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this story is part of the 5-9 Feb 2018 Weekly Hindsight Read the hindsight

What a children's book can teach you about homophobia in Croatia 

Lidija Pisker recommended by Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Southern Europe

This Thursday, the Croatian association of “Rainbow families“ will publish a picture book for children about same-sex families. As expected, a Catholic group criticized the initiative. 

Southern Europe Signs of the Times

Why this story matters:

politics, human rights

Zagreb-based "Dugine obitelji" ("Rainbow Families") association will publish a picture book "My Rainbow Family" intended for pre-school age children. The purpose of the book is to allow children with same-sex parents to read about such families. 

"Our families are a reality in today's Croatia and we want this story to be heard and our children to be able to read it in their native language," the group told media.

The book will be available online and distributed free of charge this Thursday. All 500 copies were reserved even before they were printed, the association claims.  

Over the last decade, LGBTI rights have gradually improved in Croatia and same-sex couples can register as "life partners" since 2014.

The progress, however, encountered many obstacles.

A conservative group "U ime obitelji" ("In the Name of the Family") oppose same-sex marriages or any other form of recognition of same-sex unions. The 2013 referendum for recognition of marriage as "a union between a woman and a man,” which was initiated by the group, raised tensions and created deep divisions among left-wing and right-wing Croatia. Hence, same-sex couples still don't have the right to adopt children. 

The innocent picture book, which illustrates the lives of families with two moms and two dads, provoked reactions of the "Vigilare" association. As is the case with "In the Name of the Family," "Vigilare" association is supported by the Catholic Church, which is one of the strongest opponents of LGBTI rights in Croatia. 

"Vigilare" asked the education minister if she will allow such controversial literature in Croatian schools. And if yes, will she support headteachers who refuse to use the picture book "in potential discrimination cases." 

"The question hides a clear political and ideological agenda," Vigilare wrote in an open letter to Croatia's education minister. 

"Rainbow Families," however, said the book was never intended to be imposed to anyone but the attention it gained served as a free advertisement.

Paradoxically, activists say, the ones who make Croatian LGBTI community relevant are clerical activists who, with their systematic homophobia and trans-phobia, remind the public of the existence of LGBTI people in Croatia more than LGBTI people themselves. 

Details from the story:

  • In 2013, a conservative civil initiative group "U ime obitelji" ("In the name of the family") initiated a petition for a referendum to constitutionally define marriage as "a union between a woman and a man.” The Catholic Church supported it. 
  • Croatia recognized life partnerships for same-sex couples through the Life Partnership Act. The Act grants same-sex couples equal rights as married couples, except for the right to adopt children.
  • The first same-sex life partnership was registered in Zagreb in September 2014, according to Zagreb Pride.
  • Joint adoption for same-sex couples in Croatia is not legal but a single person (regardless of sexual orientation) is allowed to adopt children. In June last year, an association of Croatian social workers urged the governments to adapt the laws to equalize adoption rights.

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