There have been reports that a law that would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been withdrawn by the Serbian government due to pressure from religious bodies.

Human Rights Watch responded with a letter to the vice-prime minister for European integration, Bozidar Delic calling for Serbia’s government to ensure that the anti-discrimination law is passed.

Media reports in Serbia have said the law was withdrawn because of a last-minute objection by the Serbian Orthodox Church and other religious denominations to two of its provisions – one prohibiting discrimination based on religion, and the other barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Serbia has committed itself internationally to ending all forms of discrimination,” said Boris O. Dittrich, advocacy director in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.

“Serbia’s parliament needs to act on this and quickly resume consideration of the draft bill.”

The government suspended consideration of the draft bill, even though the parliament’s committee on European integration had already approved it. This was the first effort in parliament to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

Nongovernmental organisations have documented the existence of both discrimination and violence in Serbia based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In January, the Gay Straight Alliance in Belgrade, a human rights organisation focusing on the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons, published a report on such abuses.

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