- It would only cover the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which makes up around half of the country.
The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is taking the first steps to bringing in partnership rights for same-sex couples.
It raises an issue that has already been fiercely debated in the conservative Balkan country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is made up of two partially self-governing entities, of which the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one. It covers around 51% of the country. The Federation has a population of mostly Bosniaks and Croats with a Serb minority.
Meanwhile Bosnia’s other major entity – the Republika Srpska, which has a majority Serbian population – is not considering a similar initiative.
The Federation Interior Ministry has proposed that the government moves forward on same-sex couples rights, in response to demands from couples who have married or registered their relationships abroad.
So the Federation has appointed an interdepartmental working group to look at partnership rights. Sead Lisak, chair of the group, said it would hold its first session in April.
The group will then meet with civil society organizations to discuss issues for same-sex couples. After that, it will draft legislation.
81% of people in Sarajevo oppose marriage equality
Bosnia overall offers limited LGBT+ rights. LGBT+ organization ILGA-Europe ranks Bosnia and Herzegovina 23rd out of 49 European countries in terms of legal rights.
Gay sex is legal with an equal age of consent. And Bosnia provides protection from discrimination in relation to goods, services and employment. Trans people can legally change gender. And lesbian, gay and bi people can serve in the armed forces.
Further legal liberalisation is likely as Bosnia wants to join the European Union.
Meanwhile, in recent years, the LGBT+ scene has grown in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.
And in 2019, Sarajevo held its first Pride amid tight security – the last European capital to do so. The march passed without violence, although extremist Muslims also protested in another part of the city.
Before the Pride, a poll of people in Sarajevo found 33% supported the parade, with 58% against. Meanwhile 14% of respondents supported legalising same-sex marriage, with 81% opposed.
Could the Federation become a Balkan trailblazer?
If the Federation goes ahead with partnership rights, it will be a trailblazer for same-sex partnership recognition in the region.
None of Bosnia’s immediate neighbors – Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia – have marriage equality. Indeed, both Serbia and Croatia have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile Croatia is the only one to offer same-sex couples some level of recognition. However, Montenegro is considering partnership rights although the Serbian Orthodox Church and Democratic Front party have repeatedly blocked the move since 2012.