History of LGBTIQ activism in Croatia
The LGBTIQ community in Croatia became visible, in an informal self-organizing sense, during the 1980s. Along with Slovenia, this made it one of the first countries with LGBTIQ activism in the Balkans region. The legal position of LGBTIQ people in Croatia changed several years before the official activist initiatives, after changes to the constitution were adopted as part of the judicial reforms and the transference of power from the federal level to the republic level. These reforms, which took place in 1974, amended the federal penal code, and by doing so, regulated the decriminalization of same sex relations.
|Pula, Croatia – The rock beach – David Boca|
Later on, during the Croatian War, most of the LGBTIQ community was part of the feminist, peace and green groups, joining the anti-war campaign. It was during this time, in 1992, that the first formal gay and lesbian group was officially established, called “LIGMA – Lesbian and Gay Action.” Even though, during the war, the group did not have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of the LGBTIQ community, it still achieved significant results by publishing “Speak out,” the first lesbian and gay magazine in Croatia.
In 1998, the parliament of Croatia voted to adopt amendments to the Penal Code. At the request of the government, the age limit for consensual sexual relations was set to 14 years of age, and it was independent of sexual orientation.
|Senj, Croatia – At the Adriatic Sea – Daan Koeg|
Fast forward a couple of years, and we are in 2002, with big changes having come to Croatia, such as the first Pride Parade held in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. The Pride Parade itself, although considered successful, was met with strong opposition and disapproval by counter protesters. The Pride Parade was described by activists as a true test of Croatian democracy and it really was exactly that. Some would say that the democratic test was passed, considering the fact that the Pride Parade was held, despite opposition. On the other hand, activists were aware that a public event, such as the Pride Parade, would reveal the full scope of hatred and negative attitudes towards the LGBTIQ community in Croatian society. This opposition and the polarized opinions on the LGBTIQ community will later on become a common characteristic in all the countries of the former Yugoslavian region, some of which have needed until 2019 to take first steps such as the Pride Parade.
Yet Croatia, even though its LGBTIQ community was among the first to work together and self-organize, with decades of activist traditions, still hasn’t fully accepted the LGBTIQ community, and sexual orientation and gender identity remain polarizing topics for many Croatians.
|Rovinj, Croatia – At Mulini beach – Yurasov Valery|
Modern day situation
Not long after 2002 when the first Pride Parade was held in Zagreb, the LGBTIQ community used the receptive political climate and pushed for the first cases of positive legislation. In 2003, same sex couples were recognized in the eyes of the law for the first time, through the adoption of the law on same sex partnerships. The law remained in force for several years, but it had only regulated the economic side of same sex partnerships. Over time, the LGBTIQ community understood its insufficiencies and started working towards the adoption of new legislation, which would make same sex and opposite sex couples more equal before the law.
However, the opposition to the liberal ideas in Croatia once again reared its ugly head, and this time it acted swiftly. Even though most of the country, civil society organizations and LGBTIQ activists expected some form of opposition, no one foresaw the level of organization and mobilization they witnessed.
|Zagreb, Croatia – At Ban Jelacic square – Zdravko T|
A conservative group called “In the Name of the Family,” as it declared in its public statements, recognized that the adoption of a more inclusive same sex partnership law would inevitably end up fully equating same sex partnerships to traditional marriage. This, according to “In the Name of the Family,” was a step too far and needed to be stopped immediately. Therefore, this group initiated a public campaign for a referendum, with the goal of amending the constitution by adding further clarification and defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
This would, in the words of the aforementioned group, bring an end to all the effort by LGBTIQ organizations to undermine family values and destroy the sanctity of marriage.
|Zagreb, Croatia – Crossing Ban Jelacic square – Zdravko T|
The initiative was cheered by many within Croatian society, revealing how deep division on the topic goes. On one side, liberal groups advocated for the rejection of the campaign, claiming that a call for a referendum on the topic of human rights represents a violation of human rights in itself. The campaign organized numerous events with the slogan “How would you feel if 4 million people decide on your life.” Even though, opponents of the referendum had the support of numerous public figures, the campaign in favor of it had the backing of the Catholic Church.
