Tuesday, 15 June 2021

SDP Demands All Croatian Citizens Be Allowed To Donate Blood Without Discrimination

June 15th, 2021 - On World Blood Donor Day, SDP issued an appeal demanding that all Croatian citizens be allowed to donate blood without discrimination, as is the case in most EU countries. Blood donation is not a question of sexual orientation, but only a desire to help.

As Večernji reports, the Ordinance on special technical requirements for blood and blood products states that blood must not be donated by "persons whose sexual behaviour puts them at high risk of contracting infectious diseases that can be transmitted through blood". The website of the Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine states that blood must not be donated by "men who have had sexual intercourse with other men in their lives." Such men are permanently banned from donating blood solely because of their sexual orientation, which is extremely discriminatory and unconstitutional, SDP claims.

Restrictions on blood donation were prescribed back during the 1980s owing to the HIV pandemic, but today there is no reason for such drastic restrictions that put a certain social group in an unequal and defamatory position, the Social Democrats believe.

"The obligation of the Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine is to test each dose of donated blood for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV. The safety of donated blood is ensured by a temporary ban for people who have been at risk of becoming sexually and blood-infected in the last three months, but this does not depend on sexual orientation. The question, therefore, arises as to why gay men are obliged to state their sexual preferences to a doctor and why they are permanently banned from donating blood solely because of this fact?" SPD wrote in their statement.

Back in 2015, a court in Strasbourg ruled that the criteria for donating blood based on sexual orientation were both stigmatising and discriminatory. "Today, when Croatia is facing a shortage of blood supplies and blood products, which is why more complicated operations are being postponed in some hospitals, any restriction that could endanger the health or the life of a human being is unacceptable for us," SDP stated.

They point out that Croatia has one of the most rigorous laws in the world on this issue, so we're in a group of countries such as China, Lebanon, UAE, Venezuela, and Turkey.

"There are also Switzerland, Austria, not to mention further. The criteria are adopted by the profession guided by the safety of blood recipients and in accordance with epidemiological trends and risks. This is not about discrimination because it is not the only population that cannot donate blood. Epidemiological indicators show that more than 90% of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Croatia every year are among men who have sexual relations with men," explained Dr. Irena Jukic, the director of the Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine.

She states that a lot of attention and a lot of money is spent on tests in order to avoid the danger of contracting an infection through blood transfusion, and during the summer they will test the entire population of blood donors for the presence of the dangerous West Nile virus. Despite all modern molecular tests that can be done, there is a so-called window period, a certain number of days or weeks during which the blood can still transmit Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and various other infectious diseases without a test picking up on their presence.

"In this 'window period', positivity cannot be detected either by an antigen test or an antibody test," stated Dr. Jukic, adding that a transfusion can be given intrauterine, ie to the child when still in the mother's womb.

"On World Blood Donor Day, politicians could unite and donate blood. A lot of them are able to give blood, and they don't do that, although that would help those who need it the most," Dr. Jukic added.

Blood can be given by any healthy person between the ages of 18 and 65 if they weigh at least 55 kilograms, have a normal blood pressure and enough hemoglobin in their blood.

For more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 14 June 2021

SDP Asks Authorities To End Ban On Gay Men Donating Blood

June 14th, 2021 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called to end ban on gay men donating blood and enabling all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, to donate blood, warning that only gay men were not allowed to donate blood in Croatia.

In a statement issued on World Blood Donor Day, the SDP points to current restrictions for blood donation, which, it says, were introduced in the 1980s due to the outbreak of the HIV epidemic and under which only gay men are not allowed to donate blood.

Citing current regulations on technical requirements for blood and blood products, the party says that blood cannot be donated by "persons whose sexual behavior puts them at a high risk of contracting infectious diseases that can be transmitted by blood" and that information on the Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine website says that "men who have had sex with other men" must not donate blood.

The party recalls that the Court of the EU in Strasbourg in 2015 made a ruling. It said that if criteria for blood donation were based on a person's sexual orientation, they constituted stigmatization and discrimination.

