Interview for “Pobjeda” with the President of the Steering Committee of LGBT Forum Progress – Bojana Jokic

  1. A few days ago, you have been elected as the President of the Steering Committee of LGBT Forum Progress, what is the first step you will make?

 

For the last three years, I have been active within the LGBT community. I will be lead by that experience and the by the needs of the community. It is firstly important to consolidate and to form the creative team which will lead LGBT Forum Progress. New persons are now present in the organization, and therefore we will need time to adapt in order to continue with the previous good initiatives but also to distance ourselves from certain negative and unproductive practices. This is the fifth Steering committee and the third management within the six years of the active work of the organization. This fact speaks about the existence of firm connections with the community and the democratic and HR capacities of the organization. It will be challenging but I do believe in good intentions and success.

 

2.  What are the key plans for the future period of time?

 

It is most important to consolidate and to continue developing our traditional programs which are developed to the protection against discrimination, legal representation and the social protection of LGBT persons. Of course, we are working on several new things, but, I will not comment upon those yet, due to the overall professional approach. As soon as certain possibilities and circumstances become real I will proudly publish them and notify the public. It is important to establish good communication with the Government of Montenegro. This matter, especially in this year, has remained completely open. We believe it is not in the interest of the President of the Government to ignore the existence and the actions of the oldest LGBT group, and to allow that personal animosity of his colleague should be the deciding criteria. LGBT initiatives of the Government of Montenegro should be returned to Montenegro, since most of the activities are being conducted outside of the borders of our country and are being applauded to in various European capitals. This can be good, but it can also be perceived as acting. The practice against which the civil society reacted in 2011 repeats itself. But, we believe that there is the will and the readiness to lead this process responsibly and to respect the LGBT community.

 

3. How do you view the position of the LGBT community in Montenegro in a few years? Do you believe that intolerance towards gay people in Montenegro is diminishing ?

 

Serious changes are definitely happening in Montenegro. All LGBT organizations are extremely active and are dedicated to the improving of the position of this group. I would say all of this is mostly due to the LGBT, but also other organizations which support human rights of LGBT persons. The Government and the local authorities could have and need to do much more. Legal protection of the LGBT community is has had a progress. Your readers will notice that the safety is important for every citizen. There is no normal life if the fear exists. In the past year, the work of the State prosecution has been significantly improved. There was a drastic increase in the number of the indictments and confirmed charges against numerous individuals. Every day brings more confirmed verdicts and all of this helps on the long run to the to the general public to understand the conditions in which the LGBT community lives and works and it helps building supporting civic and humane relationship towards the community.There are still a lot of LGBT persons who seek their future outside the borders of this country. We understand the economic reasons of other citizens but LGBT persons exclusively leave because of the inability to live a safe and accepted manner. According to our data and we are not the only source, only since September last year, 27 gays and lesbians have left Montenegro. Of these there are six, mainly lesbian couples. . Many of them are highly educated people, skilled people who are needed  in the Montenegrin medicine, science, economy. Government, municipalities, social partners, should help LGBT persons to become accepted in the family, the neighborhood, at work, in the street. The social life of LGBT people is full of challenges, fear, and not quality. For that we have to work all together.

4. As far as I know, for the first time, a woman and a mother is the leader of the organization which deals with the rights of LGBT persons. Any comments ?

 

We are constantly changing and  historical things for the integrity of Montenegro as a civil society are happening. I am the third woman in a row, which is at the forefront of the Steering Committee of this organization. Before me there were women successful in diplomacy and sports. I have successfully studied German language and tourism. Positive changes are happening every day. For example a first gay cafe was active, which was unthinkable for traditionalist Montenegro and it close a religious temple. The LGBT shelter, because violence of an ex-husband hosted families with same-sex partners – lesbians. The final verdict due to this kind of violence was finalized, which is a new thing for the Montenegrin judiciary, which needs praising and support. Recently, the work of the first lesbian, group has started as a part of Queer Montenegro. These are all fantastic and important things to emphasize the role of women and confirm that the Montenegrin society is moving and changing. To be all that we are happy and encouraged.

 

5. Did you have a dilemma when you accepted the function of the Steering Committee President of  LGBT Forum Progress? What was the reaction of your family, do you think they will have any problems ?

LGBT Forum Progress is an organization whose mission is to establish a safe society where LGBT people are accepted. In recent years I have been active in the organization but also in civil movements. I like the approach of altruism and solidarity with others in society, and I thought that it was responsible and needed to try to be more visible and fight the future,  safer, life. In the beginning, I think the 2013/14 year, I had some, I would not say resistance, but perhaps, reserved attitudes in my environment regarding my activism. They were afraid for my safety. I think we all kind of used the elapsed time to get used to new facts and to learn about tolerance. The family, especially my wonderful parents and all, but all of my friends friends have remained by my side. They know that the fact that I came forward publicly, due to my identity, does not mean anything in relation to the kind of person am I, of which quality, knowledge, experience and character. So I am same person as the one when I was  born, which they have loved and supported over the years. Healthy, realistic approach asks the question of why would it now change in any way. Anyway I think everybody gained something in the last  decision of LGBT Forum Progress Assembly election. Those who are against the social acceptance of LGBT community can no longer talk about us as persons without families, and that we know nothing about it. Now we can lead, I hope constructive, reasoned and transparent discussion about it. The family is an important social and cultural constructs to which LGBT people also have the right.

 

7. The former management of Forum Progress announced that during this year, a Pride in Niksic will be organized. Will this be done, do you have any more specific data? What about Podgorica, will it and when will the Pride Parade in the capital, be held ?

 

We are working on the organizing of the Pride in Niksic. We are conducting serious conversations with everyone about it. The only resistance to talk about this lies within the Government of Montenegro.  I see no reason why anyone in the Government should hate me? I use this, the first public, opportunity to invite the Secretary General of the Government and Head of the Office of the Prime Minister to not be the victims of manipulation by a single individual. Before the Pride in Niksic it is important to end a legal battle to maintain it. You are aware  that the pride has been denied for three times. The process of the Ministry of Interior was also justified by the Administrative Court. The appeal proceedings before the Supreme Court of Montenegro are currently ongoing and for that that we have professional and legal assistance of the NGO “Human Rights Action”. I do not want to be recognized as  someone who affects the independent judicial power, but as a citizen and a declared LGBT activist I expect that Montenegro will confirm its commitment to democratic and free society in practice. The right to freedom of assembly is being denied to the LGBT community only in Montenegro. This should worry the political parties, free media, universities, intellectuals, other NGOs. Pride in Podgorica, which we perceive as the central one , is being organized, traditionally, by other LGBT organizations. We not only respect that but also support this, and will be partners in it. This approach will be continued and deepened.

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