For the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history, a court has determined discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Municipal Court in the capital made the decision on 4 April after activists filed a claim against now-former MP Samra Ćosović Hajdarević.
After the announcement of the first ever Sarajevo Pride March in 2019, Hajdarević issued a Facebook statement that went viral, claiming that the event was aimed at “destroying” the state and its people.
“Everyone has the right to live their lives as they like, but we also have the right to choose who we want to live with,” she wrote.
“I want people like these to be isolated and put away from our children and society. Let them go somewhere else and make a city, a state, and a law for themselves, and their own rights that no one will dispute. But not here.”
The court ruled that Hajdarević’s words were discriminatory and also said they constituted hate speech, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The former MP was found to have “hurt the right to equal treatment of members of the LGBTIQ community on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual characteristics”.
She has been banned from repeating her statement, and will have to cover court costs.
LGBT activists hold rainbow flags as they march through Sarajevo city centre, on September 8, 2019, during Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first-ever Pride parade. (ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP via Getty)
The ruling comes some 13 years after Bosnia and Herzegovina outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but is the first time a court has acknowledged such discrimination in a ruling.
In a statement for Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar, one of the organisers of the Sarajevo (BiH) Pride event, Lejla Huremović, said: “This verdict is very important because it has been proven that spreading hate speech and calling for violence against LGBTIQ+ persons in the online sphere (social networks) can also expand and affect the quality of life of LGBTIQ+ persons, or lead to physical violence.”
“This is confirmation that hate speech and incitement to violence on social networks, especially of public figures and politicians, is not permissible and can be sanctioned.
“In the spirit of this year’s BiH Pride March, which is on June 25, let this verdict be a warning to everyone that every hate speech and call for violence will be reported and that we will expect the same and similar verdicts.”
While Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have the most brilliant record on LGBTQ+ rights, it has steadily taken steps in the right direction.
Earlier this year the Federation promised to draft legislation to regulate same-sex couples’ rights.