Serbia’s openly gay Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says she’s never encountered homophobia in the conservative European country.
The newly appointed PM is the first lesbian—and the first woman—to hold the leadership position and she told CNN reporter Paula Newton this week that her sexuality has never stood in the way of her career.
“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," she said.
“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.”
When Brnabic first joined the government, she made it clear that she was not going to be a “spokesperson for the LGBT community”.
“I don’t want to be branded as a gay minister, just as my colleagues don’t want to be primarily defined as being straight,” she added. “All I want is to do my job as best as I can.”
LGBT+ rights in Serbia
After Brnabić was appointed to the role of PM by President Aleksandar Vučić, Vice interviewed Serbian lesbians about what whether the new leader would have any impact on LGBT+ rights in the country.
Kristina—A 22-year-old activist and tattoo artist—said: “Serbia still has a long way to go when it comes to gay rights, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
"Unfortunately, Brnabić decided to distance herself from LGBTQ issues.
“As much as I understand her position, I do believe she has a certain responsibility to the gay community. We will see what kind of change this will bring, but I believe society will become more conscious about gay rights.”
Teodora—an 18-year-old high-school graduate—said that because of Brnabić’s social standing, she was oblivious to the discrimination the majority of the gay community faces.
“I don't think she is aware of the problems that LGBTQ people suffer in Serbia, because she is from a privileged background. But I don't want to jinx it.”
Homosexuality has been legal in Serbia since 1994, but same-sex marriage was constitutionally banned in 2005.
According to Human Rights Watch, the LGBT+ community continues to face discrimination and instances of violence against the community often go unreported.
In 2010, the Belgrade Pride event saw anti-gay protestors rioting on the streets and the parade was cancelled for the next three years because of safety fears. Since then, it’s successfully taken place in 2014, 2015 and 2016.