Introduction & Updates in National Landscape
Campaigns of Catholic men kneeling with rosaries on main city squares in Croatia continue every first Saturday of the month. But this February, for the first time, numerous counter-protests were organized by several feminist associations, the Workers’ Front, SDP, and youth associations in Zagreb and Šibenik. In Zagreb, MEP Predrag Fred Matić, who actively advocates for gender equality, also gave his support. The supporters of women’s rights achieved symbolic victory: after a while, the “kneelers” quietly withdrew without statements.
rans debate full of racism and hatred has arrived in Croatia
The manhunt for transgender people comes as a story from Zambia with an unlikely scenario gripping domestic politics and the public.
Eight Croatian citizens, four couples, were detained in Zambia in December. They adopted four children from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The court in Ndola initially decided to suspend the proceedings against them and that they must leave Zambia within 48 hours. At the airport, based on a tip, they were arrested again and sent back to prison. The court again allowed them to defend themselves from freedom if they posted bail, handed over their passports, and proved that they had a regulated residence. They were accused of the criminal offense of attempted child trafficking and falsification of documents. All four adopted children received Croatian citizenship in the appropriate procedure, but they were taken from their adoptive parents and placed under Zambian care.
The extreme right smelled blood after they found out that some of the arrested were members of the green-left Mozemo party and that one of the arrested was transgender. The web portal of the association In the Name of the Family started a crazy campaign during which it published 128 articles on the Zambia case in a month, 20% of the total content of the portal, of which 71 are homophobic or transphobic.
Former Živi zid MP Ivan Pernar leaked information to the Zambian police that one of the eight detainees was actually a transgender person, which could ultimately aggravate the further status of all eight Croatian citizens before the Zambian court. Pernar legitimized his “righteous” act in the right-wing and pro-Ustasta show “Bujica,” in which he boasted that he had submitted reports to the State Attorney’s Office for alleged falsification of adoption documents in the Congo. Its host, Velimir Bujanec, asked a Zambian journalist who joined the show by phone how the local authorities did not know they had arrested a transgender person. Of course, Pernar does not care about child victims of human trafficking because he is already known for his racism, and on February 10, 2023, he defended slave owners who whipped slaves in Martinique on a podcast.
The campaign of stigmatization of transgender people recently took place through the Parliament. The Committee for Family, Youth, and Sports, headed by Vesna Vučemilović, a member of the Croatian Sovereigns, at the initiative of the conservative association Hrvatska mati, decided right in the midst of the sensitive case of Zambia to hold a session on the topic of the increase in the number of transgender children and young people in Croatia, at which to everyone’s surprise, Željka Markić from the notorious association In the name of the family, psychiatrist Herman Vukušić and Ljiljana Dragić, president of the above-mentioned association, appeared as speakers, for whom this issue is not a narrow professional interest. After the initial fierce criticism and disagreement with the bringing of the aforementioned speakers, opposition members of parliamentary committees, as well as experts who have been working with transgender children for more than a decade, left the session, which then partially turned into bidding on numbers and moralizing that almost turned into insinuations and moral panic.
The ombudsman also warned in a press release about the danger of denouncing people. She stressed that the cases in which citizens make an extra effort to point out to Zambian institutions, the public, and the media that there is a transgender person among the detainees, thus potentially putting them in danger, given the position of transgender people in Zambia, are worrying. She called on citizens to refrain from racist and transphobic comments that can be humiliating or encourage stereotypes, discrimination, hatred, and violence, especially public figures whose opinions influence others.