Law Against Discrimination is Withdrawn

The Swedish Helsinki Committee is strongly critical to the decision of the Serbian government to withdraw the proposal for a law against discrimination. In this way they are giving in to pressure from among others the Serbian Orthodox Church.

“It is completely unacceptable that the religious communities are allowed to affect the legislation process in this way,” says Goran Miletic, human rights lawyer for the Swedish Helsinki Committee in Belgrade. According to the Serbian constitution the church should be separated from the state.

The religious representatives are above all opposing two paragraphs concerning religious freedom and rights associated with sexual orientation and belonging.

“They are trying to scare people with talk about priests being forced to wed homosexuals according to the new law,” says Goran Miletic. But happily the media have been reporting about this in a very professional and balanced way.

The first proposal for a general law against discrimination was brought forth already in 2001. After the latest election in spring 2008, when a ministry for human rights and rights of minorities was formed, an intensive work was resumed to pass the anti-discrimination law.

The Coalition Against Discrimination, which the Swedish Helsinki Committee is a member of, worked out the final proposal together with the new ministry. All relevant actors in the society were invited to an open questioning about the law. No serious objections were made to the law proposal. The government adopted the law proposal and passed it on for decision in the parliament.

After pressure from among others the Serbian Orthodox Church the government has decided to withdraw the law proposal and begin a dialogue with some of the religious communities. This decision has led to extensive protests both in Serbia and among international organisations. So far 106 organisations have signed a letter in which they protest any changes to be made in the law.