The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia has published the analysis “Status of Vulnerable Groups in the Process of Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union – Status of LGBTI Persons”.
The publication was drafted as part of an initiative for drafting an analytical review on the status of vulnerable groups in the context of EU accession started by the Unit with the following objectives:
- To increase the visibility of the challenges faced by vulnerable social groups in the Republic of Serbia;
- To inform stakeholders on current processes in the development of the strategic and legislative framework in the field of social inclusion;
- To promote a dialogue and cooperation in meeting the obligations under the process of Serbia’s accession to the EU in the field of social inclusion.
The series of informative analytical situation overviews on the status of vulnerable groups in the context of meeting the obligations in the process of European integration is intended for a broad circle of stakeholders: decision makers, state administration and staff in local self-government units, development partners, civil society organisations, the academic community, and journalists.
The situation overview covers the following vulnerable groups: Roma, persons with disabilities, LGBTI, women, children, the elderly, youth, national minorities, migrants and asylum seekers, and persons living with HIV. The fourth analysis is related to the status of LGBTI persons in the process of European integration.
The content of the analysis “Status of Vulnerable Groups in the Process of Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union – Status of LGBTI persons” provides a broad analytical reflection on the status of the LGBTI population from the aspect of compliance with obligations under the process of the accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union (EU). The first part of the study introduces information on the status of LGBTI persons from the aspect of compliance with obligations under the process of Serbia’s accession to the EU, by noting the main findings of the European Commission (EC) reports, and research by the non-government organisation Labris and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The second part of the study covers the socio-economic status of the LGBTI community in the Republic of Serbia through analysing their status in the labour market, in the educational and healthcare system, public opinion perceptions, occurrence of discrimination, incidence and prevalence of violence against members of the LGBTI population. The next segment describes the availability of data on the status of the LGBTI population in Serbia through noting the key institutional capacities in this regard. An important part of the analysis is also the legislative framework of the Republic of Serbia, certain amendments to core legislation related to various policies that regulate the status of LGBTI persons. The next step in the study is an overview of the situation and obligations in the process of European Union accession, leading to conclusions and key recommendations for improving the status of the LGBTI population in Serbia.
The most important findings of the analysis note that the EC report for Serbia for 2021 indicates the need for further efforts in the consistent and efficient implementation of regulations, particularly in the field of preventing hate speech. Furthermore, the findings of a study by the non-government organisation Labris state that 56% of LGBTI respondents express fear for their safety, and thus the majority of LGBTI persons endeavour to hide their identity. FRA survey results indicate that 53% of LGBTI persons in Serbia are avoiding being open about their identity towards family members, friends and neighbours, for fear of being assaulted, abused or threatened.
Regarding the socio-economic status of the LGBTI population in Serbia, in regards to the segment of the labour market and research by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, 71% of surveyed employers, 69% of employees, and 66% of unemployed persons believe that LGBTI persons are being insulted and humiliated at work. The FRA survey indicates that 16% of LGBTI persons felt discriminated seeking work (39% of trans persons), while 24% of respondents were exposed to discrimination at work (49% of trans respondents) during the past 12 months.
Regarding healthcare, according to the FRA study, 36% of LGBTI persons in Serbia see their health as very good, 42% as good, 17% as solid, 4% as poor and 1% as very poor. Furthermore, nearly half (41%) of LGBTI persons hide their identity in healthcare institutions for fear of assault and threats.
According to data by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, reporting on violence in schools is on the increase: 820 cases were reported during the 2017/18 school year, 890 in 2018/19, and 950 in 2019/20. Despite existing protection, LGBTI children and youth in Serbia still face a high level of discrimination and abuse.
In the public opinion survey implemented by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality in 2019, people in Serbia have viewed LGBT persons (along with Roma and women) as the most vulnerable to discrimination (33% of respondents), while at the same time stating they prefer not to spend time with them.
The legal recognition of sex was introduced into the legislation of the Republic of Serbia by amendments to the Law on Registries and the relevant Rulebook on the method of issuing and form of a certificate by a competent healthcare institution on a sex change. According to data from the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, since January 2019 to mid-2020, 38 persons have changed their sex marker in registries (20 persons changed their marker from female to male and 18 from male to female).
Having in mind that even within the EU itself LGBTI rights remain under the sphere of recommendations to member states, there are no clear guidelines on the obligations of the Republic of Serbia in this regard through the EU accession process. Under activities planned for AP 23, the Republic of Serbia adopted amendments to the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination in 2021, aiming for full harmonisation with the European Acquis. The amendments introduced into the Law the terms of sexual and gender identity, and prohibition of discrimination based on sex, gender and gender identity. An important step in improving the rights and status of the LGBTI community in Serbia would be the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Unions, which is not part of the negotiation framework with the EU, but a recommendation by the Council of Europe.
The main recommendations of the analysis relate to the need to apply existing regulations and facilitate social dialogue on missing public policy documents in the domain of the rights of LGBTI persons. This can only be achieved by raising the awareness of all stakeholders in the public sector and implementation in practice. It is of key importance to ensure clear and measurable steps to create a safe environment and improve tolerance towards LGBTI persons, while ensuring effective prevention to prevent acts of violence and intolerance against LGBTI persons. It is necessary to work on reducing social distancing, stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI persons. Furthermore, continuous work needs to be ensured on raising the capacities of police officers, judges, prosecutors, civil servants and lawyers. It is necessary to raise awareness on the importance of data disaggregated by sexual orientation, gender identity and sex.