Intro: Croatia has a dual ‘personality’ with its thousand Adriatic islands, picturesque mountains and azure seas. It’s also a survivor of the bloody Balkan wars where massacres and ethnic cleansing ravaged the land in the 1990’s. Narrow-minded thinking still expresses sharp intolerance toward “Gay Life in Croatia.” But time, peace and prosperity have helped in the healing of war scars while new national legislation has given first-time recognition of LGBT partnerships.
By Richard Ammon
Updated December 2012
Bright Days and Bloody Past
I arrived in Zagreb, Croatia’s capitol city, on All Souls Day (All Saints Day), a day for remembrance of the dead. In the cemeteries thousands of colored votive candle lamps created eerie yet beautiful midnight rainbows.
Croatia has a lot to remember and a lot that people want to forget. A bloody war tore through their country in the 1990’s as patriots fought to extricate their homeland from the totalitarianism of post-Yugoslavia. Thousands of ethnic Croats and Croatian Serbs shot and bombed each other finally chasing the Serbs into Bosnia and Serbia.
Along the country roads there are countless graves and markers of young men born in the seventies and killed in the nineties. Each headstone has a small oval photo of the fallen fighter—many painfully handsome–making the poignancy of their premature deaths all the more cheerless.
Beyond the graves are burned out houses, shops, barns, churches and even whole villages decorated with blackened walls, collapsed roofs and bullet holes.
But this is not a devastated country. There may be many remnant scars of the war but there is much more beauty than destruction.
In the highlands stunning Plitvice National Park encloses 16 descending lakes that waterfall into one another. The nature trail that accompanies these wonders is easily one of the most beautiful treks in Europe.
Down along the Adriatic Sea it’s easy to see that Croatia got the best of the Dalmatian coast with it hundreds of miles of seafront and countless rugged white karst limestone islands. This area has been a favorite tourist destination for thousands of years. Romans. Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians and today northern Europeans have come to enjoy the azure waters, scenic beauty, friendly hospitality and warming sun.
If only the same could be said on behalf of Croatia’s gay and lesbian citizens. For the LGBT community of Croatia the situation is mixed. Homophobia is strong however new federal laws have recently come into place.
Over the last decades Croatia has undergone unprecedented progress. Since the fall of Communism in the late 1980s and the struggle for independence and democracy in the early 1990s our life has taken on a new dimension. The gay scene has begun to develop in Zagreb and the society is moving towards liberation in its view of homosexuality.
In recent years Croatia has become a popular holiday destination for gays and lesbians around the world. Fascinated by the hospitality of its small but welcoming and friendly gay community, the clean water of the Adriatic as well as the possibility to experience some of the most beautiful scenery to be found on the European continent, they return year after year.
Homosexuality is legal in Croatia. It was decriminalised in 1977. According to the Croatian Penal Code, the age of consent is 14 for all, irrespective of sexual orientation. Since 2003 homosexual relationships are recognised in the Law of Samesex Relationships. According to this law, partners in a samesex relationship have the right to maintenance and inheritance. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is forbidden in the Labour Legislation as well as in the Law of Science and Higher Studies.
According to this law it is forbidden to discriminate against homosexuals applying for higher studies at universities. According to the Croatian Penal Code, it is also forbidden to produce, sell, import/export or by Internet propagate homophobic material to the wider public. People who do so can be sentenced up to a year in prison. It is also forbidden to present homosexuals and homosexuality in media in a degrading or discriminatory way.
The LGBT Movement
There are three organisations working for LGBT rights in Croatia; Iskorak [Coming Out] is the national gay and lesbian rights organisation. It’s the largest LGBT organisation in Croatia and unites people of all sexual orientations. Iskorak also has a local branch in Osijek city. The head-office is located in Zagreb. Kontra is a lesbian organisation in Zagreb and LORI is another local lesbian organisation situated in Rijeka city.
