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Anti-discrimination in Serbia: advances and challenges

February 5th 2016

While Serbia has seen recent advances in gender equality and LGBTI rights, much remains to be done for full equality for all.

Gender Equality

Serbia has launched its Gender Equality Index, based on the methodology the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has developed for EU Member States. Serbia is the first non-EU country to reach this milestone.

Serbia’s overall score would place it in 22nd position if the country were an EU Member State. With a score of 40.6 points out of 100 Serbia is almost half way towards gender equality. In comparison, the EU average is 52.9.

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While Serbia ranks among the top ten EU Member States on gender equality in decision-making, the Index highlights other areas where further efforts are needed. For Serbia, as with most other EU Member States the important challenge is to break the tradition of what are typically considered masculine or feminine professions and to make working conditions more family-friendly.

The Gender Equality Index was first launched by EIGE in 2013 to monitor the progress in gender equality across the EU and over time. The Index provides a single summary measure and allows for assessment of the level of gender equality in each of its six core domains – Work, Money, Knowledge, Time, Power, and Health. While the Index is a sophisticated statistical and analytical tool, it presents complex data in a user-friendly and easy to understand way. It is updated every two years and the third edition is forthcoming in 2017.

LGBTI Rights

The European Parliament has adopted its annual progress report for Serbia. MEPs have assessed the rights of LGBTI people there, and recommended that Serbia improve their situation.

Discrimination, hate speech and hate crime against LGBTI people, remain a strong concern for the Parliament. In this regard, the Parliament stresses its concern that the processing and investigation of such cases remains insufficient.

The European Parliament “welcomes the successful Pride March of 20 September 2015.” However, it expresses its concern over shortcomings in implementation of the country’s anti-discrimination framework, particularly referring to LGBTI people.

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights and rapporteur on the progress report on Kosovo, reacted: “Despite progress in laws and visibility in Serbia, discrimination and violence continue to make lives of LGBTI people difficult, and threaten access to basic freedoms.” “Leading politicians should show more courage to condemn hatred and prevent abuse. (Serbia has) the necessary laws in place. Now it’s time to implement them!

Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights and shadow rapporteur on Serbia, continued: “I am glad that the Parliament has again agreed that human rights, including for LGBTI people, are at the heart of the European integration project.” “Hatred and prejudice have kept too many people in the Balkans from full participation in society for far too long. It’s time for equal rights for all.”

Commissioner for Protection of Equality

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The Commissioner for Protection of Equality is an independent, autonomous and specialized state authority established on the basis of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination from 2009.

The task of this state authority is to prevent all forms, types and cases of discrimination, to protect the equality of natural persons and legal entities in all spheres of social relations, to oversee the enforcement of antidiscrimination regulations, and to improve realization and protection of equality.

The current Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Brankica Jankovic, was elected on 27 May 2015 by majority vote in the National Parliament of the Republic of Serbia. The normative framework for the work of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality consists of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the relevant international documents, and the general and the special antidiscrimination laws of the Republic of Serbia.