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.