There are also several websites now in the country. Gay.hr is the national LGBT web-portal in Croatia and it is maintained and operated by Iskorak. Another site is Friendly Croatia, a LGBT guide site. Zagreb has its own gay website, Queer Zagreb. A recent addition is Queer Croatia. For activist updates see the Zagreb Pride site. Lesbian portals are www.crolportal.com and www.balconn.com. A site with wider range covering all eight Balkan countries is Balkan Guide.
Croatia has undergone great changes since the 1990’s and the life of homosexuals has been steadily improving since 2000. Still, as a result of homophobia, a great number of homosexuals choose not to be open about their sexuality. But in recent years homosexuals have become more visible in the media. Debates with participation from LGBT organisations have been held on national television. Both newspapers and television programmes have focused on gay issues by interviewing gays and lesbians and highlighting annual events such as the Queer Zagreb festival and Zagreb Pride.
Many important politicians and political parties have officially supported the struggle for an equal society. Even though LGBT organisations are trying to promote gay and lesbian rights by informing and educating a large number of the public, many still consider homosexuality to be an illness. In general, homosexuality is tolerated as long as it’s not obvious. People in bigger cities [Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek] have more open-minded attitude towards homosexuality while people in rural areas often view it negatively.
The LGBT Scene
There are not any ‘official’ LGBT venues in Zagreb except Rush Club that opened in May 2009. Except for Rush and some saunas in Zagreb most places in Croatia are unofficial meeting-places. LGBT people in Croatia generally meet each other outdoors in public places, which are known to be gay friendly but don’t specifically count as being gay.
During summer is the best chance to meet LGBT people by visiting some of the beaches by contacting some of the LGBT organisations. In public places homosexuals tend to act “straight” and therefore hard to “detect” while they’re much more relaxed on the gay-friendly beaches. As usual, the easiest way to make new friends is through the Internet.
Attitudes towards the LGBT population in Croatia
It is a difficult task to advocate for LGBT rights as human rights in a society which has recently experienced the change from a totalitarian to a democratic regime and was recently involved in a military conflict. Legacy of nationalism, fundamentalism in religion beliefs, militarism and machoism plays an important role inside the Croatian society. Such a legacy strongly contributes to the presence of hetero-normativity of the Croatian society, which assumes heterosexual behaviour as the one and only correct sexual behaviour.
The Croatian Peasant Party is against the legalisation of ‘unnatural’ behaviour of the gay Croatian citizens. “Human sexuality may be naturally achieved only through relations with the opposite sex.” claimed parliament member [MP] Ljubica Lalic during the parliament discussion on the Law on same sex civil union . Ljubica Lalic was not alone in her attitudes. “The heterosexual family is the basis of the society … Same sex unions may ask only for a minimum of tolerance,” stated Ivic Pasalic, president of the right wing parliament party Croatian Block in his interview to the Croatian weekly magazine Fokus.
Another MP from the Croatian Christian Democratic Party, Anto Kovacevic, claimed, “we should build a healing centre on Goli otok [Naked island – the name of the island in the Adriatic sea which, during the communist period, was a cruel prison for political prisoners] to heal those unhappy people.”
It was a big challenge for the two Croatian non-governmental organisations Iskorak Group and Lesbian group Kontra to enter the Croatian public and political space and start to advocate LGBT rights and especially the recognition of same sex unions.
Iskorak and Kontra organize the annual Zagreb Pride, which starts with the Pride Week and ends with the annual Zagreb Pride March through the streets of Zagreb on the last Saturday in June. Zagreb Pride is a political manifestation as well as a cultural event. During the Pride Week visitors can participate in discussions, forums and workshops as well as enjoying exhibitions, film evenings and parties. Zagreb Pride has been organised since year 2002.
Since then the annual parade has grown in numbers to nearly a thousand participants. See the most recent 2010 event on YouTube. The police are much more supportive than ten years ago but their protection is still needed so the Gay Pride parade also looks like a ‘Police Pride’ parade.
