While the most visible part of the work Ljubljana Pride (Društvo Parada Ponosa) does is the annual parade, which comes at the end of a few weeks of activities, the group works all year to make everyone feel at home in Slovenia. One of its current projects it the Culture of Humiliation, which I first came across on the related Facebook page. Curious to learn more, and to help spread word of the project, I sent some questions to Mateja Morić, who was kind enough to reply.
What problems does the Culture of Humiliation project want to address?
This project is aimed at a quite specific target group – young LGBTIQ+ individuals who experienced some form of (cyber)bullying. That group faces serious challenges but lacks institutional support in Slovenia. The reality of the Slovene context is that there is a big stigma around LGBTIQ+ identities, and LGBTIQ+ people are faced with institutional discrimination and oppression. Furthermore, discussion about (cyber)bullying is not recognised as important by the general public, and there are no systematic and strategic support or attempts to tackle it; it is not even recognised as a big problem.
"Abuse is easily internalised when you're young and it's all you've ever known"
How common is such bullying is such bullying in Slovenia?
Research conducted in 2017 showed that its very widespread: most of the young LGBTIQ+ people questioned faced violence and/or discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity from peers during their education, and in almost same percentage the institutional responses to such attacks failed. Such stories are also reflected when talking to other members of the LGBTIQ+ community.
Usually it starts in the form of so-called micro aggressions. Using hateful language, comments rooted in misogyny and sexism, racism… Most of the time this behaviour is normalised and not looked at as anything special, and then it slowly progresses. The thing is, if you don’t react at this first level then you’re silently giving the attackers permission to proceed. Which they usually do.
How are schools dealing with the problem?
Schools are not ready to tackle it, especially if we’re talking about any kind of violence based on someone’s (perceived) sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression. LGBTIQ+ identities are still mostly taboo in schools, and the support young people get there depends on the support they get from their friends, and sometimes a teacher who will try to help.
"I suppose what gave me the inspiration to draw this picture is the idea that love should always prevail in the end. It’s hard to stay positive when you’ve got so much negativity surrounding you all the time, whether it’s at school, at work, or at home and it’s definitely hard to not give back the same hate that you receive. But there is bravery in staying soft in a world full of hate. Being bullied may have given me thicker skin but it did not make me hard. It did, however, make me well aware of how words can hurt a person but also of how they can raise a person up. And I’d pick making someone smile over making them insecure any day. Because at the end of the day, it feels so good to be good". Anna Marie Strmecki
How does the Culture of Humiliation try to help?
This project empowers young people to express themselves through art, opening the possibility to not only offer them art as a method which might help them to deal with their own experience of violence, but also opportunities to influence and help others by promoting the strong anti-violence messages. Art is the most powerful media, because anyone can use it to express themselves; it is a language everyone understands. Also, art shows the emotions, the state of the person who created it. It is personal and intimate – making it easier for others to empathize with the cause presented. It builds understanding on a completely different level.
Another very important step in that process is inclusion of LGBTIQ+ youth – supporting them, giving them the independence they so often lack and offering them a powerful tool. By including LGBTIQ+ youth to tackle the challenges that are happening to young people in general, we are giving them space in society where their values, skills and needs are recognized and appreciated. Also, by aiming at such a specific and challenged group, we put focus on their inclusiveness and diversity – by giving them a voice.
After working on this project for a few years now, we have realized that nothing makes people more interested in a new topic than hearing about it from a personal experience. A personal story allows them to connect with someone and put themselves in their shoes. Storytelling allows us to do just that, and to open diverse new topics in a way that is accessible to our audience and allows them to be touched by our stories. So this year, based on the idea of our volunteers and people active on the original project, we decided to expand our project in one more direction: empower young LGBTIQ+ people to tell their own stories through the use of storytelling techniques.
Where can people see the exhibitions?
Over the last two years, an exhibition featuring the art of Daniel Arzola and Anthony Karadzoski, two amazing artivists we collaborated with (the latter being an initiator of the Culture of Humiliation project) has been set up in numerous places: youth centres, schools and gallery spaces around Slovenia.
The second exhibition, that came as an upgrade of the original idea, featured exhibits made by local LGBTIQ+ young people, and had its official opening during the Ljubljana Pride Festival 2019, in the Glass Atrium at the City Hall. From September onwards, this exhibition will also be available for travelling, with the preference to exhibit it in spaces where young people meet, as they are the one who it is at for.
Can you say something about the online part of the project?
