Transgender Europe (TGEU), present at the conference “Democracy for All: Political Participation of LGBTI Persons in the Western Balkans”  in Belgrade this week, took to the occasion to call on the Serbian government to make up for lost time and to imminently begin discussions with relevant stakeholders to introduce a Legal Gender Recognition law based on self-determination of the individual which reflects the needs of the local trans community.
Where there is a lack of visibility and awareness of trans issues, political leadership is key in ensuring the smooth and quick transition from proposed laws to legal realities, and political leaders must seize the chance to actively engage with activists and NGOs during this year’s Belgrade pride events and marches. By initiating discussions about these issues with both the community and NGOs, leaders will begin to understand and recognise the particular struggles faced by trans persons in the Western Balkans.
It is indeed discouraging that Serbia is amongst the last countries in Europe to legally recognise gender identity, despite the obligation to do so under the European Convention of Human Rights. Like other EU accession candidates in the region, Serbia must implement EU law that is inclusive of gender identity specific protections, be it in non-discrimination and also for crime victims and asylum.
TGEU Executive Director, Julia Ehrt, who is participating in the conference as a speaker, commented “we hope that this conference is a sign of positive change in the Western Balkans that will move trans human rights forward in the whole region. We encourage participants to make the most of this opportunity, to advocate for laws to reflect, and respect the lives of trans people in their communities and call upon decision makers to carefully listen to civil society actors when legislating.” Ehrt also expressed the need for LGBTI persons to enjoy their right to freedom of assembly, “I hope for peaceful pride celebrations for all participants and organisers involved.”
TGEU steering committee member, and Serbian activist, Kristian Randelovic also added “while acknowledging that there has been some increased visibility of trans persons in Serbia over the past year, this will not ensure the protection of vulnerable trans persons in the eyes of the law. It is now time for laws which grant rights and recognition to trans persons in Serbia.” Randelovic also reaffirmed the need for a timely discussion in the country, in which politicians take the lead to ensure the safety and protection for all trans persons.
 “Democracy for All: Political Participation of LGBTI Persons in the Western Balkans” is a conference organised by Labris, which aims to encourage openly LGBTI leaders to become involved in democratic processes. More information on: http://labris.org.rs/category/conference2015/
 For more information about TGEU’s work on Legal Gender Recognition: http://tgeu.org/issues/legal-gender-recognition/
Proposal bill on Gender Identity by Gayten-LGBT organisation in Serbia http://www.transserbia.org/images/2014/dokumenta/BILL%20DRAFT%201.pdf
Transgender Europe is a European human rights NGO working for the human rights and equality of all trans people. More Information: www.tgeu.org
Transgender or Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.