The Queer Zagreb festival is an April cultural festival which celebrates queer identities through art, theory and activism. The festival, which is the largest festival of this type in East and Central Europe, has been organised since year 2003. Both festivals [Queer Zagreb and Zagreb Pride] attract local people as well as LGBT people from all around the globe.
On December 1, the World AIDS day, different activities are organised by the LGBT organisations in Zagreb, Rijeka and Osijek. Local parties and other events are regularly organised during the year by different organisations and branches.
A new organisation was founded called “Kontra”. On the initiative of “Kontra” a lesbian switchboard called “SOS lesbian line” was opened. The SOS line, which is still working, provides with information and support for lesbians. Since 1997 promotional material has urged lesbians to participate in the fight against homophobia.
January 1, 1998
A new Penal Code, which equalised the age of consent for both hetero and homosexuals, was adopted by the Croatian parliament [Sabor]. The age of consent was set at 14 for all, irrespective of sexual preferences [Art. 192, 193 PC]. The idea to change the Penal Code came from university circles and was adopted during the rule of the conservative party Croatian Democratic Union [HDZ]8 August 2003
New legislation now provides gay partners the same legal rights as their unmarried straight counterparts. It is a move that has been hailed as the first step to full recognition in the country. The legislation gives same sex partners of at least three years the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite sex partners, including the right to legal regulation of property and mutual responsibility for financial support.
Daring Pride March Begins
By Richard Ammon
Croatia’s homosexual community, and especially the younger generation, is aiming to show through an active fight for its rights, and against strong odds, that one should not be ashamed or discriminated against for being gay. Reflecting this new age of courage is the now-annual Pride Parade and Festival in central Zagreb. Despite threats from skinheads and rightist protesters who rail against any form of homosexual expression and oppose all pro-gay legislation, the brave marchers have stepped out of the shadows.
The first Pride event in 2002 saw a mere couple hundred celebrants surrounded by hundreds of policemen to keep the peace. The following was reported by the BBC:
“Croatia’s first gay pride parade has taken place amid heavy security in the capital, Zagreb. Reports say the marchers, numbering about 200, were subjected to jeering and heckling from some bystanders and that, despite the police presence, a tear gas canister was thrown at them.
“The country’s Interior Minister, Sime Lucin, and several members of parliament and human rights officials joined the march. Correspondents say prejudice against homosexuality is strong in Croatia, but in recent years a few gay and lesbian bars have opened across the country.
“The group which organised the march, Iskorak (Step Forward), is responsible for launching a campaign to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples.
“The participants marched around the main square of the city before making speeches in a nearby park. Lesbian activist Sanja Juras demanded recognition and equality before the law for LGB couples. “Discrimination must be abolished and punished,” she declared to the participants and the media. Behind police lines some passers-by applauded, while others shouted abuse, including a thirteen year-old boy who shouted, “fags should be shot,” as his friends laughed. (See the mw of the 2002 Pride.)
“”Love each other and fight for your rights,” Interior Minister Sime Lucin told the marchers. “We wish to show how the Croatian society is mature and democratic and also show the positive side of sexual minorities,” said Iskorak spokesman Dorino Manzin. “We didn’t want to dance naked or flash our bare bottoms or anything like that,” he added. “We just wanted to be heard and accepted.”
“No prominent Croatian politician, sportsman or pop star has ever admitted to being gay. But the head of the lesbian association Kontra, Sanja Juras, said the march would provide an opportunity for gays and lesbians in the conservative, Catholic country to come out”. (End of BBC report)
Important Turning Point
Between the second and third Pride marches a significant step for gay rights was made. In August 2003 new federal legislation was approved by parliament allowing gay partners the same legal rights as their unmarried straight counterparts, a significant, although limited, achievement in this country where gay rights are opposed by vocal opponents or poorly understood.. The legislation gives same sex partners–of at least three years–the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite sex partners (but far fewer than heterosexual married couples), including the right to legal regulation of property and mutual responsibility for financial support.
