Acceptance for LGBT people is growing in the main cities, with the rural areas remaining homophobic. There exists a small gay scene around the country, which is growing, as well as a number of strong lesbian and LGBTIQ activist groups. There are a few gay clubs in Zagreb, regular gay/queer parties in Zagreb and Rijeka, and several gay friendly or gay safe spaces in Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Osijek. The situation is improving, and Croatia is considered to be relatively progressive in terms of LGBT rights especially comparing it to its eastern and Southern neighbouring countries.
First gay pride in Croatia took place on 29 June 2002 in the capital city of Zagreb. It has become an annual event since then, and even though public support is growing and number of participants is also increasing rapidly year after year, they have experienced violent public opposition. LGBT rights activists criticized government for the lack of punishment of the offenders and called this a violation of human rights. Pride held in 2006 had a regional character and it was organized in support to those participants coming from countries where the sociopolitical climate is not ripe for the organization of Pride events and where such a manifestation is expressly forbidden by the authorities. Gay pride is classified as a high-risk event being secured by several hundred policemen.
Split is known for chaos at its first LGBT pride on 11 June 2011. Around 10 000 anti-gay protesters threw rocks, tin cans, tomatoes, tear gas and glass bottles at the LGBT activists. Some of the activists and reporters were slightly injured in the riot. Marie Cornelissen, a member of the Parliament of Europe, condemned the violent protesters. The activists were led to safety, and several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, so the pride had to be cancelled. Soon after Split Pride, media led the campaign to support LGBT community, calling everyone to "march in upcoming Zagreb Pride". Four days before Zagreb Pride march organizers met with President Ivo Josipović. In a week after Split Pride, 10th Zagreb Pride march took place. Around 4000 people marched while many of the bystanders loudly supported the LGBT community. It was the biggest Pride rally in Croatia at the time, until the one held in 2012, which attracted even more participants and took place without violence. It was also reported that number of policemen securing pride was lower than previous years.
Second Split Pride took place on 9 June 2012 and it was more successful than the one previous year. Around 700 participants marched, with some of them being from foreign countries such as Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and the US. This pride enjoyed major support from the Croatian media, celebrities, and politicians. Five ministers from the government participated: Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusić, Minister of Administration Arsen Bauk, Minister of Construction and Physical Planning Ivan Vrdoljak, Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojić, and Minister of War Veterans Predrag Matić. Other notable participants include Mladen Badovinac who is a member of famous Croatian band TBF, Predrag Matvejević, Rajko Grlić, Nenad Puhovski, Damir Urban, Zlatko Gall, Jurica Pavičić, Viktor Ivančić, Ante Tomić, Boris Dežulović etc. Following a chaos of previous year police made sure that there is no violence at this pride. 911 policemen were recruited, alongside a helicopter and two Water cannons. Many bystanders showed support for the pride, while opponents were unable to approach the participants. Live stream of the Pride was broadcast by Nova TV on their website. At the same time as Split Pride took place, over 300 citizens of the third-largest Croatian city, Rijeka, marched in support for the Split Pride and LGBT rights. Rijeka is considered to be a birthplace of Croatian LGBT movement because the first LGBT association in Croatia was formed there, and some participants announced first LGBT pride in Rijeka in 2013.
There are major differences in attitudes towards LGBT rights between north and the south of Croatia, where the north is more liberal and open-minded, whereas the south is more intolerant.
Croatian President Ivo Josipović provides strong support for full LGBT rights, along with many other celebrities and centre-left political parties such as SDP, HNS, HSLS, Green List, and Labour Party. He has been one of the most prominent supporters for LGBT rights even before he became president. After he has been elected as a president he has met with LGBT associations several times expressing support. On 1 June 2012, he has published a video message giving support for 2012 Split Pride and further expansion of LGBT rights. He has also condemned violence at 2011 Split Pride, saying that it was unacceptable and that the next Split Pride should not experience same scenario.
Vesna Pusić, a member of HNS, is very popular among Croatian LGBTs, and was named a "gay friendly person of the decade" according to the votes from the LGBT community. She has been very much involved in improving LGBT rights while being a member of ruling governments. A member of SDP and a Minister for Environment and Nature Protection in Kukuriku coalition Mirela Holy has been a notable supporter of LGBT rights for years, and has participated in every LGBT pride so far. Other supporters for LGBT rights in Croatia are famous actor Rade Šerbedžija, Šime Lučin, Ivo Banac, Furio Radin, Darinko Kosor, Iva Prpić, Đurđa Adlešič, Drago Pilsel, Lidija Bajuk, Mario Kovač, Nina Violić, ex-prime minister Ivica Račan's widow Dijana Pleština, Maja Vučić, Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, pop group E.N.I etc. Hundreds of people from public life have so far expressed support for LGBT rights. A poll in June 2011, showed 38.3% citizens supported "gay prides". Furthermore, 51.3% of citizens believe that "gay prides" should not be banned.
Read more about this topic: LGBT Rights In Croatia
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