Report on Human Rights Of Sexual and Gender Minorities in The Republic of Croatia For 2004

1.Introduction

In 2004 the position of sexual and gender minorities in the Republic of Croatia has improved mostly due to ombudspersons’ work and the introduction of new legislation.
The most serious violation of human rights of sexual and gender minorities as well as children's rights occurred in Croatian educational institutions which do not have systematic sexual education.

2.Legislation

The introduction of first anti-discriminatory regulations in Croatian legislation in 2003 was a major breakthrough and in 2004 Croatian Parliament introduced similar regulations to the Law on Media as well as the Criminal Law.

Law on Media1

II. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
1. Freedom of media
Article 3
(4) The media is prohibited to encourage or exalt national, racial, religious, sexual or any other discrimination as well as discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ideologies and national entities based upon such foundations are also prohibited. Prohibition also includes provoking national, racial, religious, sexual or any other hostility or intolerance, as well as hostility or intolerance on the grounds of sexual orientation, incitement of violence and war.

The anti-discriminatory regulation, Article 3, Paragraph 4 of the Law on Media prohibits incitement or exalting of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as provoking hostility or intolerance on the grounds of sexual orientation. With the adoption of this article and alongside the Law on Electronic Media2 and the Law on Croatian Radio and Television2, the treatment of sexual minorities in media gained legal protection.

Penal Code
Racial and other discrimination
Article 174
(1)Persons who, on the grounds of racial, sexual, colour of skin, national or ethnic differences, violate fundamental human rights and freedoms as acknowledged by the international community,
     Will be sentenced from a six- month to a five- year term of imprisonment.
(2)Persons who persecute organizations or individuals that support non-discrimination will be penalized with the penalty from Paragraph 1 of this Article.
(3)Those who publicly state or propagate ideas of superiority of one race over another, spread racial hatred or entice racial discrimination will be sentenced from three-month to three-year term of imprisonment.   

Amendments to the Penal Code2

Article 20
In Article 174, Paragraph 3 after »on the grounds of colour of skin« on both places in the sentence the following is added: »or sexual orientation or other characteristics«.

Acknowledgment of sexual orientation in the amendments to the Criminal law is one of the foundations for non-discrimination and is crucial for efficient sanctioning of criminal acts of violence and discrimination against members of sexual minorities.

Despite our recommendations and the amendment proposed by a representative of SDP, the Law on the protection of patient's rights is not in conformity with the Law on same-sex relationships.
In Article 24 of the bill in the Law on protection of patient's rights, access to medical files was granted to patient's spouse, child of age, parent, sibling of age and legal representative. However, Article 24 does not state that the same access should be granted to the same-sex partner. Furthermore, Paragraph 35 of the aforementioned bill which deals with filing a complaint against the violation of rights stated in the bill, with the hospital manager, hospital board or person authorized to manage affairs of trading company in health service, the right to that complaint is denied to patient's partner from a same-sex relationship. Considering that the aforementioned rights should have only a person close to patient, and thus spouses, common-law wife/husband and members of immediate family are specified in the bill, it is not acceptable that the same article does not mention partners from the same-sex relationship. By not adopting the amendments to Article 24 and 35 of the Law, Croatian Parliament made a terrible oversight which is an indirect discrimination against same-sex couples.

Law on Granting Asylum3

Right to asylum
Article 4
The Republic of Croatia will grant the right to asylum to a foreigner who does not reside in the country of his/her origin and cannot be put under the protection of that country for fear of persecution on the grounds of his/her race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a special social group or political opinion, or to a person without citizenship who resides outside the country of previous residence and who cannot or will not return to that country.  

The Law on Granting Asylum was passed in 2003 and became effective on 1st July 2004. Although the original text of the Law does not explicitly state the right to asylum from persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation, we are pleased that according to Article 4 of the Law, homosexuals, as members of a special social group, can seek asylum in the Republic of Croatia if they were exposed to tortures, inhumane and degrading treatment, criminal prosecution or execution in their parent country because of their sexual orientation.
Article 11 of the same Law, defines co-operation of government bodies with the UN High commission for refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR’s policy, which is in conformity with the context of this Law, guarantees homosexual persons a refugee status on the grounds of persecution because of their affiliation with certain social group, or if they are afraid of assaults, inhumane treatment or serious discrimination or if their governments cannot or will not protect them. We are pleased that granting asylum also includes protection of women who are under threats of physical violence for refusing to comply with social coercion. Implementation of anti-discriminatory regulations from the Law on Equality of Sexes as well as the Law on Same-Sex Marriages in the cases of granting asylum will be the best example of implementation of these laws. On 3rd June 2004 a round table was held and the topic was Asylum in Croatia after 1st July 2004.  It triggered a public debate on granting asylum, international legal criteria for the protection of asylum seekers and Croatian Law on Granting Asylum. There are no cases of asylum seekers on the aforementioned grounds up to this day but should such case appear, we ask the authorities to deal with it in a proper manner.
In October 2004 the Croatian government brought in a bill of the Law on medically assisted insemination. The bill discriminated women on the grounds of their marital status. The Law on Equality of Sexes guarantees protection of women against discrimination in all aspects of life including rights to reproduction, especially regarding their marital and family status. We believe that there was an oversight because the bill is not in conformity with Croatian legislation, especially with the Law on Equality of Sexes as well as international legal norms. The bill was withdrawn from Parliament's session agenda without any public explanation. Artificial insemination continues to stay within the "grey area" of Croatian legislation and thus is still subject to manipulation.

The fact that most homosexual persons are still reluctant to use the adopted laws only illustrates how unsafe it still is for sexual minorities to live freely in Croatian society.
 
Croatian Government's Office for Human Rights composed and put forward a motion on the National Programme for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Republic of Croatia for 2005-2008. In the paragraph on "Priority areas of human rights protection of the National Programme" which was introduced to the Parliament, the protection of rights of sexual minorities was not even mentioned. We believe that such an oversight on behalf of Government's Office for Human Rights is an outrage, especially considering the high degree of violation against human rights of sexual minorities in the Republic of Croatia. However, we welcome the fact that the president of the Office recognized this oversight after we had pointed it out at the Parliamentary Committee for the Equality of Sexes session. We hope our amendment will be adopted before the first reading in the Parliament.  
Parliamentary Committee for the Equality of Sexes also made the following recommendation:
"It is necessary to include a ban on discrimination against persons of different sexual orientation to the paragraph on Precaution against racial and other discrimination."

 

3. Cooperation with State Institutions and Government Bodies

We have established exceptional co-operation with the Ombudsman's Office for the Equality of Sexes and the Ombudsman's Office for Children. We have also had good co-operation with Croatian Government, the Parliamentary Committee for the Equality of Sexes, the Parliamentary Committee for the Protection of Human and National Minority Rights, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These institutions displayed openness towards addressing the needs of sexual minorities.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Sports displayed a lack of understanding for the rights of sexual and gender minorities, as well as lack of respect for representatives of NGO's and the Ombudsman for the Equality of Sexes.

4.Media

Croatian media are gradually reducing their ignorance about homosexuality and journalists have more awareness of it. Although the media have become more familiar with the LGBT issues, it is still insufficient. The media still do not use adequate terminology referring to LGBT community, and often use it to promote discrimination (fag, dyke, of transgender persons: he-she, normal couples as opposed to gay couples…). The texts are often superficial and show lack of information. There is only an attempt to treat the rights of LGBT as human rights, while in most of the articles they are not treated as such. When dealing with this issue, the media is mostly sensation seeking, they focus on "social phenomenon" or the sexuality aspect.

We strongly appeal the correct term "homosexuality" should be used instead of the inappropriate term "homosexualizm".

Looking at TV stations' programme in Croatia, we found many mistakes in translation; the English word "gay", referring to a person of homosexual orientation, is often translated by a derogatory word "peder" ("fag") whereas the word "straight", referring to persons of heterosexual orientation, is often translated as "normal" implying that homosexual persons are not normal. That is why in late November 2004 we sent recommendations to Croatian Television, RTL, Nova TV and OTV to translate the word "gay" as either "gej" (with a Croatian spelling) or "homoseksualac" (homosexual). We also drew attention to effective legal regulations, which penalize discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. We received an official reply from the Director's Office of Croatian Television stating our remarks were founded and that they would try to avoid such mistakes in the future. We have not received a reply from any of the other TV stations.

Since for a long time it was not clear why a video made by LORI, the Lesbian Organization Rijeka, called "Love is love" could not be broadcast, on 8th December 2004 we filed a petition to the Director of Croatian Television to state his opinion on this. The official statement received on 9th December, 2004 states that "the Director of Croatian Television is authorised to broadcast humanitarian videos of great importance and for the general weal free of charge, which is not the case with this video". We believe his assessment was inappropriate, because there is evidently a great need to broadcast a video promoting tolerance and respect for persons of different sexual orientation supporting human rights or homosexual persons. The broadcast of this video would improve the social status of this minority.

LGBT issues can be found in Croatian media either in reports about different events (initiatives for amendments to the existing legislation, round tables, LGBT Pride events, Campaigns for the rights of LGBT persons) or are related to entertainment. This issue only rarely occurs in other contexts such as society, health, culture etc.

There are a growing number of interviews containing this subject. On one hand, this is a current issue and every public figure in Croatian society needs to be ready to state their opinions on same-sex orientation. On the other hand, homosexuality is very intriguing, rare and unusual phenomenon, which can spice up an interview and make it interesting to readers.

Analysing the way this issue4 is written about, it is mostly neutral, i.e. the media report only on facts. However, it is alarming that one in ten articles are discriminatory.  Such articles give an example of intolerance and insults and promote the existing social prejudice against LGBT persons. Discrimination is visible in the use of hate speech, abusive terminology, prevention of visibility, restriction of human and civil rights, supporting intolerance and social isolation, promoting an idea
 that same-sex orientation should remain a private matter of an individual and that the LGBT community has no right to publicly demand the same treatment as heterosexual persons in social and legal matters etc. By expressing homo-/bi-/trans-phobia, such texts promote further physical or verbal violence against LGBT persons. They refer to LGBT persons as unnatural, perverted or sick, and to homosexuality as perversion, disorder or sin. Furthermore, the press is still sensation seeking; same-sex orientation is treated as something exotic, something outside social norms and something very alternative. Bias, prejudice and stereotypes are mostly found in the principles of religious communities; the hetero-patriarchal norms promoted by the media; population politics in Croatia; labelling and treating homosexuality and bisexuality as something perverse etc. These kinds of articles mostly present authors' comments.

Hostile articles can mostly be seen in columns, readers' letters and the weekly magazine "Glas koncila". It needs to be pointed out that in 2004 the Church strongly opposed granting rights to persons of same-sex orientation in the media and some of its representatives were publicly promoting discrimination and hate speech (e.g. homosexuality was put on the list of modern sins, together with fascism or terrorism!).

On the other hand, 10% of the articles are supportive of LGBT issues, identifying discrimination of lesbians and gay men through society and legislation. Some media are willing to publish responses and statements of LGBT centres. Furthermore, there is a certain number of journalists willing to promote the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

After monitoring how and to what extent the media write about LGBTIQ5 issues, we have reached the following conclusion: 84% of the articles deal with homosexuality (gay issues are still dominant over lesbian issues), and only 3% deal with bisexuality. In the press, transgender and transsexual issues are completely marginalized (6%). The media employees show lack of information and often misinterpret these issues. Queer and inter-sexual issues are not present in the media at all.

The media started using the LGBT term only recently. They often show lack of information about its meaning. This is very important, since they insist on using the term homosexuality and thus support the binary heterosexuality – homosexuality.
They mostly speak of persons of same-sex orientation and not of the whole community of sexual and gender minorities, which excludes the entirety of different sexual orientations, gender identity and its expression.

There has been an improvement compared to the media monitoring in 2003. However, prejudice, stereotypes, lack of information among the media staff and discrimination in the media stress the necessity for future education of the media, raising journalists' awareness and establishing better co-operation.

5.Education

We believe the educational system of the Republic of Croatia does not meet basic conditions for education on human rights. School textbooks are still full of gender stereotypes and are insensitive towards the rights of sexual or other minorities.

Catholic Religious Teaching Programme for Primary Schools currently deals with human sexuality more than any other subject. In the teaching instructions about human sexuality, homosexual orientation is stated as an example of "erroneous" form of sexuality, promoting discrimination. Moreover, according to the religious teaching programme, homosexuality is an erroneous form of sexuality just as incest or prostitution.

Defining homosexuality as an “erroneous forms of sexuality” within the context of a religious teaching programme is in contradiction with a series of national and international laws, which prohibit such discrimination and stand to protect the right in public education to true and accurate information.

It is interesting how the term "erroneous" has recently been replaced by the term "sinful". Together with the Ombudsman for Children and the Ombudsman for the Equality for Sexes we reacted to this discriminatory programme, but the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports did not taken any action and decided only to replace the term "erroneous" using religious terminology in order to avoid any future litigation.

In many schools the religious teaching programme is in the middle of the timetable, which presents a problem for students who do not attend this class, because they have no other classes during that time. Religious teaching programme should be held in religious institutions, not in public schools.  If it is held in schools, it should be either before or after all other classes, so that students who do not attend it would not be neglected any more and would not feel the pressure of having to attend it.

In the Republic of Croatia sexual education is not a separate subject in schools. There are only programmes introduced on the initiative of NGO's; MEMO AIDS and Teen STAR. MEMO AIDS is a scientific programme and does not include all aspects a sexual education programme should include. Teen STAR promotes abstinence and a growing number of schools started introducing it because the Church influenced them.

We have analysed the holistic sexuality-teaching programme Teen STAR and concluded that it is discriminatory with regards to gender, sexual orientation and marital or family status and is therefore in conflict with effective Croatian legislation. This programme was introduced as an extracurricular activity in 70 primary and secondary schools in Croatia, after having received a positive evaluation by the board of education and is now supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports. We sent our assessment of the programme to the Ombudsman's Office for Children and the Ombudsman's Office for the Equality of Sexes, recommending the programme should either be in conformity with Croatian laws or withdrawn from schools. Apart from failing to comply with legal and constitutional regulations, it does not contain basic educational criteria for implementation, which was one of our key objections.

On 2nd November, 2004 the Ombudsman for Children, Ms. Ljubica Matijevi? Vrsaljko, sent an evaluation and a recommendation to the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, agreeing with most of our assessment and pointing out that the programme is not only in conflict with Croatian legislation, but does not comply with the Convention on the Rights of a Child. Until it is in conformity with Croatian laws and the aforementioned convention, the programme should not be implemented any further.

Representatives of the Teen STAR Association, which coordinates the implementation of the programme in primary and secondary schools in Croatia, have openly stated in the media that "heterosexuality had greater value than homosexuality", because a homosexual relationship could not result with procreation. We demanded a public apology because of this statement, but they refused to offer it. Therefore, in December we filed criminal charges against Ms. Kristina Pavlovi?, the president of the association, and Ladislav Il?i?, the vice-president, at the District Attorney's Office in Zagreb. By publicly stating and promoting their beliefs on superiority on the grounds of sexual orientation, they committed a criminal act from Article 174, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Law. Furthermore, according to the ombudsman Matijevi?-Vrsaljko, in the implementation of their programme presidents of the association, violated children's rights stated in the Convention on the Rights of a Child. Therefore, we believe there was also a violation of the equality of citizens according to Article 106, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law. A criminal investigation of the defendants is underway.

Since the Teen STAR programme might include religious elements, which in principle would not discriminate against any religion, but would be determined according to the share of certain religions in schools, the programme could present an alternative religious teaching, interfering with sexual education issues, which should be based on scientific facts, not religious dogmas. A religious moral imperative is being imposed as criteria for personal maturity and person's values and choices are being judged according to it. This also raises the problem of sexually transmitted diseases, because it was established that programmes based on such beliefs are not very efficient in this matter. Although those who support the programme state they do not oppose the use of condoms, their opinions clearly show that each sexual intercourse not resulting in procreation is of a lesser value than all other kinds of intercourse, implying a sexual intercourse using a condom is not desirable and that persons who engage in such sexual intercourse would not be "holistic and mature".

We express great dissatisfaction that, during every discussion on sexual education in public schools, the Ministry in charge not only takes into consideration the opinions of representatives of the Catholic Church and other religious communities, but also seems to favour their opinions to the opinions of competent experts. This illustrates both the Ministry's inability to face modern civilization standards as well as their incompetence in making provisions for a lawful implementation of educational programmes in the Republic of Croatia.

We demand a dismissal of such committee and the Ministry to approve the programme Human sexuality and the quality of life and to start implementing it in schools as soon as possible.
Furthermore, we demand the Teen STAR programme to be suspended from the educational process immediately.

6.Homophobia in Statements of Public Figures

Due to the fact that homosexuality has increasingly become a more popular topic for public debates over the last years, public figures and politicians now very often state the rights of sexual minorities as a relevant issue in opinion polls.

This was the case during the presidential election campaign in December 2004 and January 2005. Some of the presidential candidates did express their homophobic opinions, while others, who used to have the same kind of discriminatory opinions and did not support the rights of sexual minorities, did display an effort to overcome prejudice.

The rights of sexual minorities during the election campaign were supported by the presidential candidate ?ur?a Adleši?. In one of his interviews about the kidnapping of Domagoj Margeti? president Stjepan Mesi? said: "I have been informed by reliable sources that he was kidnapped by a group of homosexuals. What they did with him, I do not know." We reacted to this statement by asking how did those reliable sources detect Mr. Margeti?'s sexual orientation and how it is possible to interpret the kidnapping trough sexual orientation of the perpetuator.  We also demanded an official reply on this issue from president Mesi? within 15 days. The President apologized at a press conference.

On 29th March, 2004, Channel 1 of the Croatian Television broadcast a show called "Res publica: Ecumenism – the relationship between religion and sexuality" in which journalist Verica Sikora, in her story about life of young people in Osijek, said: "Unfortunately, it has to be stated that our youth are up to their neck in drugs, the age limit when they have their first sexual intercourse is lower and lower and even among the youth there are those with homosexual experience".

"Iskorak" center posted an open letter to the Parliamentary Committee for the Equality of Sexes, which posted it to the Ombudsman for the Equality of Sexes. After analysing the TV show, on 1st July, 2004 the Committee found that the journalist described homosexual experience as explicitly "bad" and thus gave a statement which is neither in conformity with Article 6, Paragraph 2 of the Law on Equality of Sexes nor with Article 21, Paragraph 1 of the Law on Same-Sex Marriage. The Committee also recommended that Croatian Television should not broadcast programmes or shows which are not in conformity with legal regulations.

We would also like to comment the statement which Professor Dubravka Hrabar, Head of the Family Law Department at the Zagreb Faculty of Law gave at a Teen STAR conference, which is currently available on Teen STAR's website:
"Holistic sexuality teaching programme "Teen STAR" is in full conformity with regulations of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the Convention on the Rights of a Child as well as the Law on Families. This programme promotes sexual education, which teaches children responsibility about their sexuality and, as a result, protects children's right to health.
Pointing out desirability of a functional family is not discriminatory, especially if during the implementation of the programme we stress the equality of all people, particularly children, regardless of their different characteristics (including having single-parent families).
It is my impression that criticism of the programme is malicious, that certain statements were taken out of context and misinterpreted and that the whole text was interpreted negatively, concealing messages of certain groups which represent a smaller share of the society."
By expressing such an opinion in which sexual minorities are defined as "groups which represent a smaller share of the society", implying they are also groups of lesser importance, we believe that Professor Dubravka Hrabar violated regulations of the Law on Equality of Sexes and thus explicitly promoted discrimination within the educational system of the Republic of Croatia. We would also like to stress that in an earlier interview to the newspaper Vjesnik, Prof. Hrabar said that homosexual marriages were unnatural.
Persons who gave homophobic statements to the media during 2004 are: Živko Kusti?, Zdravko Mami?, Otto Bari?, Anto Kova?evi?, Ljubo ?esi?, Boris Mikši?, Petar Grašo, Željka Fattorini and others.
We believe that such opinion mostly shows public figures' ignorance about human sexuality.

7. Violence and discrimination

Violence and discrimination against sexual minorities is still common in Croatian society.
Forms of violence range from psychological to verbal and physical violence. The burning issue is still victims' fear, which stops them from reporting the violence they experienced because of potential stigmatization by the environment. In addition to this, LGBT population is not familiar with their rights and procedures protecting these rights. This is why it is almost impossible to estimate the real number of incidents, and cases that do undergo legal proceedings are usually violent incidents against male or female activists from NGO's.

During October death threats to Dorino Manzin, the president of Iskorak, appeared on many buildings in Ljubljanica, a district of Zagreb.

On 5th November 2004 at 12:50 a.m. four men attacked the house where Dorino Manzin, the president of Iskorak, lives and broke a window on it by throwing a brick from the street after which they ran away.

Last year the Legal Team of Iskorak and Kontra issued a Handbook on using anti-discriminatory regulations and laws in the Republic of Croatia in order to inform the LGBT population about the legal system of the Republic of Croatia and ways of protecting their rights as well as who to turn to in case their rights are violated. Furthermore, we set up a telephone line where members of sexual minorities can be informed about their rights and the work of the Legal Team.

During the last year the Legal Team received nine complaints about violence against sexual and gender minorities. In most cases gay men were assaulted, but assaults on lesbians were recorded as well. The incidents occurred mostly in the evening in the centre of Zagreb. That is why we contacted police authorities and asked for regular meetings with them in order to exchange information and improve safety of the citizens.
We hope the co-operation will be successful and we will inform the public regularly.

According to witnesses, during the "MTV Valkana Beach Festival" homosexual persons were teased, shoved and laughed at by the police.6 We strongly condemn such police behaviour and believe this was a case of discrimination on the grounds of gender expression, since it remains unclear how the police managed to recognize homosexual persons.

Apart from physical assaults, the Legal Team recorded the following forms of discrimination against members of sexual minorities: threats, discrimination on work place, and destruction of property.

We recorded cases of discrimination, expression of the idea of supremacy and insults on the grounds of sexual orientation in the media as well. In 2004 two such cases underwent a legal process: the case of Dražen Lajesi? from the company "Zagreb media d.o.o.", which manages the server hosting the website www.vjera.com, and the case of Kristina Pavlovi? and Ladislav Il?i?, representatives of Teen STAR association.

Dražen Lajesi?, K-DO-9623/04

During September 2004 the Legal Team received several complaints about the website www.vjera.com containing ideas of supremacy as well as insults on the grounds of religion, gender and sexual orientation. After looking into the website and analysing some of the controversial texts, we found violation of regulations from Article 174, Paragraph 3 and 4 of the Criminal Law. Ivan Luki? is apparently the author of the website. In order to find the owner of the server maintain the website, we used WHOIS to find their IP address and found that the server was managed by the company "Zagreb media d.o.o.", represented by Mr. Dražen Lajesi?. On 13th October, 2004 we filed Mr. Lajesi? a petition to remove the website within eight days or we would be forced to file criminal charges against him at the General Attorney's Office. Since we did not receive an official reply, we telephoned Mr. Lajesi? who told us he had no intention of removing the website. Therefore, in co-operation with the Women's network of Croatia we filed a motion for instituting criminal proceedings against Mr. Dražen Lajesi? at the District Attorney's Office in Zagreb, on the grounds of the aforementioned regulation of the Criminal Law. Although the texts had been written before the Amendments to the Criminal Law (Official Gazette 105/04) became effective, the defendant had been informed of the nature of the criminal act before the motion was filed. His maintenance of the website even after the Amendments to the Criminal Law became effective, explains our complaint according to the principle of legality. Furthermore, we expressed our suspicion that Mr. Dražen Lajesi? himself was the author of these texts and was using the name Ivan Luki? as an alias. In the ruling of 31st December, 2004 the District Attorney's Office dismissed the criminal charges, stating the texts did not contain any evident proof that the defendant wrote them personally, whereas the criminal act in Article 174, Paragraph 3 and 4 can be committed only with a direct intent and the disputable texts express opinion on certain subjects and do not present the defendant's intent to commit a criminal act of racial or other discrimination. Referring to the Article 55, Paragraph 1 of the Law on Penal Proceedings, our team send a bill of indictment to the municipal court in Zagreb. We claimed that although this particular crime can only be committed with direct intention, the suspect could be prosecuted for participation in the crime from the moment when he became aware that by further maintaining of this content on the web pages.

Teen STAR, K-DO-9624/04

On 2nd November 2004 the "Nacional" weekly published an article with a headline "Catholic programme Teen STAR teaches sex is negative". It quoted Teen STAR's vice-president Mr. Ladislav Il?i? who stated: "We believe heterosexuality has more value than homosexuality". Since Mr. Il?i? discriminated homosexual against heterosexual persons, we filed a request to the Teen STAR association to apologize publicly within 8 days. On 9th November we received an official declaration from Ms. Kristina Pavlovi?, president of the Teen STAR association, who explained her association's view by stating heterosexual relationship had more value than homosexual since a homosexual relationship could not create a new life, i.e. a child, and because both a mother and a father were necessary for a child's upbringing. We believe such view is discriminatory not only against homosexual persons but also against all persons who engage in sexual relationships without an intention to procreate, since it implies that relationships of such persons have less value as well. We concluded that by expressing this view in public, Article 174 of the Penal Code is violated. Women’s Network of Croatia and Team for Legal Changes send to the State Attorney’s Office a motion for initialisation of criminal proceedings against Kristina Pavlovi? and Ladislav Il?i?. Furthermore, after taking into consideration the opinion of the Ombudsman's Office for Children, of 2nd November, 2004, stating Teen STAR's programme did not comply with the Convention on the Rights of a Child, we concluded that authors of this programme and its implementation in schools denied children's rights from the Convention and present a violation against the equality of citizens from Article 106, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law. Therefore we filed a motion for instituting proceedings on the grounds of the same Article. Criminal proceedings are in process.

MORH, KMPDO-685/04

On 15th October 2004 on the official e-mail of the group Iskorak came three messages that contained threats to president of the group Dorino Manzin and other members. Trough query into server members of Iskorak found out that the user of this e-mail address was working for Ministry of Defence. All information was forwarded to the police station, and an investigation was initialised inside of the Ministry of Defence. State Attorney’s Office received a notion for initialisation of criminal proceedings against unknown perpetuator. On 23rd December we received trough Government’s Office for Human Rights a response of the Ministry of Defence in which was stated that the military police completed the investigation and established the identity of perpetuator and that a special report was submitted to the State Attorney’s Office in Zagreb.

8.Public events

Two major events dealing with sexual minorities took place in 2004.

Zagreb Pride 2004

On 30th June, 2004 Zagreb Pride, the third annual pride parade of sexual and gender minorities took place. Two major issues this year's Zagreb Pride dealt with were rights of transgender persons and the homophobia of the Church. Due to very good police protection there was no record of any attacks on the parade.  

Queer Zagreb was held from 23rd to 30th April, 2004. During the whole festival there were no incidents. The willingness of the singer Radojka Šverko to perform with the "London Gay Symphony Orchestra" deserves special recognition. In this way Ms. Šverko sent out a message that public figures should support the efforts of sexual minorities to fight for their rights. The fact that Josipa Lisac cancelled her performance with the "London Gay Symphony Orchestra" saying that she "might have problems with the skinheads"7 only proves how it is still not easy to support sexual minorities in Croatia. It also needs to be stressed that Mr. Mate Mati?, the manager of Europa cinema, refused to display posters at his cinema in order to promote Queer Zagreb Festival and on the day of the festival opening at the aforementioned cinema he refused to come to work. In the cinema foyer, on 13th June 2004, Mr. Mati? shoved and verbally threatened Zvonimir Dobrovi?, the programme director of the Queer Zagreb Festival. It is intolerable for a person of such rigid and violent attitude to manage a cultural institution in Zagreb and therefore we support his replacement.