The online part we use for showcasing the art of the LGBTIQ+ youth and raising awareness of the general public. We are currently introducing the young LGBTIQ+ artists whose art was featured on the last exhibition in our Culture of Humiliation fb page. There is also a project website, www.cultureofhumiliation.org, where you can read more about the background of the project and its beginnings, get to know more about bullying and get support if you need it.
How can people get involved?
If you are an LGBTIQ+ person, you can still apply to join the storytelling training we are organising in August, between 22nd and 25th in beautiful Rakov Škocjan (the application deadline is 15th Auustg). We will explore into different topics that concern us, such as bullying, family rejection, and discrimination based on gender/sexuality, but also exploring our identities, coming out, community, working and volunteering for LGBTIQ+ organizations, or anything else people want to share. The training will be in English and Slovene. More information and an application can be found here.
STA, 30 June 2019 - The first ever Pride Parade was held in Slovenia's second largest city Maribor on Saturday, with some 800 people peacefully parading the city streets to spread a message of love, equality and inclusion, according to the organisers.
As Marja Guček of the Maribor Youth Culture Centre told the STA, the attendance exceeded all expectations and the event concluded without any incidents.
The participants were addressed by Maribor Mayor Saša Arsenovič, British Ambassador Sophie Honey, Andra Camelia Cordos of the Romanian organisation Go Free, and Simona Muršec of the Ljubljana Pride Parade Association.
The speakers emphasised the importance of such events around the world in the light of the fight for equality of persons with different sexual orientations and for acceptance and inclusion of all.
Also expressing support for the first Pride Parade in Maribor was also expressed by the UEFA president, Slovenia's own Aleksander Čeferin, Köln Mayor Andreas Wolter and 19 organisations and companies from the city.
The parade was also attended by Susan K. Falatko, the new chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in Slovenia, French Ambassador Florence Ferrari, British Council Slovenia director Dragan Barbutovski and numerous representatives of the Maribor city council.
STA, 22 June 2019 - The annual pride parade will take to the streets of Ljubljana on Saturday, a culmination of a two-week festival campaigning against the culture of hate that has become pervasive in society. For the first time ever, a pride parade will also be hosted by Maribor in a week's time.
Maribor is not the only city in the region to host its first pride parade. The Croatian port city of Rijeka, Serbia's second largest city Novi Sad and Bosnian capital Sarajevo will also host their first parades this year, according to Pride Parade Association head and festival director Simona Muršec.
Talking to the press at the beginning of the festival, she said that the first pride parades in these cities will be a litmus test showing whether the society is ready to accept LGBTQ+ people as their neighbours.
This year's parade slogan is Unavoidably Intertwined, with the organisers trying to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hatred, and about negative and stereotypical portrayal of marginalised groups.
"Our lives are strongly influenced by the society and its dynamics; what is going on in the media and in politics. We've come a long way in 19 years but homophobic and xenophobic abuse, hate speech and bullying at schools remain an everyday occurrence, and this is a part of our reality as well," Muršec illustrated.
Author Nina Perger meanwhile said that hate speech, threats and insults were becoming more frequent and more intense, and were also becoming a part of everyday life.
"We are trying to encourage action and fight, reaction and connection instead of passiveness and silence," said Perger, adding that key players and institutions moved too slow to protect the marginalised groups and human dignity.
Leading up to the parade, the Pride Parade Festival featured some 30 events, including performances, debates and exhibitions.
In the week before the festival the NGO Legebitra issued a handbook, entitled Mavrica (Rainbow), for teachers and others working in education in addressing issues related to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual expression.
Legebitra head Lana Gobec said at the handbook presentation on Wednesday that LGBT persons remain targets of ridicule, remarks and verbal, psychological and physical violence in society, adding that places for the young must be safe spaces for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.
A survey by Legebitra showed some 30% of LGBT respondents said that they had been discriminated and harassed due to their sexual orientation while in school.
All our stories on the LGBT community and Slovenia are here
This year’s Ljubljana Pride Festival presents just under two weeks of LGBTIQ+ activities and events celebrating all the colours of the rainbow in the capital. It started yesterday, 11 June, and ends on Saturday 22 with the annual parade through the city that itself ends in Novi trg with speeches and live performances, before moving on into various clubs and other venues around town.
Last year the theme was intersectionality, and this year’s Pride is motivated by a further call for solidarity and mobilisation among all marginalised groups, with the aim of overcoming a culture of hate, and thus to combat the promotion of fear of and hostility towards “the other” with openness, tolerance and love.
