“It’s not reported because no one would take you seriously”

On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia, May 17th: Everyday life of LGBTIQ persons in Croatia is still marked by the fear of violence and discrimination

Squares, streets, schools, workplaces, but also family homes in Croatia are not safe for LGBTIQ persons – as many as 6 out of 10 respondents have experienced violence there. This is shown by the results of the latest Zagreb Pride research ont he experience of discrimination, hate crime and violence committed against LGBTIQ persons in Croatia. This is the second large field research conducted in the period from April to August of last year, on a sample of 767 LGBTIQ persons. Some of the respondents no longer live in Croatia.

The main objectives of the research were to examine the participants’ experiences with violence, discrimination and hate crime based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression and sexual characteristics.
The results confirm that our daily lives are still permeated with fear and uncertainty in all areas of life: from the family home to public spaces. These are some of the indicators that show that the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ persons in Croatia are threatened on a daily basis, like the right to live in freedom and safety, in other words, our existence in this society:

  • When asked if they have ever tried to harm themselves or commit suicide, 272 participants answered positively
  • Nearly two-thirds of participants have experienced violence due to their sexual orientation, gender characteristics, gender identity and/or gender expression at least once since 2013
  • Given the types of violence experienced by 491 participants (64%), the most common types of violence were verbal abuse, followed by unwanted sexual suggestions, unwanted touching and threats of physical violence, and following, stalking and/or intimidation
  • The answers to the questions about the experienced discrimination also show that slightly more than 60 percent of the respondents have experienced some form of discrimination, either at school or at work, or in contact with institutions such as the police, the judiciary and health systems
  • When it comes to reporting violence to the police or another competent body, less than ten percent of respondents who experienced violence answered positively (n = 43)
  • 36 percent of those surveyed adjust their behavior for fear of experiencing discrimination or violence. At school, this is done by 37 percent of respondents and almost 40 percent of them at work and more than 43 percent in a cafe. Particularly worrying results relate to public spaces such as streets or squares, where as many as 61 percent of respondents adjust their behavior

Why is the situation like this?

The high level of violence against LGBTIQ persons is the result of a social environment in which various political actors are systematically working on the violation of human rights of LGBTIQ persons, women’s sexual and reproductive rights and political and cultural rights of individual ethnic and national communities in Croatia. Hatred is not only a consequence of the active work of right-wing clerical organizations and their campaign to spread prejudice and hatred against LGBTIQ persons, but also discriminatory policies of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the rare implementation of existing laws and a slow and an inefficient judiciary system. All this has contributed to the creation of an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance in the last few years. All these years, Zagreb Pride has been warning of the responsibility of all levels of government for insufficient protection of human rights in Croatia, and now we believe it is high time that the general public recognized that violence against LGBTIQ persons is a significant and urgent social problem.

The people I have told about the situations told me to keep quiet about it and forget that it had happened

Although the legal framework for punishing hate crime has been significantly improved, the implementation of legal provisions is ineffective because the police and the State Attorney’s Office treat most hate crimes as offenses against public order and peace. Due to the wrong qualification of the criminal offense of hate crimes and the punishment of perpetrators in misdemeanor proceedings, it is completely impossible to further initiate criminal proceedings. All this consequently leads to distrust in the police and the State Attorney’s Office and the trend of not reporting hate crimes, which is among the highest in Europe. All this allows the authorities to, just as in the case of violence against women, manipulate their own statistics that do not correspond to the real lives of both LGBTIQ persons and women.

I don’t trust the police, I don’t want to remember that and I know it’s no use. It also took me a long time to figure out what happened to me and to name it.

Also, omnipresent hate speech is a cause for great concern for all social groups in Croatia that are targeted by hate producers, especially LGBTIQ persons who have been increasingly exposed to hate speech since the referendum on the prohibition of same-sex marriage. The government does not provide adequate awareness-raising measures to prevent and condemn hate speech against LGBTIQ persons;  case law is completely inadequate and inconsistent despite clear legal provisions; most of the reported crimes and misdemeanors related to hate speech against LGBTIQ persons are rejected by the State Attorney’s Office with completely unfounded explanations, such as insane explanations that the perpetrators are under the influence of mass psychology and are not responsible for their actions!

The fight against crime and hate speech remains a major challenge for our entire society

Many more significant and effective steps are needed to improve the rights of LGBTIQ persons in all areas of life.  This should be done by further developing the legal framework to ensure equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or gender characteristics, by promoting the rights of LGBTIQ persons at home and abroad, and effectively combating undemocratic, clerical movements that threaten the rights of LGBTIQ persons and reproductive rights. As we had the opportunity to see, this is still not the case.

We therefore call on the President of the Republic Zoran Milanović, the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the President of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković to reflect on their responsibility for the social position of LGBTIQ persons and the rest of the citizens on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia in order to improve the situation. Our suggestion is that any form of violence against LGBTIQ persons, including hate speech to begin with, is strongly and unequivocally condemned as an attack on LGBTIQ persons. It is important that this violence is named homophobia and transphobia in order to send a clear message to the public that these occurrences are unacceptable and punishable by law in our society.

We urge the legislative, executive and judicial bodies to include, as part of the necessary comprehensive changes in the administration of justice, systemic measures aimed at preventing and adequately sanctioning homophobic and transphobic hate crimes as well as hate speech. Everything must not stop at legal norms, but at ensuring that they are implemented!

And finally, on this occasion we want to send a message to the LGBTIQ community and encourage it to report any abuse. Any sort of harassment, physical violence directed at you on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and/or gender expression and/or sexual characteristics, constitutes a hate crime and is punishable. That is why we encourage everyone who has experienced discrimination and/or violence to report it to Zagreb Pride on the emergency number +385 91 784 6278, which is available 24/7. Reporting violence or other forms of discrimination can also be done anonymously at www.rozimegafon.org, and if you need legal or psychological help, we will provide it at our expense. Our message to the entire LGBTIQ community is: “You are not alone. Zagreb Pride can provide legal and psychological support to all persons who suffer violence and discrimination.”

About the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) is commemorated on May 17th. It has been officially commemorated in Croatia since 2011, when its commemoration was confirmed by the Croatian Parliament at the suggestion of Zagreb Pride as part of the National Policy for Gender Equality.  National policies recommend that public institutions mark the day alone or in partnership with civil society organizations. On the occasion of marking that day this year, from May 12th various flags will be raised at several locations in Zagreb and an informative campaign has been launched on the experiences of violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ persons.

Finally, we would like to thank the Embassy of Belgium in Croatia for helping us raise our flags to commemorate this year’s IDAHOBIT 🙂