Tuesday, 1 February 2022

The State of LGBTQ Rights in Croatia

2 February 2022 -- In recent years, LGBTQ rights have entered as a mainstream topic within European politics, but the conditions in Croatia are rarely the focus of any significant media attention. Poland and Hungary have become sources of considerable debate because of the passage of a series of controversial laws which prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ themes amongst children, moves that human rights watchdogs say represent further examples of a worrying global pushback against LGBTQ communities. In light of the political climate of its regional neighbours, I asked myself, how is the situation for gays, bisexuals, and transgender people in Croatia? I have put together a brief historical summary of laws on LGBTQ rights in Croatia to answer this question.

Before we can delve into the subject of LGBTQ rights, I should probably define this acronym as the terminology changes quickly and is often a source of confusion. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. It is a blanket term that does not cover all of the diversity within human sexuality and gender identity but serves as a helpful tool when discussing issues concerning people who do not fall into certain societal norms.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's dive into the historical context. As in many countries, the history around LGBTQ communities in Croatia is complex and far-reaching. Under the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, male homosexual acts were classified as a criminal offence and homosexuals were heavily repressed by the state. This directive lasted until 1977, when Croatia adopted its own penal code, aligning its laws to reflect the position of the Croatian Medical Chamber, which had removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders four years prior. Since then, conditions for LGBTQ people in Croatia have slowly albeit tremulously improved.

Croatian politicians have passed several laws that expanded the LGBTQ community's rights, often adopting more progressive policies compared to their regional counterparts. The age of consent was equalized in 1998, followed by anti-discrimination protection laws in 2003, which protect against discrimination based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The next major milestone came in 2014 with the Life Partnerships Act, granting same-sex couples most of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, excluding the ability to adopt children. This exception was overturned in a 2021 administrative court verdict stating that homosexual couples must not face discrimination during the adoption process. Additionally, gender transition is legal without the requirement for surgical intervention.

Despite the progress we have witnessed over the past several decades, there remains a long road ahead for local advocates. Same-sex marriage has been constitutionally banned since 2013, the result of a widely debated referendum which was actively supported by conservative political parties and the Catholic Church. Reservations towards persons of differing sexual and gender identities are still strong, running deep amongst the nation's predominantly Catholic population. Croatia is touted as one of Europe's safest destinations, yet violence against sexual minorities is still not uncommon. As recently as 2020, residents of the Dalmatian town of Imotski burned an effigy of a gay couple in parade held as part of a traditional carnival. It is no surprise then that a 2019 Eurobarometer report indicated that only 44% of poled Croatians thought that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual people.

Croatia sits in a unique position within Southeastern Europe regarding the rights of sexual and gender minorities. On the one hand, Croatia's LGBTQ laws are some of the most progressive in the region, even surpassing western neighbour Italy in some respects. But on the other, Croatian society still appears to feel unready to embrace new identities that conflict with its more traditional social values. Some may point towards Croatia's heritage as a Catholic nation. However, while I am sure faith plays a role, I suspect the sentiments extend beyond religion. Spain and Portugal are nations with strong ties to the Vatican, yet they score very highly on indices measuring LGBTQ rights and social protections. Rationale aside, if further progress is to be made on this issue, it will require equal support from society and government alike.

Going forward, Croatian leadership must remain vigilant not to fall into the trends that currently prevail in the region. In a time when there’s increasing temptation for political figures to weaponize diversity to gain public favour, we have a collective responsibility to self-educate and approach new ideas with a spirit of tolerance and respect. That said, while substantial work lies ahead for Croatia in the field of social justice, critics should not disregard the headway the country has already achieved. Croatia has made a remarkably rapid recovery after decades under the hand of a devastating regime. The simple fact is that social change takes time. As long as Croatia maintains its trajectory towards European integration while staving off harmful government fearmongering, I am optimistic about the future of LGBTQ rights on this side of the Adriatic. 

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

LGBTQ Travel Safety in Croatia: 39th Most Popular Country in the World

March 9, 2021 – When it comes to traveling, Croatia has been known as a gay-friendly destination, even though not all Croatians in every part of the country are fond of accepting gay and lesbian couples. In a recent study, LGBTQ travel safety in Croatia ranks 39th on the list of 150 world's most popular countries for LGBTQ+ travel.

The research has been conducted by Asher and Lyric Fergusson, an Australian-American married couple, who write and do the research studies on topics that help travelers to travel safely. They have now taken an in-depth look at LGBTQ+ rights, country by country, reviewed individual laws and gathered data from various trusted international sources to create the definitive "LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index" that shows safest, as well as least safe countries for LGBTQ+ travel.

After more than 250 hours of research, they made a list of 150 most (and least) popular countries, where Croatia took 39th place. We reviewed the information brought out about Croatia and added some useful information about LGBTQ+ communities in Croatia.

Croatia in the first third of best countries for LGBTQ+ safety

In a comprehensive overview, researchers listed 150 countries from worst to best regarding travel safety for LGBTQ members. The criteria according to which they made a list consists of ten critical factors:

  • Legalized same-sex marriages
  • Worker protections
  • Discrimination protections
  • Criminalization of violence
  • Adoption recognitions
  • Quality of life
  • Transgender legal identity laws
  • Illegal same-sex relationships
  • Morality laws


Source: Asherfergusson.com

According to the data collected by these criteria, the researchers gave Croatia an index of 188 points and a grade C+ from most safe to highest dangerous places (A to F), placing it among the first third of the best countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ safety.

In Croatia, the same sex-relationships are legal since 1977. However, same-sex marriage or families are not permitted, but same-sex life partnership is (i.e., civil union). The Life Partnership Act came into force back in 2014, and since then, hundreds of life partnerships have been concluded, with male life partnerships being slightly more common than female. Also, it is legal to change gender without sex reassignment surgery.

Violence against the members of the LGBTQ community is considered a hate crime in Croatia. Although this study says only sexual orientation is protected in Croatia, the truth is, both sexual orientation and gender identity are protected by numerous Croatian laws. The protections against discrimination are broad, although not constitutional. Croatian Constitution still does not include same-sex families, defining marriage only as "a life-long community of woman and man." However, one year ago, the Constitutional Court gave the right to same-sex couples in Croatia to be foster parents. Before, only single gay people could adopt children.


Source: Asherfergusson.com

The top ten safest countries for LGBTQ+ travel are Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Malta, Portugal, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Norway, and France. At the very end of the list, being the world's least safe countries for LGBTQ+ travel are Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Malawi, Oman, Jamaica, Myanmar, Qatar, UAE, and Yemen.

Interestingly, the study shows that less than 25 percent of people said Croatia was a good place to live, according to Gallup's poll question's votes. These statements are arguable since one can experience life and circumstances in Croatia only by visiting it personally. Nonetheless, many places in Croatia have been gay-friendly for a long time, especially tourist destinations.

LGBTQ-friendly destinations in Croatia

Among Croatia's popular tourist destinations, Dubrovnik is considered the most LGBTQ-tolerant, while its neighboring island of Lokrum welcomes gays on nudist beaches. Of other popular Croatian coastal destinations, Split, Rovinj, Krk, Rab, Rijeka, and Hvar also welcome members of the LGBTQ community. Rab island has also become the first declared gay-friendly destination in Croatia.

Naturally, any larger town in Croatia that depends on tourism is accommodating, and gay and lesbian couples won't face discrimination. Some even go that far as to say that Croatia is one of the most tolerant countries in Europe for LGBTQ+ travelers. Meanwhile, people in smaller towns in rural parts of Croatia, due to their high traditional and religious values, tend to be very judgemental.

Last year, Croatia saw 66 new same-sex life partnerships, increasing for as many as 47 life partnerships than in 2019. Most of them were registered in Zagreb and Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Istria counties. The first gay marriage was even held in Slavonia, in Kutjevo, where such marriages are still not very well accepted among citizens, which gained a lot of interest there.

Bigger cities such as Zagreb find same-sex marriages and LGBTQ communities acceptable, as proven by the Zagreb Pride celebration of many years standing, even in pandemic-marked 2020. Still, a recent horrific hate crime perpetrated in Zagreb's Maksimir Park against a gay man, when two attackers threw a Molotov cocktail on him and caused him second-degree burns. Zagreb Pride association later condemned the attack, calling it the "worst anti-gay hate crime ever reported in Croatia." They and such associations, most of which are located in Zagreb, are trying to improve the position of LGBTQ people in the community, i.e., in Croatia.

Pride celebrations have also been organized in Croatian cities of Split and Osijek, while some other supporting celebrations occasionally happened in Rijeka and Pula as well. Also, Croatia's numerous music festivals and carnivals always welcome LGBTQ music lovers.

Although not all Croatians are tolerant, nor does Croatia have all legal protections for gay or lesbian persons, it seems like times are slowly changing for the better in creating a safe and tolerant environment for LGBTQ+ people.

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

Zagreb Pride Parade Delayed Until September 19

ZAGREB, June 13 (Hina) - This year's Zagreb Pride parade will be held on September 19 and not in June as usual, the organisers of the LGBTIQ  rights march announced on Saturday.

"The nineteenth Pride parade of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual and queer persons, our families and friends, which should have taken place today, will march through Zagreb on September 19," Zagreb Pride said in a statement.

