LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

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26 Dec

December 17th was a beautiful sunny day in Podgorica. The days before were much colder with a strong wind blowing in all directions of the small hilly capital of Montenegro.  
Entrance to the center was allowed from one entry point. Security continues to remain an important issues, however, year by year the number of police officers dispatched is much lower. The turbulent images of first pride in Budva four years ago seemed like a distant event from another era.
People in rainbow colors, flags, banners and many more symbols were pouring in the center close to the river and in front of the country’s most important government buildings. At some point the number of people passed 200. Many were taking pictures, dancing, smiling and talking to the media. Many participants had come with their children others with their pets. It was a beautiful day for a march, which did indeed happen a few minutes later. It was a short one but energetic, beautiful and inspiring. Couples were waving and people were taking pictures. If only it were a longer march, so we could be able to walk more close to the people, to society, for them to see who we were, what we represented, why Prides are such joyful and beautiful moments of extreme importance for LGBTO people.
One day earlier, Pride organizers Queer Montenegro and their closest partners Juventas held a press conference with a busy agenda which included presentation of research, a draft law for registered partnerships and speeches from important government, international, NGO and academic representatives. Among them, present in the conference was Montenegro’s Minister for Human and Minority Rights, Mr. Mehmet Zenka who joined the Pride march as well. In his speech he mentioned tolerance, acceptance, respect and concrete work to really integrate LGBTI people in Montenegrin society. Among the results were the initiated cooperation 10 municipalities across country, the preparation of a new action plan and the new draft-law on registered partnership which the Ministry is intent to send soon to the country’s lawmakers. Everything in close cooperation with the LGBTI organisations present in the country. In his message he added that “all types of minorities should work together, as they share common challenges as well as the opportunity to improve their cooperation.”. “With cooperation we will have breakthroughs” – he concluded.
The draft-law on registered partnership is one of the most important legal pieces that LGBTI NGOs and allies have worked on in the last months and if approved by Parliament it will be beneficiary for all couples – be them same-sex or opposite-sex by providing them with a list of rights including: changing last name, financial support, parental rights, property rights, alimony, inheritance, pensions, insurance and citizenship rights. 
LGBTI organizations in Montenegro are determined to make the family issue as important and as well understood by the general public as possible. The Pride’s main message reflected this: “Support – Family Value” emphasizing the crucial importance that family has for LGBTI people in Montenegro, as much as it does for all other members of society and that support, acceptance and love make the difference.
The work to be done for acceptance of LGBTI people is still a lot. Public perceptions are still negative and LGBTI people, especially activists, continue to remain under serious risk of hate crimes and discrimination.

This Pride, however, demonstrated the progress achieved by the LGBTI movement and their allies. Everything about the event was excellent, the most beautiful part being activities organized with and for the community: discussions, workshops and social gatherings which took place throughout the week prior to the march. Two sub-groups have been formed within Queer Montenegro: Transovci working with and for trans people and Qvira working with and for lesbian and bisexual women. The community is forming around such groups and they are making the necessary difference, producing visibility and giving the much needed vitality and energy.

Country - Montenegro