Over the weekend, an LGBT event was banned in the Serb-run part of Bosnia, citing security concerns. However, the move sparked a strong homophobic backlash, culminating in the assault of LGBT rights activists in Banja Luka.
According to local sources, the activists were leaving a meeting organized by the Bosnian branch of Transparency International, which was called after the planned event was banned by local police. The activists reported that a few dozen men chased and physically attacked them, causing injuries. Law enforcement officers escorted the activists to the police station and are still searching for the attackers.
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Bosnian Serb president Milorad Dodik had earlier called LGBT people “harassers,” while Banja Luka Mayor Drasko Stanivukovic denounced the event, stating that the LGBT community should restrict itself to the capital, Sarajevo, because Bosnian Serbs cherish “patriarchal, traditional families and are clear about our faith and our identity.”
Despite some progress in reducing discrimination, homophobia remains deep-seated in Bosnia, which remains highly conservative and divided after the 1992-95 ethnic war involving Bosnia’s Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The EU, Western embassies, and international organizations have condemned the violence in Banja Luka, calling for the identification and prosecution of the attackers. It remains to be seen if the Bosnian authorities will take action to ensure the safety of LGBT individuals and their right to peaceful assembly.
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