Or as Nina Perger of the Ljubljana Pride Association writes:
With every silence and every lack of response, the line of acceptable political strategies and society building moves further in the wrong direction - further towards normalising and accepting the politics of fear and hate that are rooted in the rhetoric of the victim complex and moral panic, and of intimidation and bullying. Every time we stay silent, what is at least quietly unacceptable today becomes acceptable tomorrow.
Th full (English) program of events – with talks, debates, music, workshops, parties, a roller derby and more – can be found here, while details of the Pride March (Saturday 22 June) are here. Pride’s Facebook page can be found here, while all out stories on the community are here.
STA, 17 May 2019 - Marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, observed on 17 May, the Foreign Ministry pointed out that human rights applied for all and called for decriminalisation of same-sex relationships around the world.
The ministry noted the recent progress of ensuring human rights for the LGBTI community, but it also pointed out that in more than 70 countries, same-sex relationships were still criminalised and could result in the death penalty.
Even in countries with national legislation safeguarding LGBTI rights, the community is still facing discrimination, hate speech, prejudices or even stigma, said the ministry in its Friday's press release.
Thus, the rights of LGBTI persons are violated, including their citizenship, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The criminalisation of same-sex intimacy allows the perpetrators of anti-LGBTI hate crimes to go unpunished while encouraging intolerance and violence within individual societies, said the ministry.
Countries thus need to fulfil their obligations based on international human rights protection documents, and do their best to provide equal treatment to everyone without discrimination.
Slovenia will continue to strive at the international level to keep the issues of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the agenda of international and regional organisations, including the UN, CoE and EU.
This is in line with the EU guidelines on promoting and protecting all human rights of the LGBTI community as well as the EU guidelines on non-discrimination in external action.
Since 2016, Slovenia has been actively participating in the international Equal Rights Coalition, which is dedicated to the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons and strives to end discrimination and violence against them.
Marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), the International LGBTI Asscociation ILGA, which cooperates with the CoE, has published the Rainbow Europe Map, ranking countries according to their level of anti-LGBTI discrimination and violation of LGBTI human rights.
Slovenia ranked 20th among 49 countries, ahead of Estonia and following Hungary.
The ILGA warned that Slovenia still did not ensure completely equal marriage laws for everybody, nor did it unequivocally grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children or to artificial insemination.
The association also pointed out that the country had a law banning hate speech based on sexual orientation, but it did not have a law banning hate speech on the grounds of gender identity.
The Slovenian NGO Legebitra called for en end to violence against LGBT persons, including verbal abuse in public, discrediting of LGBT organisations, bullying, discrimination in healthcare or other institutions as well as physical abuse.
The organisation said that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia were still present in society, while LGBT rights NGOs were being targeted more frequently due to the rise of fake news.
According to them, promoting hate and violence against the LGBT community has pervaded some parties' manifestos and politicians' statements ahead of the EU elections.
Legebitra has thus urged all the parties and candidates standing in the upcoming EU elections to oppose this discrimination and to protect LGBT rights.
All our stories on the LGBTQI community in Slovenia are here
STA, 18 March 2019 - A new far-right party is emerging on the Slovenian political scene two months before the EU election, modelled on the Italian League and Fidesz in Hungary, and drawing on former and current supporters of the opposition Democrats (SDS). It is seen as complementary with, or a competition to, the SDS.
Called the Homeland League (Domovinska liga) and using the acronym DOM (home), the party has a Twitter account and has so far sent out broad outlines of its policies, centred around opposition to migrations, to LGBT-friendly policies and to EU federalism.
One tweet reads that the party sees French President Emanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European People's Party (EPP) top candidate Manfred Weber as "destroyers of the EU".
"The European spring is coming, the spring of European nations... The European spring is symbolised by the sovereignist bloc under the leadership of Matteo Salvini. The Homeland League wishes to be a part of that undertaking," another tweet reads.
The party was officially registered on 26 February, which means that it had to satisfy the statutory requirement of having at least 200 members, and is provisionally headed by Žiga Jereb, a former mid-ranking member of the SDS who is largely unknown among the general public.
Quizzed by Dnevnik newspaper, Jereb did not specify what his current relationship with the SDS is, but the paper said in a report published on Saturday that individuals who parted ways with the SDS form the core of the Homeland League.
While remaining somewhat secretive until it formally presents its programme on 6 April, the party already has some visible supporters.