Instead of a parade, LGBTIQ activists on Saturday symbolically "occupied" the squares on the usual route of the parade.

"We want to show that we exist and that we are part of this society, that we share its fears and uncertainties as other citizens, that we won our right to public assembly, to our families, to our life partnerships, and made it possible for violence in same-sex unions to be recognised and qualified," the statement said.

The organisers would not agree to the restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic and rather delayed the event until September to "celebrate their difference and freedom, the autonomy of their bodies, their identity, and love."

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Ninth Edition of Split Pride Taking Place This Weekend!

June the 11th, 2019 - As the ninth Split Pride is taking place this weekend, on June the 15th, this article will take a look into some of the activities the LGBT centre Split is doing as part of the preparations for Split Pride.

The Split Pride participants will gather in Đardin, the event will begin at 18:00, and the route is: Ulica kralja Tomislava, Marmontova, Kino Karaman., Zadarska, Pjaca, Riva, Hrvojeva and back to Đardin.

The participants also include drummers from Klapa Klapa and vouge dancers who will entertain the participants and spectators. The After party will take place in Đardin with DJ's, stands, a bar and performances until 22.00 and then the party moves to Kocka.

TCN had a chat with Mirta and Nikolina from Split's LGBT centre, and they gave us some additional information on preparation for Split Pride. They have a lot of activities to handle before each Pride takes place, and this year they have multiple volunteers for several events. They need to work on collecting donations and have volunteers who are helping with preparations for 2019's Split Pride, as well as DJ's, designers, and videographers.

This year, they engaged a sociologist who created a survey for the event, while Kocka and Kino klub Split are always there to borrow sound system equipment from. The Rišpet Association offers space for all of Split Pride's activities while the Domine Association is there to help with additional equipment and advice. The LGBT centre has support from several cafes and bars who are willing to host their events or at least have a donation box at the bar.

Nikolina said that they usually start with preparations at the very beginning of the year, and then regularly meet to make sure everything comes together and works. They usually have a budget of zero, but are armed with several enthusiastic volunteers.

To include the local community as much as possible, they create several events before Split Pride, like pub quizzes, day trips, workshops, exhibitions, and similar things. Split Pride itself doesn’t have a lot of participants, but most of the donations did come from the local community. Nikolina emphasised that one of the most significant issues for Split Pride is facing a lack of participants on the day of the event – for one reason only, typically, Split locals don’t take part in protests and similar demonstrations, and on top of that, Split's local LGBTIQ community often avoids coming to events like this, even though they’re obviously supportive.

She has estimated there are approximately 3000 non-heterosexual people in Split, while just a few participate in Split Pride. Most of them don’t come because they’re afraid of what other people will say about them in Split, despite the fact Split Pride takes place to protest against such prejudice.

Specific events the LGBT centre has organised this year have been several pub quizzes, an exhibition in the LGBT centre, movie nights, different workshops, and a barbeque night. These events helped inform the public about LGBT centre's activities, and also saw donation collections take place.

From the donation money, Split Pride pays for its promotional material, organisation, and so forth. One of the interesting events before Split Pride took place at the of May was called Kvi(r)z, which is a themed quiz related to general knowledge, as well as a music quiz but related to the LGBT community.

The idea came to Daniel and Zlatko as they were a team participating last year in Chillton's pub quizzes. The quiz participants could, from time to time, create their themed quiz and that’s how they created Kvi(r)z, and it was held in June 2018. Kvi(r)z was first quiz in Split and probably the first one in Croatia to have general knowledge questions but related to people connected with queer culture. This quiz covers general knowledge questions related to science, history, politics, culture, art, film, music, sport, comics and the questions themselves are specifically related to individuals who are or were part of LGBT community, or who were/are related to it.

The idea behind is to motivate the public to make an event for amateur pub quiz goers. Daniel and Zlatko took months to create all of the quiz's questions, but now they have enough information to host a few more quizzes. They’re planning to possibly have another quiz this autumn as everyone who participated in this quiz had a great time and learned something new.

The LGBT centre also has permanent psychological counselling for local LGBT youth, and one of the plans is to launch a radio show for the LGBTIQ community and renovate the space where they're currently based. As they say: Pride is a celebration of differences and protest against prejudice. Split Pride is, as the people of Split say “dišpet”.

For all additional information on the activities of the LGBT centre in Split, check out their Facebook page

Follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more. If it's just Split and central Dalmatia you're interested in, give Total Split a follow.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Bank’s Gay Couple Ad Campaign Draws Fire from Conservative NGOs

The supposedly “controversial” part is the fact that a gay couple is seen for a second.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Split Pride to be Held on June 24th!

Preparations for this year's Split Pride have come to an end, and we have the details!