A lengthy analysis of this legislation and the activist work behind it (‘How we Changed the Laws’) was written by Gordan Bosanac and makes a thoughtful read.
But partnerships laws do not address the long-standing Catholic, patriarchal and conservative attitudes against same-sexers in this new democracy.
Croatian gay and lesbian groups have pushed for legislation that would protect their rights and bodies, warning of discrimination against homosexuals. “Croatia has not taken (legal) measures aimed at the fight against homophobia yet,” the lesbian association Kontra (Opposite) and its gay counterpart Iskorak (Step Forward) said in a report on the rights of homosexuals in Croatia in 2002.
The groups said laws “punishing discrimination based on sexual orientation” were conspicuously absent from the books. “It is necessary to forbid any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation through the constitution and laws,” they said stressing the need that such laws be implemented “in a consistent and transparent manner.”
Gay Pride 3
The somewhat increased gay visibility of gays in Zagreb, emboldened by the new partnership law, had some effect for the better. In June 2004, about the same number of gays marched again through a small area of Zagreb again under strong—but fewer–police guard, with no violence reported.
This event was reported by One World (UK) (http://www.oneworld.net/article/view/88566/1/skon.hr) about the march:
“Between 200 and 300 participants of the Zagreb Pride gay parade gathered last Saturday on Zrinjevac and proceeded, with strong police protection, through the streets of downtown Zagreb.
“Yelling “Gay is OK” and “Love is Love” slogans, the participants in the parade promoted the rights of homosexual, bisexual and trans-sexual persons.
“The parade lasted about half an hour, after which the participants talked against homophobia and intolerance of the Catholic church and other denominations in Croatia. They stood for the right for homosexual and lesbian marriages and the right to adopt children for partners in such marriages. The establishment of advisory centres was announced, to work on the prevention of AIDS and the participants promoted the use of condoms as the best way of protection.
“At the head of the third Zagreb Pride, the participants carried the “Proud Again” banner, together with a six-meter long rainbow flag (photo at left), as well as other banners with messages such as: I love Carla Del Ponte; Get out of the closet; Long Live diversity; I am lesbian; I am a proud homosexual; Gays and Lesbians wish you good morning; etc. Citizens watched the procession walk by peacefully, although there were people who protested the fact that trams were disrupted.
“For security reasons, the police placed metal fences around Zrinjevac and on the Preradovic Square, and secured the parade itself during the procession through the streets of Zagreb.
“The spokesperson of the Zagreb Police Dept. Gordana Vulama, said to the press that Zagreb Pride passed in perfect order, without any need for police intervention. She added that only one instance of “verbal protest” was noted on the Jelacic Square.
“Vulama estimates that some 200 to 300 participants joined the Parade and added that the Police Dept sent at least as many policemen to secure the parade.
“The Head of the City of Zagreb Cultural Office, Vladimir Stojsavljevic, came to the start of the parade and said to the press that he was there as private citizen and not as a representative of the City Council and that the City Council secured 35,000 Kuna (US$5800) to the organization of “Zagreb Pride”. No politicians were seen at the parade.”
(End of One World report)
Unfortunately, progress in the city of Split, Croatia’s second largest city, Gay Pride 2011 went horribly wrong when thousands of right-wingers assaulted the gay march and overwhelmed their police protectors. The police had no choice but to take the gays away quickly and cancel the parade. It was a sad ending to a homophobic day.
View From Within
Of course public marches and federal laws don’t tell the whole story about being gay in this country. In the fall of 2004 at an LGBT conference in Budapest, I met Croatian activist Marko Jurcic, the coordinator of Iskorak who had this to say about his country in response to my questions:
Globalgayz: What is it like for a person to grow up gay or lesbian in the Croatian culture and how is homosexuality received by individual families?
Marko: Croatian society, with only four years of real democratic structure <since strongman president Tudjman died in 1999>, has not yet found a way to support equality for any kind of minority–ethnic, racial, religious, sexual or gender minorities. Being different, not Croatian, not Catholic, not white, not heterosexual, not macho means that you do not deserve to have the same equal rights as most Croatian heterosexuals.
