pressure. They received threats on various websites, calling for their lynching or stoning. Furthermore, a manipulated video showing one of the organizers being beheaded was posted on YouTube. Some media outlets reported on the Festival's preparations using hate speech against members of the LGBTIQ population. According to the 2008 Human Rights Report for Bosnia and Herzegovina, several violations of the Press Council and BiH Code on Radio and Television Broadcasting occurred, particularly in regards to Article 3 (incitement) and Article 4 (discrimination).
Unfortunately, there are multiple instances of hatred addressed in daily newspapers like Dnevni avaz. They have used terminology such as "homosexual's disease," "publicity of non-cardinal values," "they need medical aid," and "provocative homosexual assemblage in the month of Ramadan." A journalist named Ezher Beganovic from the Islamic magazine Saff expressed concerns about an upcoming Festival, stating that it dangerously threatens their spiritual feelings and is inappropriate to hold during Ramadan. Begovic also viewed homosexuality as a sin and disease in Islam. This media campaign led to an increase in violence on the first day of the Festival, resulting in several injuries. However, the media was not the only influencing factor on public opinion. Some prominent politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) made statements showing a high level of intolerance
towards sexual minorities and the event itself. Bakir Izetbegovic, a member and leader of the BiH delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, referred to it as a memory of Sodom and Gomorrah on the twenty-seventh night, describing it as a noble night that Muslims are expecting in happiness. He also mentioned that those people have a right to their sexual orientation or, more precisely, their preferences.
) but to dwell it, to demo it as something normal (...) that is merely non right. The fact that opponents to the Festival, including BiH politicians, used Ramadan as the chief ground why the Festival should non take topographic point shows that faith is an of import portion of the national individuality, even though BiH is a secular state. Milan Duric, an militant[ 56 ] commented on the correlativity of patriotism and homophobia and he stated that " ..."
In all these deeply entrenched patriarchal societies, patriotism holds significant importance. Anything that diverges from the traditional and, some would argue, fascist notion of what it means to be Serbian or Croatian is perceived as threatening and endangering.
Gay Pride Belgrade
Another noteworthy example of the atmosphere of intolerance and discrimination against sexual minority members is the Gay Pride event in Belgrade, Serbia. The first Gay Pride march was organized in Belgrade in 2001. The outcome was distressing for human rights advocates and the entire LGBTIQ community. According to The Gully, participants of the Gay Pride March were physically assaulted by a coordinated mob of Serbian ultra-nationalists.
The distressing fact is that a Serbian Orthodox Church priest, Zarko Gavrilovic, led one of the groups that attacked Pride participants.
According to The Gully, the mob chanted "Serbia is not a homosexual state" and "Serbia for Serbians and not for homophiles." Some of the dissenters carried signs with messages such as "Orthodox For a Morally Clean Serbia" and "No to Immoral Homosexuality and Depraved Orgies." The situation regarding freedom of expression for sexual minorities in Serbia in 2009 has not improved. President Tadic of Republic of Serbia released an official statement in which he assures that "the government will do everything to protect citizens, regardless of their ( a?¦ ) sexual or political orientation."
However, the event in Belgrade's business district was cancelled in the terminal due to security concerns. The police were unable to protect the participants, so they proposed a different location. The Organizing Board of Pride Parade refused to change the event's location and accused the authorities of being unable to protect their citizens or uphold their constitutional rights. The cancellation of the event sparked a reaction from the ultra-nationalistic organization "1389." In a statement, they called for a protest against "sexually non-aberrant individuals." Once again, the church had an influence on public opinion.
Zarko Korac discusses the role of the church in the Gay Pride event in his article "The Anatomy Lesson". He mentions that the church, known for its conservative views and resistance to change, has released two statements. Bishop Amfilohije refers to Gomorrah as a symbol of an upcoming orgy that will occur in the streets of Belgrade. On the other hand, bishop Irinej...
Archbishop Grigorije stated that his statement represents "the current position of the church". Is there a reason to have faith in a better future? In 2008, attempts to
organize events that would promote the rights of sexual minorities were unsuccessful in both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Religion played a significant role in both cases. In Bosnia, the religious observance of Ramadan was used as the justification for canceling the event. Despite being a secular state, politicians in BiH also cited religious beliefs as their reason for disapproving of the event.
In Serbia, the role of religion was also highly visible. This was especially evident when one of the priests joined the protesters of the Gay Pride and marched with them in Belgrade. Because there was a lack of political determination to safeguard the event (such as providing sufficient police officers and making supportive statements, etc.), both occurrences resulted in violent attacks and several individuals were harmed. The authorities did not successfully safeguard the fundamental rights of their residents.
Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have applied for the rank of the European Union[ 65 ]. This means that they must adhere to strict European standards regarding democracy and human rights. However, this requirement extends beyond simply aligning their laws with European laws and standards. They must also create the necessary conditions for implementing these laws. The first step towards establishing the rule of law is enacting good legislation. One such law that protects individual freedoms is the anti-discrimination law. On March 26, 2009, the National Assembly of Serbia officially passed the anti-discrimination law, which includes a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other grounds. However, the adoption of this law was not without controversy.
On March 4, the Serbian Orthodox Church and other conservative groups petitioned for the withdrawal of a jurisprudence
that aimed to eliminate discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and faith. IGLHRC and ILGA-Europe swiftly responded by urging the government to reconsider the bill. In response to both international and domestic pressure to align Serbia's laws with EU standards, the Serbian government resubmitted the anti-discrimination bill on March 13, 2009. This context is exemplified by Dragan Markovic Palma, the mayor of Jagodina and a prominent figure in this debate.
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