"Croatia has one of the most restrictive laws in that regard and is in a group of countries that also includes China, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Turkey," the party says.

It notes that the country has been experiencing a shortage of blood and blood products, causing delays of more complicated operations. Considering the significantly changed situation today and numerous obligatory safeguards in blood transfusion, the reasons for maintaining such drastic restrictions no longer exist.

The Croatian Institute for Transfusion Medicine tests every blood donation for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV, the party recalls.

The safety of donated blood is also ensured by a temporary ban on blood donation for persons who in the previous three months were at risk of getting infected through sexual contact or blood, which, the party says, does not depend on one's sexual orientation.

"This brings up the question of why gay men are obliged to state their sexual preferences to medical staff and why they are permanently forbidden to donate blood solely on the grounds of sexual orientation," says the SDP.

For more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Lesbian Couple in Croatia Finally Receive Excerpt from Life Partnership Register After Lawsuit

April 10, 2021 – After a long and, as they consider, unnecessary lawsuit, a lesbian couple in Croatia has finally received an excerpt from the life partnership register.

As Večernji list reports, after a wedding in another European country, two wives originally from Croatia decided to have 'proper papers' in Croatia, too. However, after they were denied an excerpt from the life partnership register, they initiated administrative proceedings to obtain an excerpt they thought they were entitled to. They did this through the permanent legal service of Zagreb Pride and their partner lawyer office, Bandalo & Labavić.

Croatia's High Administrative Court's judgment legally confirmed that they were discriminated against in Croatia because the Zagreb registry office did not want to issue them an excerpt from a life partnership but only registered this fact in the form of a birth certificate.

They state that the Life Partnership Act of 2014 clearly stipulates that life partners "have the same procedural rights and status in all judicial and administrative proceedings as spouses "(Article 37, paragraph 4).

"They asked for a document that would have been automatically issued to them if they had entered into a heterosexual marriage, an ordinary wedding certificate. The path to this 'paper' went through the administrative court, which gave them the right in the first instance and added that the registry office, by refusing to issue them an excerpt, violated many regulations. Those regulations include the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Constitution of Croatia, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Maastricht Treaty, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. But in the first place, the Life Partnership Law is not respected, which incorporates the principle of 'guaranteeing the prohibition of unfavorable treatment' of life partners in relation to spouses.

The court made it clear that same-sex marriage entered abroad is equated in Croatia with a life partnership. Therefore, there is no reason why they should not be entered in the Life Partnership Register, as a foreign heterosexual marriage would be registered in the marriage register and not as a birth certificate. However, the Ministry of Administration appealed against this decision, rejecting their request for entry in the Life Partnership Register, formally referring to the Instruction on keeping that register, i.e., the lowest level regulation, ignoring the Life Partnership Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act, and the Constitution of Croatia.

The High Administrative Court did not accept this appeal either, stating that 'the rejection of the request for registration same-sex marriage entered abroad in the life partnership register in Croatia resulted in discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation'. The court pointed out that a heterosexual marriage would be immediately registered in the Croatian Registry of marriages, and that, therefore, as an equivalent, same-sex marriage should be entered in the Life Partnership Register," the Zagreb Pride said in a statement.

They are happy to "finally prove that they were right from day one and that their same-sex marriage in another country entered in the Croatian Life Partnership Register."

"This case, as well as last year's decision of the Constitutional Court which enabled same-sex families to adopt children, clearly shows how outdated and meaningless the constitutional restriction from 2013 is. Until the Constitution's change, which will equalize all families in all rights and obligations, we will be unnecessarily exhausted in offices and courts. In the end, we would always show that the constitutional provision on the prohibition of same-sex marriage is simply unnatural.

For now, we expect the Ministry of Justice and Administration to urgently amend the disputed part of the Instruction on keeping the life partnership register, in the part that was declared discriminatory in the High Administrative Court," the statement reads.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

First Gay Marriage Held in Kutjevo, Heart of Slavonia

November 5, 2020 - The first gay marriage held in Kutjevo was between locals from the area of Čaglin Municipality.

