Friday, March 25, 2011

Slovenian Push for Equality

Beautiful country
The Slovenian Parliament should adopt the new Family Code proposed by the Slovenian Government, says Human Rights Watch in a letter to parliament members.

The law would extend civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples and put heterosexual and homosexual partnerships on equal legal footing, including the right of same-sex partners to adopt. Boris Dittrich of Human Rights Watch says “The proposed Family Code is Slovenia’s chance to join others in Europe in enabling same-sex couples to participate fully in family life.”

Homophobic Slovenia: A cruel awakening

By Barbara Štor

A journalist and gay activist became the victim of a brutal attack. A group of masked individuals assaulted him on a gay and lesbian literature night. About a week after the attack, the police arrested three suspects.

It was was the evening of 25th June, the day when Slovenia celebrated its 18 years of independence. In honour of the traditional Gay Pride Parade week and the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Slovene homosexual association Legebitra, a gay-and-lesbian literature night was organised in a Ljubljana café, called Open. Suddenly a calm evening turned into a devastating assault. At about 9 pm, a group of eight masked assailants, dressed in black stormed the place. They were armed with sticks, shouting anti-gay slogans and they apparently wanted to burn the café by throwing a torch into the room. When the assault began, journalist and gay activist Mitja Blažič was just at the entrance of the café and he blocked the attackers. He was beaten and repeatedly kicked in the head. Since the attackers were trying to start a fire, the president of the Association for the Integration of Homosexuality also suffered some mild burns.

An Act of Cowards

The assault on the gay rights activist was widely condemned from the government, political parties and human rights bodies. Interior Minister Katarina Kresal, for example, called it a “cowardly act” and an “attack on the law-governed state and human dignity.”

“These are people like everyone else, and I wish that human rights would be secured for them as they are for everyone else. I have already proposed to my colleagues in the coalition parties to reflect on whether the drawing up of the family legislation is not a chance to also put their rights on par with everyone else’s,” the Interior Minister added.

Minister Kresal also attended the 9th Slovene Gay Parade, which took place two days after the assault. Side by side with around 500 people, she marched against the violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians. The parade was also escorted by a strong police force, in order to prevent any additional attacks.

Approximately a week after the attack, the police announced that they had arrested three suspects in the attack, allegedly sympathizers of groups encouraging intolerance. Two suspects in their early twenties from Ljubljana are in detention, while an 18-year-old suspect from Škofja Loka is in house arrest. If found guilty, they could face up to three years imprisonment.

Intolerant Public

Although not much is heard about them – as the victims are usually too afraid to publicise being attacked – violent hate crimes over gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered have been on the rise in recent years, leading us to assume that the Slovene public is still relatively homophobic. For example, when the drag queen trio Sestre (The Sisters) won the Slovenian contest for the Eurovision Song Contest 2002, an outburst of intolerance in public and media followed.

Besides verbal attacks, the number of physical assaults is also increasing. Several assaults occurred after the official part of last year’s Gay Parade. Two gays were also attacked after 2006 Gay Parade, while a few years ago a group of young armed men attacked some gays and lesbians, who had organised an event to encourage tolerance. Perhaps the most bizarre such incident dates back to the nineties when an actor, who merely played a gay character a popular sitcom, suffered a similar attack.

Dull Ceremony

Approximately three years ago, Slovenia passed a law, legalizing same-sex marriages. The first two men who married in a civil ceremony were Mitja Blažič and Viki Kern, but they described the ritual as humiliating and awful. According to the law, no friends or relatives are allowed to attend the ceremony, which can be held only in a state office.

Although Slovenia’s gay and lesbian organizations welcomed the move, they at the same time criticized the law as insufficient and discriminatory, compared with heterosexual marriages. The law covers only property relations, the right/obligation to support a socially weaker partner and inheritance rights to a degree. Meanwhile it does not grant any rights in the area of social security (social and health insurance, pension rights) and it does not confer the status of a next-of-kin to the partners.

However, Slovene gays and lesbians were recently given a reason to celebrate: The Constitutional Court declared that the Same Sex Unions Act is discriminatory. At the beginning of July, this institution unanimously decided that the act, against which Mitja Blažič and Viki Kern had filed a constitutional review in November 2006, is unconstitutional in its provisions related to inheritance.

Equalizing the Rights?

Now it seems that Slovenia might legalize gay marriage with all the privileges of heterosexual marriage and, in certain cases, the adoption of children by homosexual couples. According to Interior Minister Katarina Kresal, the government had agreed that it had to grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples enjoy, or as near as possible. In contrast, the non-parliamentary party New Slovenia (NSi) expressed strong objections to the government’s plans. According to NSi, the changes would interfere with the rights of third persons, i.e. the children. And if amended legislation would threaten the respect of children’s rights, the NSi announced that it would start collecting signatures for a referendum.

No comments: