Drums, whistles, and banners were flying alongside blue, pink and white flags were flying in Croatia’s capital this weekend.
The first-ever Balkans Trans Intersex Pride took place in its host city of Zagreb on Saturday (30 March).
Around 300 demonstrators from all over the region joined in the march for trans rights.
Some demonstrators played on drums and whistles. Others carried banners reading ‘Change your hearts not my parts’ and ‘Trans lives matter’.
‘Solidarity is key. We all need it,’ said Evan, a 30-year-old trans rights activist from Slovenia.
‘It’s also very emotional experience because it’s all of the Balkans coming together,’ Evan told AFP.
The first Balkans Trans Intersex march is happening today! This is a historic moment.
— Amnesty Ireland (@AmnestyIreland) March 30, 2019
‘The rise of right-wing, fascist groups’
The marchers were escorted by members of special police units in order to ensure safety.
Organizers had released a statement saying the march was intended send ‘clear messages of pride and defiance, a revolt against those who try to claim dominion over our bodies, minds and lives, as well as against all forms of oppression’.
March organizers also warned the ‘rise of right-wing, fascist groups’ throughout the Balkans.
These groups ‘almost always focus their attacks on marginalized people’ including women, migrants, and the trans community, the statement said.
‘The Croatian authorities need to step up and ensure the protection of participants’
Amnesty International released a statement praising Saturday’s march, while calling on the Croatian authorities to ensure the protection of attendees.
Here’s an open letter from @HRW urging Croatian authorities to provide appropriate protection for the Balkans Trans and Intersex Pride March, scheduled to take place this upcoming weekend — https://t.co/KZ3ILKYcnX
— Kyle Knight (@knightktm) March 28, 2019
‘Now more than ever, the Croatian authorities need to step up and ensure [the] protection of participants in the upcoming Balkan Trans Intersex March while they exercise their human rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,’ Amnesty’s statement read.
‘The right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed by international human rights law in treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, imposes positive obligations on the state, including to provide adequate protection and security measures.’
Human Rights Watch also issued an open letter to Croatian Prime Minister Plenković urging that ‘appropriate security and protection’ was provided for the march.
Trans rights are human rights. Intersex rights are human rights. Visibility matters. The first Balkans Trans Intersex March symbolizes all of this, and more: All of us at @amnesty stand with you. In solidarity ✊ https://t.co/v4qAmgxRxd #balkanskitransintermarš pic.twitter.com/zzQfGC9Aeb
— Fotis Filippou (@Fotis_Filippou) March 28, 2019
Work still to be done
Croatia’s LGBTI community has seen progress in rights in recent years.
A significant milestone took place in 2014, where same-sex couples were able to legally register as ‘life partners’.
This allows same-sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples on certain matters, including property, inheritance, tax, health and social insurance.
However, the LGBTI community continues to face issues of discrimination and persecution in their home country.
A 2018 World Bank survey found that 56 percent of LGBTI respondents in Croatia had experienced harassment in the past five years,
A separate survey showed that 90 percent of LGBTI hate crime victims in Croatia do not file reports with the authorities. Many cite lack of trust in the legal system and with the police, Amnesty said.
In February 2017, hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Zagreb in solidarity with the LGBTI community after a tear gas canister was released in a local gay club.