Considering the fact that around 90% of Croatians self-identify as Catholics, the leaders of the Catholic Church mobilized numerous activists and made an enormous effort on behalf of the “Yes” group, gathering 750,000 signatures, many more than needed, for the holding of the referendum. In 2014 it took place with the question “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman.” After the results came in, it was obvious that a far smaller number of people actually participated than expected, but the results were clear: 65% of the participants voted “Yes,” thus marking a major victory for the conservative initiative backed by the Catholic Church.
|Dubrovnik, Croatia – The medieval center – Daan Kloeg|
Despite the referendum taking place, the Croatian government presented the final draft of the Law on Life Partnerships of Same Sex Couples, which was adopted by a clear majority in the Croatian parliament on July 15, 2014. The law encoded the equal treatment of same sex unions to opposite sex unions in all regards, except the fact that it does not allow the adoption of children in same sex unions.
Both the “Yes” and “No” campaigns have revealed the polarization of opinion among the Croatian people when it comes to the topic of LGBTIQ rights. Although LGBTIQ individuals have been in the Croatian public sphere for three decades, it has become obvious that it is hard to change deeply rooted opinions and attitudes when they are supported by official religious institutions. That is why Croatia and the rest of the Balkan nations still have polarized attitudes on numerous questions, not just the matters of sexual orientation or gender identity. It cannot be said that changes have not happened, they have. But those positive changes will always remain reversible if actions are perceived to be too swift, and polarized attitudes are neglected or not addressed.
Snapshot 1: Split, Croatia – Merging – Alana Harris (Unsplash)
Snapshot 2: Pula, Croatia – The rock beach – David Boca (Unsplash)
Snapshot 3: Senj, Croatia – At the Adriatic Sea – Daan Koeg (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 4: Rovinj, Croatia – At Mulini beach – Yurasov Valery (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 5: Zagreb, Croatia – At Ban Jelacic square – Zdravko T (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 6: Zagreb, Croatia – Crossing Ban Jelacic square – Zdravko T (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 7: Dubrovnik, Croatia – The medieval center – Daan Kloeg (Shutterstock)
Cinemblem voiceover: Esmonde Cole
Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes
Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.
Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.
Antonyan, Hayk. Polarization Does Not Equal Extreme – Armenia. September 2019.
Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.
Awuah, Kwasi Amankwah. The Family: Bringing Us Together, Tearing Us Apart – Ghana. November 2019.
Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.
Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.
Butt, Kashif. Shrinking Space for Dialog – Pakistan. October 2019.
Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.
Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.
Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.
Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.
Deiana, Sarah. The Unbearable Weight of Being a Woman – Italy. September 2019.
Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.
Escobar, Christian. Between the Sky and the Earth: Looking for Love – Columbia. October 2019.
Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.
Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019.
Husseini, Maha. Bilingual Par Excellence – Canada. August 2019.
Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.
Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.
Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.
López, Virginia Sanmartín. Why Live on an Edge? – Spain. August 2019.
Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.
Mwangi, Kenn. Religious Extremity and Exploitation – Kenya. October 2019.
Pavicevic, Nikolina. The Law of Silence – Montenegro. September 2019.
Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.
Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.
Ray, Sanjay Kumar. At the Crossroads – India. August 2019.
Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.
Çakir, Peren. Needing a Sustainable Future in the Midst of Political Polarization – Argentina and Turkey. September 2019.
Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.
Sekulić, Jelena. The Polarizacija of Serbian Culture – Serbia. June 2019.
Sem, Sebastião. Brandos Costumes – Portugal. July 2019.
Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.
Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.
Tammpuu, Mari. Thoughts of Two Generations – Polar Opposites? – Estonia. November 2019.
[De Los] Santos, Aura. Social Polarization – Dominican Republic. November 2019.
Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.
Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.
Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.
Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.
Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019
Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.
Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.
Zakharova, Anastasiya. Feminism – Russia. August 2019.
CW 48 – America – Talia Stotts
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Italy – Martha Corzo
CW 51 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 52 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed