Bosnia and Herzegovina surpassed its neighbours with the most peaceful and the most successful first Pride March in the Western Balkans, said US Ambassador Eric Nelson on Tuesday in his blog post, adding that it was a day of pride for the entire country.
“The peace, tolerance and dignity that prevailed on Sunday were an exception, however. The Pride March is important because it shines a light on the uncomfortable truths around discrimination, intimidation, and even violence against sexual minorities and vulnerable communities,” Nelson wrote, adding that members of the LGBTI community face rejection by their families, discrimination, and threats of violence simply for being who they are.
"No one should live in fear of losing their job or of being subjected to violence just for their identity,” he said.
Praising the Organising Committee, Sarajevo Canton's government and law-enforcement authorities for facilitating the Sarajevo Pride event, the Ambassador said that even those who opposed the event can be proud for not succumbing to anger, hate and violence, demonstrating that Bosnia is capable of defending dignity and human rights for all.
Nelson stressed that “one of the clearest examples of why the Pride March is necessary is the flood of hateful comments against my sexual orientation and the longstanding advocacy of the US Embassy on behalf of the LGBTI community, including comments that members of the LGBTI community do not deserve basic human rights. Against such forces, only the strength of unity and the careful protection of hundreds of police make it safe for the LGBTI community to make their identity visible, for just one day of the year.”
He wrote that many conservative political leaders told him that Bosnia was not ready for this event, but that Sunday showed otherwise. Thousands of people reflecting the diversity of this country - people of different ethnicities, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations - demonstrated for human rights, he added.
“As I marched, several mothers approached me to thank me for standing up for their sons and daughters. Pride embodies the lessons we want to teach our children: that everyone – even those we may disagree with – deserves to be treated with dignity and has the right to be who they are,” Ambassador wrote on his blog.
But, according to him, much work remains.
“Moving forward, Bosnia needs to bring local legislation on the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly fully in line with European and international standards. It should be incumbent on local authorities, not event organizers, to ensure that all safety measures are in place, regardless of the cause for which one is marching. Prosecutors must also ensure that cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender-based identity be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” US Ambassador pointed out.
He concluded that the Sunday Pride march showed that people can do when they come together in defiance of fear and hate. The U.S. Embassy congratulated the Organising Committee and participants of the march for their strength and courage, noting that they will continue to support them.