As the city clocks struck midday, two men, locals from the area of Čaglin Municipality said goodbyes to their single selves and embraced their future together as husband and, well, husband. Their affirmations were heard in front of the registrar of Kutjevo and thus, officially, they became partners in a same-sex marriage. It was the first gay marriage to take place in Požega-Slavonia County.

Portal Požega.eu reported that the intimate marriage ceremony of the 47-year-old and his 32-year-old partner took place over recent days, far from the gaze of the public. The ceremony was a quiet and private affair. In rural areas like Požega-Slavonia County, such marriages are not always met with widespread approval. The city registrar reported that this was the first gay marriage they had been asked to witness, despite having been in the job for many years.

Though this may be the first gay marriage to take place in Požega-Slavonia County, hundreds of same-sex marriages have concluded in Croatia since 2014, when the Life Partnership Act came into force. In the time since then, male same-sex marriages in Croatia have been slightly more common than female ones. The largest number of such marriages took place in Zagreb. From published figures outside of Croatia, where same-sex marriages have been more commonplace over a longer period of time, same-sex marriages are frequently more stable with fewer ending in divorce compared to traditional marriages.

Life partnerships in Croatia

The first same-sex marriage in Croatia was concluded in August 2014, and despite the great interest of the public, the two male partners managed to keep the wedding a secret. Just like the couple from Kutjevo. The couple married in the first of the ceremonies in Croatia only went public with details just last year.

"I was very nervous in those days, it was a historic thing after all. If we could not have done it in Croatia, we would certainly move to a country where it was possible," one of the spouses, Ivan Zidarević, told 24sata, adding that society has changed for the better with the change in the law.

Zidarević said he believes that Croats are tolerant of gay couples. Their marriage ceremony in 2014 was witnessed by two registrars, godparents, several friends, but also the then-Minister of State Administration, Arsen Bauk, initiator of the Croatian Life Partnership Act. Bauk gave the couple a symbolic gift – a pair of ties.

According to the Law on Life Partnership of Persons of the Same-Sex, a life partnership is a family community of two same-sex persons concluded by the competent authority (a registrar). The process of concluding a life partnership in Croatia is very simple. It is necessary to report to the registrar, who then checks whether the preconditions for concluding a life partnership have been met and takes a statement on the choice of surname. After that, the time and place of the ceremony are agreed, which, along with the registrar and partners, takes place in the presence of the godparents.

Happiness despite condemnations

At the beginning of this year, the Constitutional Court decided that same-sex couples in Croatia have the right to be foster parents under the same conditions as everyone else. However, the current constitutional definition of marriage in Croatia does not include same-sex families. A change to legally recognise married same-sex partners in this way was this year demanded by the participants of Zagreb Pride, held on September 19, 2020. Pride organisers said that without a change in the recognition, state authorities are still restricting the rights of gay people and making them second class citizens.

In many EU countries, and more so in Zagreb here in Croatia, same-sex marriages are acceptable and almost every day. But, in rural areas such as Požega-Slavonia County, Kutjevo, and other places like these, such marriages are still of great interest and not universally embraced.

Although they live in an environment where they might encounter condemning views, the happy couple from Požega-Slavonia County decided to legalize their relationship. In comments on Facebook, people wished them luck, and one commenter jokingly wrote: "If they didn't make a toast with Graševina, they didn't do anything. Congratulations anyway!"

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Friday, 20 December 2019

Croatia Court Decision: Gay Couple Allowed to be Foster Parents

For the very first time in Croatia, a Zagreb court rules that same-sex married couple Ivo Šegota and Mladen Kožić have the right to be foster parents, and the Ministry of Demography, which rejected their request to provide foster care last year, must implement the new decision within 60 days, this time in accordance with domestic and international legislation.

It stems from yesterday’s decision by the Zagreb Administrative Court, which annulled previous decisions including the refusals of the Center for Social Welfare and the ministry, according to Kristina Turčin/Jutarnji List on December 19, 2019.

Croatia Court Decision Final: No Appeal Allowed

“The court's decision is binding, and an appeal is not allowed, so this judgment is final. The written ruling has not yet arrived, but as stated during the announcement, the court accepted our argument in the lawsuit, based on Croatian regulations and the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, the court ordered the relevant government agencies to implement the new decision in accordance with the judgment. We believe that the agencies will respect the court decision,” stated Sanja Bezbradica Jelavić, the attorney representing Ivo Šegota and Mladen Kožić.

“We are overjoyed. As we told the judge, this is the Christmas gift we didn't dare hope for,” Šegota revealed.

In 2015, he and his partner Mladen Kožić were among the first couples to enter a life partnership after the Life Partnership Act was passed in Croatia. Their desire to grow their family and raise children has existed for a long time.

Request to Adopt Rejected: Court Case Pending

“We have wanted to be parents for a long time. Therefore, shortly after our partnership ceremony, we submitted a request to the Center for Social Welfare to become adoptive parents, but were rejected immediately, which is why we have also initiated a lawsuit in the Zagreb Administrative Court, which is still pending,” according to Šegota.

They were not discouraged and started considering other options, such as foster care.

“We gave it a lot of thought. We are aware that this is temporary, rather than permanent childcare, and that foster parents are not adoptive parents, but we have concluded that this option is still a dream come true,” he continues.


Applied to Become Foster Parents as Adoption Alternative

Therefore, Šegota applied with his life partner Mladen Kožić to the Zagreb branch of the Center for Social Welfare to become foster parents in the summer of 2017.

“Our application was very well received, especially by the psychologist and the social worker, who were particularly pleased when we announced that we were interested in fostering two or three children. Zagreb lacks foster families, especially those with the capability and desire to foster more than one child, which is why the centers are often forced to separate biological brothers and sisters,” he explained.

They both underwent an extensive psychological assessment process, during which they performed parenting skills tests, interviews, and discussed their motives for becoming foster care providers. A social history evaluation was also performed to assess their environment and family support network.

Center Rejects Foster Application Even Though Requirements Met

“We completely satisfied the requirements, received a positive assessment and everyone seemed pleased that this was happening. However, suddenly the center stopped contacting us. After the positive evaluation, we should have begun compulsory foster care training, which would have been followed by obtaining a foster care license. Suddenly, we could no longer get a response, and then in early December 2017, we were informed in writing that there were no legal prerequisites for initiating the licensing procedure because we are in a life partnership,” Šegota recounted.

They were very disappointed, he says, because after the initial response, they had hoped everything would be okay. After all, the Life Partnership Act clearly states that life partners are supposed to be legally on par with heterosexual spouses. As lawmakers have often pointed out, the only right that can be challenged is joint adoption of children - but not foster care, which is a profession and does not imply permanent childcare.

“We immediately submitted complaints to the Ministry of Demography about the center’s decision, but they rejected our appeal. We had no option but to institute legal proceedings,” they concluded.

Discrimination Lawsuit Initiated in July 2018

Their lawyer Bezbradica Jelavić initiated the lawsuit in July 2018. She noted that the center had begun the official evaluation of Šegota and Kožić in accordance with the Foster Care Act, but despite conducting a full procedure, which lasted four months, the center eventually rejected their request "because of a lack of legal presumptions.”

"Such a sudden detour in the evaluation process led us to the conclusion that there was a directive from above to treat these applicants differently. Considering the abrupt termination of the proceedings which were already underway, and even though the plaintiffs had met all the legal requirements, it's obvious that the Center for Social Welfare's treatment of the applicants was discriminatory due to their sexual orientation." The lawsuit further outlined the plaintiffs’ right to equal treatment and family life according to the law. National regulations, the constitution and international treaties guarantee the prohibition of discrimination as specified by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

"The plaintiffs state that they became aware that the Center for Social Welfare had abruptly discontinued another foster care evaluation involving life partners. This case, which had reached a later stage in the assessment, indicated that discrimination against same-sex couples exists within the organization," the lawsuit concludes, and cites several judgments from the European Court for Human Rights regarding similar cases, which were decided in favor of same-sex couples.

