Colors, balloons, and cheerful smiles were spotted a few days ago on the streets of Belgrade, as the 4th Pride Parade took place. Marching under the slogan “We want change”, the partakers of the Parade were able to express themselves freely and have a good time.

Belgrade gay parade participant holding a sign "Ana is here",  refering to Serbia's Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic.
Belgrade gay parade participant holding a sign “Ana is here”, refering to Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic. Photo by: Jelena Todorovic.

Serbian politicians usually attend the Parade to show their support and encouragement to the LGBT community. This year, the spotlight was on the country’s Prime-Minister, Ana Brnabic. She is not only the first female Prime Minister of Serbia, but also the first openly gay prime minister in the Balkans. Her speech was very inspiring to the participants, but it also conveyed the message that Serbia is embracing change.

“The government is here to secure and respect the rights of all citizens. We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger and that together we can accomplish more.”, said Brnabic.

Brnabic also added that the rights of both the majorities and minorities will be equally respected and that only by working together can we make our society a better place.

Not so far away from the Pride’s route, an anti-Pride protest was held. It was attended mostly by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. They had banners and pictures of saints in their hands, and the protest was peaceful.

With only one person being arrested for attempted violence, one can say this year’s Parade was a success. Heavy police squadrons secured the event, making sure its participants were kept safe and no harm came their way.

One of the Gay Parade participants, who chose to remain anonymous, commented about the general atmosphere and organization of the event. “This is my first time attending the Parade. Today was amazing – the atmosphere was wonderful, everything is colorful and people are happy.”, he said.

Sadly, Belgrade’s Pride wasn’t always this peaceful. The first attempt at organizing such an event was stopped in 2001 when groups of hooligans, ultranationalists and nationalist party sympathizers attacked the participants.

The next attempt was held nine years later, with more police and security, but visible clashes between the police and protesters could be seen throughout the city. Because of this, Pride was banned for some time for the safety of the participants. 2014, 2015 and 2016 events were more peaceful.

Now, it seems that things are going through a change around here. With more and more visitors each year, and with support coming not only from the government but also from non–LGBT organizations. Serbia’s LGBT community is feeling safer, stronger, and accepted.

In a mainly patriarchal society, where more liberal and open ideas have been judged and refused, big steps towards overcoming these obstacles have been made. In recent years, the word tolerance has been widely used. It appears as though the Serbian community is quietly accepting the new, and letting go of some of the previous beliefs.

In a society ruled by strong traditional beliefs, such strong changes are sometimes faced with people stating their opinions more strongly. Nevertheless, supporters and non-supporters of the LGBT community have increasingly been refraining from being too opinionated. They believe that everyone can do as they please, as long as everyone’s rights get respected.