Gay Watch: Croatia

A onetime Yugoslav republic embraces equality via one of Europe's most sweeping sets of LGBT rights laws. It's a shame too few of its gay citizens are out enough to put them to use much.




While Croatia is widely considered a safe gay destination, several incidents of queer tourist bashing were reported in the Split area in 2006, leaving one British man with a concussion, another with part of his ear bitten off, and a German with his nose broken. A group of Spanish lesbians were also attacked after allegedly kissing on a public beach; the next year, the same beach sprouted homespun signs cautioning "No Gays."

"Nevertheless, in most of the popular tourist destinations and on the islands there are gay and gay-friendly beaches, and the local population is usually OK with us," assures Jurcic. "Tourism is the key Croatian industry, and any kind of hate crime to tourists can become a great national scandal."

Accordingly, 2006 also saw the passage of Croatian hate-crimes legislation, the first of its kind in Europe, which was first applied the following year to a man who attempted to hurl five Molotov cocktails into the 2007 Zagreb Pride crowd. While pride events since have been safer, counterdemonstrators still show up in force, and this year even reportedly used Web tools like Facebook to organize.

"Invitations to kill all the [pride] organizers, along with our photos, appeared on a 'white power' website," says Franko Dota, a Zagreb-based master's student in LGBT history and Italian media correspondent. "They posted a YouTube video calling for the destruction of LGBTIQ people, and showing neo-Nazi rallies in Eastern Europe."

Dota says that while 2009's pride was violence-free (save for the stray volleys of empty beer cans and old mobile phones), police did nothing to quiet the mostly neo-Nazi antigay demonstrators, who yelled such charming slogans as "Into concentration camps with the faggots!"

Tags: Travel