One of them is Bernard Brščič, a former senior aide to SDS leader Janez Janša who works as economist for power grid operator Eles and has become a leading ideologue of the Slovenian alt-right.
A leading proponent of the White Genocide theory, which holds that brown Muslims are bent on displacing whites with high fertility and terrorism, he uses Twitter to disseminate anti-Muslim and anti-immigration messages.
He has often warned against proponents of a "multiculti" society and "negroids" invading what he says is becoming "EUrabia".
Brščič is also a staunch supporter of the Generation of Identity, the Slovenian version of the identitarian movement. He wrote the foreword to a book the group published with Nova Obzorja, a book and magazine publisher co-owned by the SDS.
Brščič has confirmed he is in talks with the Homeland League to become their top candidate for the EU election and participated in drawing up the party's platform, though he is not a member.
Quizzed by the STA, he described himself as having "unparalleled experience and knowledge of the political situation in Europe" and said he doubted the party "will have a better candidate than me."
Domovinska liga se ne vidi v EPP, ker: 1. Nasprotujemo Globalnemu sporazumu o migracijah 2. Nasprotujemo Združenim državam Evrope 3. Nasprotujemo širjenju LGBT+P oznanila v državnih institucijah 4. Vidimo Macrona, Merklovo, Junckerja, Webra & Co. kot uničevalce EU. pic.twitter.com/FlQrInASEM
Another prominent supporter is Lucija Šikovec Ušaj, a lawyer who ran on the SDS ticket in the general election but later left the SDS because she thought the party was too soft on migrations.
Šikovec Ušaj is currently the legal counsel of Andrej Šiško, who is on trial for inciting to subvert the constitutional order with a local militia he formed in Maribor called the Štajerska Guard.
She is also a regular columnist for nova24tv.si, the web portal of the TV station co-owned by senior SDS members and businessmen with close ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
She rose to prominence on social media with staunch anti-immigrant rhetoric and is currently being processed by the disciplinary body of the Bar Association for hate speech against migrants.
The emergence of the party is seen by some as an attempt to brandish the image of the SDS, which has veered far to the right in recent years, and move it back towards the centre.
Reporter, a right-leaning magazine, says in Monday's commentary that the Homeland League is "a satellite of the SDS, which appears to want to move back to the centre ahead of the election and leave the space on the right to its loudest and most controversial extremists."
The paper says this tactic could help the SDS effectively secure an extra MEP, but it argues the move could also potentially backfire.
News portal Siol similarly says in a report released on Monday that the move helps the SDS in that the new party is conceived as a "special purpose vehicle onto which the SDS will shift the most radical portion of the party."
It says this would help SDS leader Janez Janša keep a part of his base while still coming across as "more moderate and less radical and Orbanite."
According to Siol, such a move is the latest in Janša's long history of founding or subjugating rightist parties, which function as "planets that circle around a single sun following predictable orbits."
But there are also reports suggesting the party is a project not controlled by the SDS.
Commercial broadcaster Kanal A said in a report last week it had unofficial information indicating that SDS leader Janša is "very angry" at Brščič and Ušaj.
Political analyst Andraž Zorko described the new party for the news portal Zurnal24 as an attempt to consolidate the far-right base so that it could support the SDS from the fringe.
But while the move is designed to consolidate votes previously picked up by multiple parties, "it could also invariably chip off some votes from the SDS and the People's Party (SLS), if the latter plays the anti-migration card as it did in the general election," he said.
Yesterday, March 6, saw the official start of the Red Dawns International Feminist & Queer Festival, which offers several days of events, exhibitions, discussions and concerts to bring people together for art and activism. The full programme for the event, in English, can be found here, while the Facebook page is here.
One large event, not strictly part of the festival but surely related, will be the Women’s Day march that’ll take place on Friday (08/03), starting at 17:00 in Congress Square (Kongresni trg), the main square downtown that’s also home to Zvezda Park.
All our stories about LGBT+ issues and Slovenia can be found here
While there seem to be few explicit appeals to the LGBT community in the official promotional efforts of the Slovenian Tourist Board, the country ranks fairly high on this year’s Spartacus Gay Travel Index, at #28. In terms of ex-Yugoslavia this compares to Bosnia-Herzegovina at 47, Croatia at 48, Serbia and Montenegro both at 68, and Macedonia at 83.
In contrast, when it comes to Slovenia’s other neighbours Austria ranks much higher, in 4th place, while Italy is at 41 and Hungary 57.
