Somewhere over the rainbow – First LGBT minister in Serbian government

On 24th April Serbia held extraordinary elections, third general elections in 4 years.  Frequency of the elections is such that it’s hard to call them extra-ordinary any more. As same parties won more or less same percentage and carriers of the lists are more or less the same as in last 15 years, it really seems that attribute of extraordinary is completely overrates.

But than, on 11th of August PM announced new government[1] and something extraordinary did happened.  As it goes in last years, we have two types of ministers. Ministers who are there by political line. We all know their names and competences do not matter that much as in every government they get to be ministers of different sector. Other group are ministers that are served to public as the experts in their sphere; whose competences we are supposed to blindly trust and everyone have hard time remembering their name (at least until the first scandal).

Ana Brnabić, despite being from the 2nd group of ministers was the one whose name got to the press immediately. She has not been yet in the office properly and her competences were already scanned within tiniest detail. Did I say competences?? Oh, sorry I meant personal life. New minister of public administration and local governance is, by the words of the Prime minister himself, member of the LGBT community.

Prime minister was on a top of the task and started casual damsel in distress defense. He explained that she admitted it to him and that she was ready to step down if it’s a problem – with the rhetoric of toddler that do something bad, who decides to admit it to the parents and hope to be released from punishment for the honesty. I guess we should all conclude how our PM is so generous and smart to put good of the government and her competences over something personal and obviously less worthy. He also added that she is LGBT but she is nice and lovely. Does this mean that others are not? Is nice and lovely opposite of what LGBT people are, so that we need to make sure that public understands that she is both?  He closed his defense by saying that he stands behind his choice (as she is the right person because he picked her and not because of her competences).

I do not want to take historical moment away. Yes, it is huge step for LGBT community in Serbia to have lesbian minister.  But as we saw on the example of women in politics, having vice-president of the government does not mean that women are now equally participating in political life.  That is why we should greet new minister and wish her all the luck in her new work, for the sake of her, for the sake of LGBT population and Serbian local governance as being her responsibility.

But we should not be deceived that this puts human rights in Serbia on any higher level.  Justice, health, education, labor still do not treat LGBT as equal, their basic freedoms are still limited and there is constant treat of different forms of violence over them. In country with high recession, soaring national debt, shady privatizations, high corruption index, limited media freedom and heavy austerity measures social rights are shrinking in their outreach and power.

Having an LGBT minister is important, however in society of limited public recognition every outed individual bears pressure of and responsibility for whole community. This means that her work in spheres of local governance is going to be under the load of her LGBT profile as well, as much as LGBT community will have now to take load of her ministerial work.

There has already been meeting with her and LGBT organizations, as one of few Governmental meetings to discuss LGBT rights. But we must name things as they are. Yes we have LGBT minister but her work lies in different domain and she has no jurisdiction over social issues. Such bridging of responsibilities within Ministries is neither feasible to her as individual, nor as Minister, nor its realistic. So until Prime minister, responsible ministries and state apparatus stand with and behind LGBT community in their black on white demands and proposal on legislations changes and investments, in at least tolerant if not solidarity based society, we should not rush to greet new Serbian government for being so inclusive and moving under the rainbow.

/Vesna Jusup 

Works with member relations at the European Green Party secretariat 

Former project leader at Cooperation and Development Network of Eastern Europe


[1] Small reminder on previous text on this blog; this government has 5 out of 20 Ministers (including PM), not event fulfilling 30% quota of women participation. By the time text is written we still do not know final convolution of the Parliament, but hopes to move step further in equal participation are very low and non-extraordinary.


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