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Home > impact on women / resistance > 8th March 2009, Women’s rights march in Belgrade: A report

8th March 2009, Women’s rights march in Belgrade: A report

Sunday 15 March 2009, by Women in Black - Belgrade, Serbia

Women in Black Belgrade

From : Zene u Crnom
- Date : 13 mars 2009 18:12:59 HNEC
- Objet : March 8th

As a part of Women in Black, Belgrade’s activities for the 8th of March, Women in Black organized a human and women’s rights march through the streets of central Belgrade. Over one hundred women and men gathered with peace flags and banners calling for: an end to fascism, a strengthened secularism and democracy, equal rights for the LGBT community, and the protection of all women’s rights. Energy and spirits were high as the march moved from the Center for Cultural Decontamination, past the offices of the national government, past the national parliament, and ended in Republic Square – a central square in Belgrade where the public gathers daily. At Republic Square the marchers laid their flags on the ground, filing the square with color and messages of hope and anger. Many of the marchers gathered around the statue that dominates the square, waving peace flags, while others lifted an enormous peace flag in the center of the square. The march was extensively covered by the local and national media and was afforded heavy police protection. As the march moved through the streets many people came out of their offices to watch, some giving encouragement to the marchers. The activities organized, in partnership with other Belgrade civil society groups, included a conference for the media about the Anti-Discrimination Law which was rejected by the Parliament on 4th of March. The law would have afforded more protections and rights in the areas of gender and sexuality and increased secularism in Serbia by strengthening freedom of religion, and thus diminishing the power of the Serbian Orthodox Church in official government affairs.

On 4 March 2009 the Government of Serbia withdrew the Draft Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination. If enacted the law would have strengthened personal freedoms in Serbia and allowed a protection against a variety of discriminations. The law had been before Parliament for four years before it was withdrawn. The Serbian Orthodox Church, with the support of the Belgrade Archbishop of the Catholic Church and other religious leaders, sent a letter to the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights asking the government to withdraw the draft law. The Serbian Orthodox Church objected, in particular, to Articles 18 and 21 of the draft law, which declared the rights of freedom of religion (and public expression of religion) and freedom from discrimination based upon gender identity and/or sexual orientation. This most recent demonstration of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s power within the government has increased fears within the human rights activist and secularist communities. The increased power of the Church threatens the rights of women, religious, gender, and other minorities and is a move away from an open and democratic society in Serbia. Women in Black has actively protested the Church’s position of power in the withdrawal of the draft law as both unconstitutional and undemocratic.

By Jennifer Carter

Žene u crnom – Beograd
- Women in Black
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- 11000 Beograd
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