Although this all looks like I’m describing some kind of Christian European Pakistan, things are not as bad as they seem. Our Government recently has done a lot with anti-discrimination changes in the Law, and hopefully next in the Constitution. Croatia has now <since July 2003> better laws protecting rights for LGBT than some EU states, and especially than some new EU states. However, lots of common people here are not familiar with human rights education–or education at all–so there is a lot of discrimination and street violence, especially recently when lots of people are coming out.
Being gay and being open about it in a family is a rare thing in Croatia. Lots of people are not even out to themselves. No Croatian NGO has really reported family violence to any LGBT persons, but the problem is that victims rarely report crimes. Eventually they report street violence, blackmail or similar to our NGOs, but never to the police. However, some parents are very supportive, but no group of LGBT parents has formed in Croatian. However, some parents, like mine, are very indifferent about their children’s sexual orientation and wish not to speak about it. The main reason is probably no sexual education and taboo-isation of sex in general.
GG: What are the biggest social obstacles and what has the LGBT community achieved since independence?
Marko: Since independence 12 years had passed when LGBT activism started. We had to wait ten years until the old Tudjman regime’s so-called democratic system finally ended (1999) and only then could we make some progress. Croatia has now six laws that protect LGBT people from overt discrimination. (Of course there is much silent discrimination.):
1.The Penalty code: homophobia is forbidden by this law and you can get imprisoned for up to 3 years.
2.The Labour law basically means that you cannot be discriminated against or fired from your work if you are an LGBT person
3.The Gender equality law–this is above all the others except the Constitution. All laws have to be equal and refer to this one. It basically says, and I quote: “Any discrimination based on marriage or family status, or sexual orientation is forbidden.“ All our activism is based on this law, because we try to include sexual orientation in any anti-discriminatory acts in all laws.
4. The Science and Higher Education law says that you cannot be expelled from college or university if you’re LGBT.
5. The Media law states an LGBT person cannot be discriminated against in media or be represented as inferior or disgraced.
6. Same Sex Partnership law allows same-sex partners to divide their property after they split up, or support one another one for a year after splitting. However, partners have to prove their relationship in front of the Court. They have to live for 3 years together, and they have to call people (friends and neighbors) for the proof.
However, most people still do not live by these laws and LGBT people still find public discrimination as a normal part of being a gay person. Also, the Croatian legal process is too slow, and people really do not have much trust in the justice system. The Catholic church is very hypocritical–it supports love and equality for all people, but it seems that this does not refer to non-Catholics or non-heterosexuals. It is okay to be gay, but not to have gay sex, they say because sex is only for marriage. I wonder why they don’t criticize millions of straight people who have sex before marriage?
GG: How is it for gays to meet socially and how easy or difficult is it to organize for activism?
People meet socially usually via the Internet. In all Croatia, there is only one gay bar and only two saunas. All of them are in Zagreb. Two safe spaces are provided for LGBT people to meet or spend their free time.
Activism is sort of unpopular thing to do because being out is something that LGBT people do not want to/cannot afford. Doing something for society, and not just for yourself is unpopular thing, and LGBT activism is no exception to this.
GG: Can you say how being gay in Croatia is different than in Slovenia and Hungary.
If you organize Pride parade in Slovenia, you’ll need common private security and 15 police officers. When we organize Zagreb pride, we need 10 000 anti-terrorist squad officers plus civil police! On each Pride (we had 3 of them) there were only about 200-plus participants and many more police. On the first Zagreb Pride 2002, provocateurs and skinheads threw a tear gas bomb on us. The chief of police was a participant with Zagreb Pride, but provocateurs didn’t care. The throwers were never caught.
I’m not familiar with the situation in Hungary. I spend a week there for the ILGA conference and I saw lots of bars and clubs for LGBT’s. I’ve noticed lots of men-only places, which is rare thing in Croatia. We do have some men-only parties, but not men-only clubs of bars. I find that very segregating but, it’s only my personal point of view.
