ILGA-Europe speeches at the Belgrade Pride
ILGA-Europe was asked to give speeches at the Belgrade Pride. Linda Freimane and Nataša Sukič from the ILGA-Europe Executive board prepared short speeches, however the programme was shortened, so read the speeches here.
Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of the ILGA-Europe Executive Board:
Dear courageous friends in Serbia!
It is with great admiration for your persistent struggle that we are gathering here together with you on this historical day. We are surrounded by police, who is protecting us from a wall of hatred and prejudice – and yet we feel good, because we know that the truth, and the passion, and the love for humanity is on our side.
Pride events have been met with hostility in many countries in Europe, in different times. Nowhere did they begin as the festive events, which we can now see in cities such as London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels. It has always been the courageous few who decided to stand up for their own rights, and the rights of other LGBT people. Who understood that by staying silent and not demanding your rights, nothing will ever change to the better.
An elderly lesbian activist from Sweden once said to me that “yes, it is tiresome to see history repeat itself in so many parts of Europe. But, at the same time – she said – it is different now. Because now you know that everything is possible! When we started our struggle there was no recognition of LGBT rights anywhere. Now you know how your struggle will end”.
I find these words very encouraging and hopeful. And even if one cannot perhaps compare Sweden in the 1960ies with Serbia today, then the path to equality and respect for human dignity is always led by people like you – the brave ground-breakers. ILGA Europe has followed and supported your struggle, and we are proud of being here with you today. You should know that you have our full support in the work that you do, and that we have great hopes that today we have taken an important step towards legal and social change in Serbia.
Your success is not only the success of your community and your country, but it will encourage our brothers and sisters in so many other countries, where pride events are also still met with threats, violence and prohibitions.
Let me finish by quoting one of my favourite persons – the Dalai Lama, who has said: “It is the nature of human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity. If we accept that others have the right to peace and happiness equal to our own, do we not have a responsibility to help those in need?”
You have shown great responsibility today, and for this we are very grateful.
Nataša Sukič, Member of the ILGA-Europe Executive Board
Almost ten years have passes since the last time a pride event took place here, in Belgrade – that time it ended with violence, and many activists were seriously beaten by different extreme nationalists and other hooligans. Last year the efforts to hold a pride event again were stopped by the authorities for security reasons, as they claim. And yet we know, that the fact that violent groups in society threaten a peaceful demonstration or march is not a valid reason to prohibit this event – on the contrary, the authorities must do everything to secure that the demonstration or march can take place, and that the participants are protected. This is what democracy is all about! Not the dictatorship of the majority, but the rights of the minority to make their voices heard. Our fundamental freedoms may seem so simple, and yet so difficult to exercise in real life.
To “come out” as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual person in a society ruled by prejudice and homophobia is not an easy thing to do. To become an LGBT activist, and organise a pride event in a very hostile environment is something most people would not have the courage to do. And yet we are here, thanks to your dedicated work and belief!
A pride event is more than just a rally and a march. It is a symbol of the very much needed visibility of the LGBT community, a symbol of your maturity and readiness to come out publicly, and claim equal rights. As we know, that which is silent does not exist, and what does not exist does not have any rights.
Only two other countries in the Balkans have had successful pride marches – Croatia and Slovenia, where I come from. It is wonderful to witness Serbia joining the champions in our region!
We would like to congratulate both the LGBT community, but also the authorities and the police for not giving in to threats. Serbia is interested in becoming a part of a Europe which recognises equality, dignity and human rights for all – and today we have come a step closer to this reality.
Thank you, and good luck!