Well-Being and Interest of Children Should Come First

In the lawsuit, they also cautioned that the sole focus of the foster care profession should be the interest and well-being of children, not the sexual orientation of the foster parents, especially given the fact that the demand for foster parents is extremely high.

"Thus, by rejecting the request for foster care, the Center for Social Welfare in Zagreb violated not only the applicant's fundamental human rights, but also the right of a child or more children to quality accommodation and care, which they would receive in a stable family setting." According the center’s own evaluation, Šegota and Kožić demonstrated that they could provide this kind of environment, before their application was  summarily rejected.

“The court fully accepted this argument in the lawsuit,” confirmed Bezbradica Jelavić, attorney for the couple.

Šegota and Kožić believe that the ministry and the foster care team at the Center for Social Welfare will respond quickly to the decision by the Zagreb Administrative Court. However, since the verdict has just been published and a written explanation is still pending, the Ministry of Demography has not yet been made aware of the details and could not comment or announce how it would react.

Excited to Finally Become Foster Parents

“We have patiently awaited this verdict. And we’re excited because we believe that we’ll be licensed as foster parents within the next few months and a child will arrive in our family. Or more children,” Šegota hopes.

He points out that this decision is completely in line with the foster care profession because, he emphasizes, foster parents do not have a right to a child, but every child has a right to a family.

"We hope that our family will be the right one for a child," he conveyed. Kožić adds that it is good that the decision has been redirected to the requirements of the profession because the rights of a child should not be the topic of daily political debate.

“The government, after adopting the new Foster Care Act, reiterated that they did not want to explicitly allow life partners to provide foster care because it contradicts their worldview, but at the same time they indicated that if the court rules otherwise, they will respect the court's decision. Now the court has provided children who don’t have a family with an opportunity for Santa Claus rather than a Grinch. Because it is the right of every child to grow up in a loving family, and not in an orphanage,” Kožić concludes.


Founding Members of Croatia Based ‘Rainbow Families’

Šegota and Kožić are among the founders of the Croatia based group “Rainbow Families,” which is modeled after similar organizations worldwide, and brings together LGBTIQ couples and individuals who have children, want to have children, or would like to learn more about the rewards and challenges of raising a family.

Members of the organization first came together in 2011 in a psychosocial support group organized by the Zagreb Pride Association, led by psychologists Iskra Pejić and Matee Popov. After completing two support group cycles, the group members continued to meet and socialize as an informal citizens' initiative. Then, they established a forum and a website. In 2017, their association was officially registered. In 2018, they published an illustrated book titled "My Rainbow Family,” which was first book in Croatia to feature children with same-sex parents. In 2019, they organized the first international conference on rainbow families called “Our Children Are Fine.” Rainbow Families regularly organizes group activities and gatherings, which continue today.

For non-traditional families in Croatia, sharing experiences with others in similar circumstances can be very rewarding and fulfilling. In Rainbow Family meetings, LGBTIQ parents, and those planning parenthood, are given the opportunity to share their experiences and get to know each other.

Full Joint Adoption by Same-Sex Couples Legal in Seventeen European Countries

Full joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal in seventeen European countries: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Another five: Estonia, Italy, Slovenia, San Marino and Switzerland permit stepchild adoption in which the registered partner can adopt the biological and the adopted child of his or her partner in some cases. In Croatia, a life partner may become a partner-guardian over their partner's child, which is somewhat comparable to stepchild adoption. The new policy in Croatia follows that of Greece in which same-sex couples in a civil partnership may become foster, but not adoptive, parents.

Follow our Politics page for more information on LGBTIQ rights in Croatia.

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.