Serbia's state institutions have shown more support for the gay community, but there is still a lot to be done to reduce violence and discrimination, a study presented on Tuesday said.
"State institutions have supported human rights of the gay population as well as lesbian and gay organisations more than before, above all in the process of organising the Gay Pride 2010," the first in Serbia in almost 10 years, a report prepared by the Gay-Straight Alliance rights group said.
AdvertisementHowever the report concluded that "concrete steps in decreasing violence and discrimination" of gays and lesbians have yet to be made.
"Serbian society is, unfortunately, still extremely homophobic," Lazar Pavlovic of the Alliance told a press conference.
He added that while there was a law on discrimination adopted in 2009 it is hard to put into effect because there is no mechanism to enforce its implementation.
Last October's Gay Pride parade was marked by violent clashes between police and some 6,000 anti-gay rioters. The riots left 150 people, mainly police officers, injured and caused millions of euros (dollars) of damages.
A Belgrade court sentenced an ultra-nationalist leader to two years in prison for organising the riots, while 13 other people were given jail sentences of between 10 months and two years.
Nevena Petrusic, Serbia's first Commissioner for Equality, warned in a statement that the gay community in Serbia "is exposed to threats, hate speech, discrimination and violence almost daily."
"Every citizen, every state body, every educational and health institution should show the willingness and responsibility to overcome prejudices and build a tolerant society which respects difference," Petrusic said.
Anti-gay sentiment runs deep in Serbian society and openly gay people are confronted with discrimination on a regular basis.
In 2009, the parliament adopted a bill banning discrimination against homosexuals amid strong opposition from nationalists and religious leaders. Gays are however still barred from marrying and adopting children.