The ranking, which the German-based organisation carries out each year, is based on 14 criteria in three categories, from civil rights to discrimination and threats, based on information from Human Rights Watch, the UN Free & Equal campaign, and reports of human rights abuses against members of the LGBT community collected over the previous 12 months.
The first category consists of civil rights. Among other things, it assesses whether gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, whether anti-discrimination laws exist or whether the age of consent is the same for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Discrimination is included in the second category. These include, for example, travel restrictions for HIV-positive persons and the prohibition of Pride parades and other demonstrations. The third category includes threats to the person through persecution, imprisonment or death penalty.
Slovenia’s 28th position is shared with Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Guadeloupe, Martinique and South Africa. The top countries on this list, sharing first place, are Canada, Portugal and Sweden, while the bottom four are Iran and Saudi Arabia (194), Somalia (196) and Chechnya (197). The United Kingdom is 4th, Germany 23rd, and the United States 47th
Gay rights in Slovenia in more detail…
Nations gain points if they have anti-discrimination legislation, same-sex marriage or civil partnerships, adoption and transgender rights and an equal age of consent. In contrast, they lose points if religion influence legislation, if there are HIV travel restrictions or anti-gay laws, if homosexuality is illegal, if Gay Pride is banned, if the locals are hostile to the gay population, or if there are prosecutions, murders, or death sentences for members of the LGBT community.
On this basis Slovenia got a total of 6 points, with the breakdown as follows
Anti-discrimination legislation: 3
Marriage/civil partnership: 2
Adoption allowed: 1
Transgender rights: 0
Equal age of consent: 1
Religious influence: -1
HIV travel restrictions: 0
Anti-gay Laws: 0
Homosexuality illegal: 0
Pride banned: 0
Locals hostile: 0
Death sentences: 0
You can read more about the report here, while you can read all our stories about the LGBT community and Slovenia here
STA, 25 February 2019 - A dentist from north-eastern Slovenia has been found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient in what is the first such ruling in Slovenia, a decision considered a key milestone in discrimination case law.
This is the first time a healthcare employee was found guilty of discriminating against an HIV patient, the newspaper Večer says on Monday about the court case that was closed to the public.
The dentist was ordered to pay EUR 2,700 in compensation to her former patient by the Maribor Higher Court in mid-2018.
The HIV-infected man saw the dentist in March 2016 and told her during the first visit that he was being treated for HIV. The dentist sent him for a dental x-ray.
The next week, when he came back for treatment, she told him he should get a new dentist. In court, the dentist claimed that she sent him away because she had only one set of particular instruments, which she could not sterilise in one afternoon.
However, both the first and the second instance courts ruled against her. The patient was eventually admitted by another dentist working at the same health centre, Večer reports.
The man reported the incident to Patient's Rights Ombudsman Vlasta Cafnik, who turned for help to the Medical Chamber but did not receive any response despite sending several emails and letters to several people in the organisation.
The patient also turned to the healthcare inspectorate, which responded that the Medical Chamber was in charge of such issues. He wrote to the chamber as well but received no answer and ultimately opted to hire a lawyer.
A mediation with the dentist was launched. It took a year before she wrote him an email, saying that she was aware that her treatment was demeaning and discriminatory.
The patient, who felt that the apology was not sincere, decided to take the dentist to court after her malpractice insurance company rejected his complaint.
She was found guilty at the first instance in April 2018. She appealed but the Higher Court upheld the first instance ruling in July 2018 and she ultimately paid the EUR 2,700 fine.
In response to the newspaper report about the case on Monday, the Medical Chamber said it was unacceptable to turn away a patient infected with a contagious disease.
"It needs to be taken into consideration, however, that such a case may affect organisation of work in the sense of rescheduling the appointment of the patient or other patients to ensure safe treatment of everyone present.
"All health staff has a duty to act in a way so as not to expose other patients to the risk of infection," the chamber said in a release.
The chamber said that it had received queries about the case from the patents' rights ombudsman in the previous term. In this term oversight was conducted with the dentist but "no departure from expert doctrine or work in comparable doctor's offices was established".
Ljubljana Pride Parade will happen on June 22 this year, and preparations for the event have already started.
To make sure everything works as it should, Pride is calling for Slovenian and foreign volunteers, preferably LGBTIQ+ people aged between 18 and 30 who are interested in LGBTIQ+ organisations, topics and politics. Legal EU residence is a must.
In return for help with organisation of the event, volunteers will get accommodation and food expenses covered, some pocket money, and other benefits. There are only 15 vacancies to be filled, so hurry and secure your place in Ljubljana this summer.