Founded in 2007, Rromnjako Ilo (Roma Women’s Center) empowers and encourage Roma women and multi- marginalized women of different sexual orientation to freely make their own choices in life.
Founded in 2007, Rromnjako Ilo (Roma Women’s Center) empowers and encourage Roma women and multi- marginalized women of different sexual orientation to freely make their own choices in life. Using the framework of ‘bodily integrity,’ Rromnjako Ilo opens up dialogue on gender and sexuality in Roma communities in Serbia. Their work empowers LBTI Roma women from within the community to demand their rights to live free from domestic violence in the form of forced marriages. It advances Roma civil society acceptance of LGBTQ issues and increases engagement from state institutions responsible for protecting the rights of marginalized populations in Serbia. Rromnjako Ilo also works to have the LGBTQ movement recognize the lives and voices of Roma lesbians.
Founded in 2001, Gayten was the first organization in Serbia to acknowledge and base its work primarily on gender identity and expression. Its mission is to contribute to removing all forms of violence and discrimination toward LGBTIQ persons. Gayten’s advocacy contributed to the adoption by the Serbian Parliament of amendments to the law on healthcare, enabling body modification procedures for trans people to be covered by health insurance. In addition to advocacy, Gayten builds and empowers trans, intersex and queer communities through support groups, an LGBT SOS help line, culture and arts, education, and networking. Kris Randjelovic, coordinator of Gayten’s trans and intersex section, identifies as intersex and trans, and led the call to form Gayten’s intersex support group two years ago. Gayten is conducting qualitative research on intersex issues, and translating and publishing information to aid in the education of medical professionals, intersex people and their families.
Serbia-based Gayten-LGBT is a leader in the emerging transgender rights movement in Eastern Europe. On October 12th, organization hosted a roundtable with state institutional and international support in which they presented legal frameworks for protecting transgender rights in education, healthcare, employment, and legal recognition of gender identity. Shortly after, the Serbian government proposed policy changes that would restrict access to transgender healthcare. In late October, the Serbian Ministry of Justice and State Administration of the Republic published a draft of Law on Changes and Additions to the Law on Non-Contentious Procedure stipulating that people must obtain a court permit in order to undergo legal sex and gender identity change.
The draft legislation marks a regressive legal step in a country recently described in a New York Times article as a transgender surgery hub. Serbia attracts many from surrounding regions and Western European countries in which gender reassignment surgery is prohibitively expensive or considered controversial in medical communities. In a recent press release, Gayten-LGBT drew attention to the fact that in the more than 20 years that sex reassignment surgery and body modification have been available in Serbia, there have never been legal restrictions or monitoring of who can elect hormone therapy, have surgery, or get medical treatment. Furthermore, thanks to local and regional advocacy by Gayten-LGBT and allies, the Law on Health Care was amended last year to include provisions for health insurance coverage of these surgeries.
While many countries in the world have policies to address the legal consequences of gender reassignment surgery, requiring court permission to obtain related medical care would be historic and an unethical legal step backwards. Gayten-LGBT and the Coalition Against Discrimination also showed particular concern for the fact that transgender people and trans rights advocacy organisations were left out of the process of making the draft law. In challenging the proposed legal changes, the coalition points to Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states and a 2009 Recommendation of the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights (Human Rights and Gender Identity) which underscore the importance of efficiency, transparency, and accessibility in legal measures to change personal name and gender in legal and identification documents and the inclusion of trans people in creating and implementing policy which directly pertains to transgender communities.