Also, I see that Budapest boys are much more open and friendly than gay people from Zagreb. I couldn’t pass near someone In Budapest without being asked, “where are you from? Do you like our club?“. I come from a rural part of Croatia, but live in Zagreb now, where gay things are a little more like in Budapest. I think in Hungary they have a big scene and they have no problem with expressing themselves differently or as they are. But gay people here in Zagreb try to look as invisible or common as they can.
It is odd to think that neither Slovenians nor Hungarians have the state protections as we do in Croatia. But I find it more odd that these two countries have much more LGBT spirit and enthusiasm than we do.
(End of Interview with Marko Jurcic)
Another View From Within
The following thoughtful analysis of the current situation in gay Croatia was written for GlobalGayz by Aleks Gajsek, a member of Iskorak and editor of Gay Croatia Tourist Info web site (http://touristinfo.gay.hr/)
War and Peace
Sometimes I meet LGBT tourists (mainly Americans) who don’t know much about Croatia and who are very surprised to find Croatia to be a peaceful country without any physical scars from the war which ended in year 1995. Why is that?
Many foreigners believe that the whole of Croatia was bombed. However, when visiting Zagreb or the tourist resorts along the coast they wont find a single destroyed house. Only the area along the Bosnian and Serbian border (20% of the Croatian territory) was actually affected by the war and the majority of Croatia did not experience bombing.
People in Rijeka, Pula, Split, Varazdin and many other cities were following the war on TV–just like people in New York, Paris or London. So, most of Croatia wasn’t as effected by the war as Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia was a victim of Milosevic’s politics and his will to establish a greater Serbia so Croatia had to defend it self from Serbian aggression and occupation.
During this hostility a lot of nasty things were done to harm the “other side”. Both Croatian and Serbian individuals conducted war crimes.)
Croatia is now an ambitious country, which is changing very rapidly and is now a member of the EU and NATO.
When asked, many LGBT Croats will describe their country in negative terms. One reason is that LGBT people in Croatia are really discriminated against. But another reason is that many don’t know much about the life of LGBT people in other countries. They have nothing to compare with and cannot believe that LGBT people in western Europe or USA are also discriminated against.
There are LGBT people in Croatia that believe that there are no violence against homosexuals in the USA or Holland and that LGBT people in Sweden don’t experience discrimination. But this is all untrue! Discrimination and violence towards LGBT people are a global problem.
I believe Croatia is not more conservative or intolerant than any other European country. Croatia is a pretty “normal” European country in terms of intolerance and discrimination of LGBT people. There are countries in Europe which are more tolerant and where LGBT people are more accepted in society.
But there are also countries which are less tolerant than Croatia.
Still, one can ask oneself how come that the Gay Pride in 2002 were attacked. I believe one will find the roots to the intolerance in society in the independence war of 1991-1995.
The war in Croatia led to increased nationalism here, not unusual. The legacy of nationalism and militarism plays an important role inside the Croatian society. Such a legacy strongly contributes to the presence of hetero-normativity of the Croatian society, which assumes heterosexual behaviour as the one and only correct sexual behaviour.
The largest problem is that a lot of people in Croatia accept violence and do not protest if they see people being attacked, they are so to say, immune to brutality as a result of the war.
There are only a small number of people, mostly skinheads, who really attacks homosexuals – but a larger number of people who don’t react to this and who are not ready to stand up for human rights and respect for minorities.
When writing/speaking about Croatia one should also point out some positive changes which have occurred in the country last years.
In your article you’re writing about the anti-discrimination changes in the law and the Law on same-sex couples, which were adopted by Sabor (the Croatian parliament) in July 2003.
Perhaps you should point out that these laws actually are among the most extensive and forthcoming laws concerning LGBT people in East- and Central Europe. It is true, as Marko said in the interview – “most people still do not live by these laws and LGBT people still find public discrimination“.
