Breaking the walls: the first Pride March in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pride Marches are usually considered as the most important manifestations of LGBTI activism
and politics, either as festive and commercial celebrations or protests against violations of
human rights of the LGBTI population. The first BiH Pride March from September 2019
successfully took the form of the latter, under heavy security measures and without any
incidents in Sarajevo. Bosnia is regarded as a highly patriarchal country with strong
homophobia and structural discrimination towards its minorities and marginalized groups. In
that context, the Pride March is the most visible expression of LGBTI struggles for social
recognition and acceptance. It also illustrates the status of human rights in BiH and represents
a form of symbolic politics concerning the EU. This study aims to examine how the event was
organized, how it indicated the human rights of LGBTI persons in the country, and what was
the influence of Western Embassies and international organizations in BiH on its preparation
and staging. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the organizers, the attendees,
activists, and members of the LGBTI community in the country; 11 in total.

The analysis shows a connection between the egalitarian Organizing Committee
(activists/individuals) and the March´s claim for equality of LGBTI people in BiH society,
including a correlation between the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and discrimination
of LGBTI persons in BiH. The analysis also shows strong cooperation between the organizers
and the international community in the country.

The study concludes the March being organized as a collaborative and a multi-level project,
indicating the discrimination and homophobia through additional security costs imposed on the
organizers. Finally, the study finds the international community´s efforts as co-decisive for
March´s success