When we visited the GSA in Belgrade, I made sure to ask about the close-mindedness of Serbia’s youth. I introduced the idea of their parents and grandparents sheltering them and one woman jumped in and completely agreed with this saying not just the family members but the schools as well because they don’t address these issues in depth or justly even in the Civil Education course which was intended to do just that. I then mentioned that perhaps it’s also because the conditions now are livable and so they don’t feel the burning urge to change society like the youth ten years ago and there was a collective bout of heads nodding but not too much more said about that idea. During their lecture I also realized how the education system and years of sanctions and isolation are making the youth ideologically indoctrinated and thus disinterested in society which has a huge standing in explaining the indifference amongst the youth.
The largest takeaway from their lecture was learning about the Anti-discrimination law imposed last year. This is the first ever law to say that discrimination is illegal and that those who are discriminated against could ask for protection. The first law ever! Though it hasn’t exactly been adopted, simply its implementation was great cause for celebration by NGOs around Serbia. GSA said that the next step is for the government to begin a campaign to educate the public about the law and to increase public awareness of discriminatory issues. And maybe this is the way it should go, but I don’t see why they and other NGOs put all the responsibility in the state for promoting this law. They said that the state of Serbia is trying to look the most appealing to the eyes of Europe without necessarily regarding or attempting to change the citizen’s beliefs which produces an inadequate conclusion of Serbia’s readiness. And this raises another question of whether the rights of the discriminated and their acceptance are mutually exclusive. Though creating the law is a huge step forward for framing Serbia’s human rights it needs to be promoted and accepted which will take the most limited resource: time.
A few more tidbits of our conversation with GSA: When reflecting on the Pride Parade they were very pleased with it because they saw the state protect them for the first time instead of working against them and because it has gotten the public and the news to address this topic which is normally kept under wraps. They also voiced their relief that none of the hooligans were critically injured or killed by the police in an effort to stop them because as one man said “then we’d [have] read only about how Pride killed” without claiming that the person provoked the police or committed crime himself. I hadn’t considered this before but that is such a valid concern that fortunately wasn’t realized.
The government was pleased that the European commission saw the police protecting the participants and the state institutions being proactive but they also saw the violence and hatred it evoked and the GSA director said that if the mentalities don’t change neither will the status of Serbia in Europe. In the future they expect more obstacles from the government when they lobby for protection. Since the government cannot say no they will instead make it more difficult for GSA by requiring that it be in a remote or smaller arena or that there be a smaller group.
We ended the talk discussing the ever-popular ascension to the EU topic and they said that they consider ascension a chance to more efficiently see changes. Most people are interested in Serbia benefiting from the economic standards of the EU but they believe there would be more and better opportunities to work with the state and stakeholders to change the public opinion.