However, people in other Central European countries are also discriminated but unlike these countries, in Croatia, a person who discriminate can be brought to justice with the support of the new laws.
I believe it will take some time before the laws will be used and implemented. LGBT people in Croatia first have to learn that they have new rights.
There are politicians and parties (not to mention the Catholic Church) who opposes these laws but most people in Croatia find these people and parties to be extreme.
One also has to remember that the new laws have been debated publicly (in media; television, radio and newspapers) and that the majority of the political parties support these new laws in which discrimination of LGBT are prohibited.
In many other countries in East- and Central Europe the LGBT movement are still fighting to achieve the same changes as in Croatia. Also, even though the society is influenced by the Catholic Church the Church in Croatia is not nearly as strong and important as in Ireland or Poland.
So, is Croatia really as conservative as it is said to be?
Neo-nazi Haters are Everywhere
Another thing that should be pointed out is that violence towards LGBT people in Croatia are mostly conducted by neo-nazis and skinheads (most of them youngsters).
As in many countries there are a large amount of people who don’t like homosexuals, but the spitting on Pride March participants (Zagreb Pride 2002) and violence against LGBT people in general have been executed by a minority of neo-nazis and extremists (sometimes older people with extreme values).
Reading the report of BBC (Zagreb Pride 2002) one get the feeling that the whole Croatian society are violent and that anyone can and will attack you if somebody finds out that you’re gay.
I believe Croatia is a pretty normal country when it comes to violence and prejudices against homosexuals. The Pride marches in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Stockholm (Sweden) were attacked by neo- nazis year 2003. A Pride participant in Stockholm were beeten and almost killed. In countries such as Denmark and Sweden, which we all believe to be very LGBT friendly, neo-nazis are regurarly attacking places where LGBT people meet and hang out. In Sweden 2-4 persons are killed yearly because of their sexuality.
In some countries in East- and Central (Belarus, Serbia etc.) the police force wouldn’t even care to protect Pride participants. There are also countries in which it would be impossible to organise such an event because of the intolerance of the society.
So, I believe there are not more victims of violence in Croatia than in other countries.
However, I believe this is a proof of that Croatia and the city of Zagreb have failed in combating the establishment of nazi- and hooligan organisations, rather than the public oppinion of homosexuality in the two countries.
History and Common Ties
The Slovenian public is also rather homophobic! Following comparison could be added: In Croatia it took only take three years for the LGBT movement to get the support of the political establishement and change the laws, while in Slovenia it is taking a century to achieve the same goal.
I personally believe that the culture of Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary (but also Austria) are much the same. All three countries are Catholic countries and they were all a part of a common state for hundreds of years – the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The only difference is that while Slovenia and Hungary could start their democratisation- process (right after the fall of communism in 1989/1990) Croatia had to fight for its independence.
The war for independence and aggression in Croatia led to increased nationalism which affected the attitude against LGBT people negatively. After the liberalisation of the country and death of the first president (Franjo Tudjman) in 1999 the democratisation-process in Croatia began and the country is catching up its two neighbours.
Nationalism are decreasing!
Conclusion: Gay Croatia is still on its way out. There may be new laws and the yearly Pride event but the topic of homosexuality or gay rights is far from the minds of most Croatians. Gay progress has perhaps stirred the public awareness a bit but it certainly has not shaken it.
One commentator has observed that integrating a gay awareness into the public mind in post-socialist eastern Europe is particularly difficult because of the limited monolithic thinking that ruled for two generations. Conformity was demanded, innovation was suspect. The heterosexual family was the core unit of the system and it obeyed the governing party line. Bending the rules with something as odd as human rights, and even further with gay rights was not a risk anyone was foolish enough to take.
Now, a mere half generation away from those dim communist years bending the public opinion is a glacially slow process. Creating statutes of equality will take heat and friction from LGB activists and liberal lawmakers. Melting the ice of homophobia will take even longer, but the temperature in Croatia is surely rising.