Traditionally conservative Montenegro is to hold its first ever gay pride parade later this week in the coastal town of Budva, organisers said Monday.
“The first Montenegrin gay parade will be held on Wednesday, July 24, in front of the walls of Budva’s old town,” a centuries-old tourist resort on the Adriatic Coast, said Aleksandar Zekovic of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) forum Progress.
“This is a good opportunity to test political will, police capabilities and the LGBT community itself,” Zekovic told reporters.
Human Rights Minister Suad Numanovic said the government would send a representative to show its support for the event but could not confirm he would attend personally.
The LGBT forum tried to organise a gay pride parade two years ago, but eventually cancelled it blaming a lack of backing from the government.
Since then, under EU pressure, the Montenegrin government has adopted a strategy to protect the LGBT community and improve their rights.
In a highly patriarchal society, surveys show 70 percent of Montenegrins still consider homosexuality an illness, while 80 percent believe it should be kept private.
Sexual minorities are largely invisible in the tiny Adriatic state with some 650,000 inhabitants.
Gays and lesbians live in isolation, in permanent fear of hate attacks and do not trust the authorities to protect their rights.
There are few openly gay-friendly bars, restaurants and hotels and they mostly meet in private homes or in the offices of the rare NGOs that deal with gay rights.
On the coast, there are several gay beaches which are largely avoided by other visitors.