A wave of liberalism has momentarily engulfed the longstanding conservative nation of Serbia. On Thursday evening, forty one year old Ana Brnabić was nominated by the nation’s president Aleksandar Vučic, who would be giving her a mandate to form a new government. This is a progressive move in the international sphere, and is even more significant in a Serbian context, as the country has garnered a reputation for its deeply embedded homophobia.

Prior to 2008 homosexuality was considered an illness in the Western Balkan country, until the Serbian Medical Society were forced to abolish the classification due to mounting public pressure. The Gay Straight Alliance published research in 2011 revealing that 67 percent of Serbian nationals still considered homosexuality as an illness, with a staggering 53 percent maintaining that it was the role of the state to actively suppress homosexuality. The Belgrade Pride parade has been suspended in the past due to the threat of violence, stemming from the 2001 violent clashes between the police and anti-gay rioters which left 78 officers and 17 civilians injured. Up until 2010, homophobic rioters continued to provoke violence by throwing petrol bombs and stones at the police and setting the Democratic Party Headquarters on fire.

The announcement highlighted the relentless advance of the meritocracy: rather than emphasizing the cultural significance of his decision, the president focused on Brnabić’s “professional skills and personal quality”, which included her hardworking nature. Many believe that the nomination is an attempt of Vučić to appeal to Western allies, which would boost their bid for European Union membership.

Whilst this move suggests improving gender inequalities and homophobic tendencies in politics, the appointment must not be overemphasized as an indicator of the civil and human rights situation in the region. Deeply entrenched social prejudices will not suddenly melt into the abyss.

Image courtesy of @eternalnomad011

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