9.Public Health

The case of Dr Darko Labura on behalf of Croatian Physicians' Chamber

On 17th November, 2004 the "Zadarski regional" weekly published an article in which Dr Darko Labura, a psychiatrist and the manager of the psychiatric hospital Ugljan, gave a scientifically unfounded information that homosexuality was a "kind of a disorder". Since the Croatian Psychiatrists' Association as well as the Croatian Physicians' Chamber had distanced themselves from similar cases before, e.g. when Prof. Vladimir Gruden claimed homosexuality was a mental disorder, it is evident that the aforementioned statement is not consistent with the official attitude of the medical profession. We send a motion for initialisation of proceedings to Croatian medical Chamber for pronouncement of public reprimand to dr. Darko Labura. Furthermore, we issued a denial in the "Zadarski regional" weekly stating homosexuality was not a disorder, enclosing official statements by professional organizations, which were published soon after.

Since the motion was filed we have not received any official declarations whether the disciplinary proceedings were instituted or not. Since the Croatian Physicians' Chamber is an executive body and ensures legality of the medical profession, by postponing the resolution of this issue, it shows its inefficiency in implementing laws. Furthermore, we will consider filing criminal charges against Dr Darko Lubura for racial and other discrimination on the grounds of Article 174, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Law.  

Rules on Blood

Trough analysis of the document named Rules on Blood, created by the Ministry of Health, we found that persons “with homosexual behaviour “ are permanently excluded as blood donors. On 13th October 2004 we send a reference to the Ministry to change the Rules on Blood by changing term “homosexual behaviour” into “risky behaviour”. We stated that homosexual behaviour is not always risky behaviour and that is certainly not the only risky behaviour. We concluded that the Rules have discriminative implications and does not exclude people that practise other risky forms of sexual behaviour.  We referred to the references of the World Health Organization.

The old Rules on Blood is still in force, although it should already be replaced with the new one. We send our reference to the Office of the Public Attorney for Sex Equality.

10.Future Activities of the Legal Team

In order to protect human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Croatia in the best way possible, we openly call for:

The Croatian Parliament and Croatian Government to implement a ban against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Croatian Constitution and all other relevant laws. This action would set a path towards true equality of all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia.
Proper authorities to diminish discrimination against same-sex partners in regards to institution of marriage and adoption of children
Proper authorities to increase institutional protection of the rights of sexual minorities.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sports to introduce sexual education into primary and secondary schools which would deal with the subject of sexuality and sexual minorities objectively, as well as to re-define the discriminatory programme “Catholic Religious Teaching Programme for Primary and Secondary Schools”
Croatian Television and all independent TV stations to actively implement our recommendations for translation of foreign programmes and in this way remove all discriminatory and insulting expressions from their programme; also, to include shows and films dealing with LGBT identities in its programme more often. We expect these programmes to be aired during timeslots that are more accessible by the general viewing audience.
Members of sexual minorities to use legal instruments in Croatia more frequently in order to fight for their rights, and protect and define their identities, as well. In order to give them further encouragement, we will soon issue a second edition of our Handbook on using anti-discriminatory regulations and laws in the Republic of Croatia
The authorities to recognize the rights and needs of transgender individuals and to introduce a ban on every form of discrimination into Croatian legislation and the Constitution, including one concerning gender expression and identity.
The authorities to enable transsexual individuals to change their names and other relevant data in a legal manner.

Sanja Juras
Coordinator of Lesbian Group Kontra
and Team for Legal Changes of Iskorak and Kontra

Kristijan Gr?an
Coordinator of Iskorak- Group for the Rights of Sexual Minorities