Public Opinion of Transgender Rights in Serbia

July 2021

Serbia adopted its first anti-discrimination law that explicitly mentions sexual orientation and gender identity in 2009. This report analyzes data collected in the 2017 Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey to examine public opinion of transgender rights and status in Serbia.

There are 20,000 transgender people in Serbia, and legal gender recognition in the country requires undergoing medical procedures.
A great majority of respondents
reported not knowing or encountering a transgender person.
Younger participants were significantly less likely than older participants to be supportive of transgender persons.
Data Points
of participants reported having seen transgender people before, but not knowing them personally
have personal friends or family who are transgender


This report presents information on public opinion about transgender people and their rights in Serbia. We analyzed data from The Global Attitudes Toward Transgender People survey, Serbia panel, to provide new information on attitudes towards transgender people and their rights and status in Serbian society. This is of particular importance, because only a few studies provide information on the social position of transgender persons and their experiences in Serbia.1

There are about 20,000 transgender people in Serbia.2 They are in a particularly vulnerable position because rules governing legal gender recognition still require undergoing medical procedures. Since 1989, after the first gender-affirming surgery was carried out,3 around 8 to 10 persons annually undergo the surgery.4 According to one estimate, 80% of transgender persons in Serbia are either interested or unable to undergo gender-affirming surgery.5

The Constitution of Serbia enshrines fundamental human rights and freedoms, and its equality clause6 prohibits discrimination on any ground; however, it does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Serbia adopted its first comprehensive anti-discrimination law that explicitly mentions sexual orientation and gender identity in March 2009, which is an important milestone in securing equality in Serbia. The anti-discrimination law prohibits a wide range of discriminatory acts in all areas of life, and on any ground.7 In addition, causing and encouraging inequality, hatred, and enmity based on sexual orientation and gender identity is considered to be a severe form of discrimination.8 The law established a special civil court procedure and an independent monitor, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, who has a broad mandate to address discrimination cases.9 The Commissioner receives complaints and issues decisions, brings discrimination complaints (on behalf of victims), intervenes in legal cases concerning discrimination, initiates criminal and misdemeanour procedures, and issues general recommendations and public warnings. Many other laws also contain anti-discrimination provisions, but only few explicitly mention gender identity.10 

Apart from anti-discrimination protections, legislative changes have advanced the rights of transgender persons in Serbia. For example, in 2011 the national health insurance in Serbia was extended to cover at least 65% of the surgery costs.11 In 2018, two important laws were adopted to provide a legal basis for changing data in the birth register and for issuing new personal documents after legal gender recognition.12 This was six years after a landmark decision by the Constitutional Court, which held that the refusal of administrative state departments to change the birth register after gender-affirming surgery violates the Constitution.13 Additionally, in 2018, the Minister of Health issued a regulation that allowed transgender persons to change their gender markers before completing a gender-affirming procedure.14

Despite these legislative changes, transgender people continue to face numerous challenges in the application of the laws, such as lack of information in terms of access to rights, inconsistent practice by state authorities, misinformation provided by health professionals, or lack of processes in health institutions that affirm one’s gender identity. Transgender people also face stigma, prejudice and discrimination,15 violence,16 hate speech, and hate crimes.17 Under the Criminal Code, violence based on gender identity constitutes aggravating circumstances.18 Since 2016, many anti-discrimination training sessions for police officers were held together with training sessions for judges, public prosecutors, and police officers, with a view to improving their knowledge and skills as required for the efficient prosecution of hate crimes.19 However, the application of the legislation against hate speech and violent hate crime is still inefficient, and “there is no decisive action against the activities of racist, homophobic and transphobic hooligan groups.”20

Also, there have been delays in introducing or adopting new legislation that would improve the well-being of transgender persons and fill in legal gaps. The first draft Law on Gender Identity was prepared in 2012, but it has not yet been adopted. A new draft Law, prepared by the non-governmental organization Geten (Center for LGBTIQA People’s Rights), was presented in December 2019. It envisages speeding up and facilitating the administrative procedure for changing documents, and guarantees rights in employment, as well as family and marital life. It also prescribes the right to change name, gender, and personal identification number immediately after a person is recognized as transgender, i.e. after receiving a diagnosis of “transsexualism” as required by the law. 

Regarding marriage, same-sex unions are not recognized under Serbian law, and provisions of Family Law on extramarital unions are not applicable to stable same-sex unions. As such, there has not been any specifc ruling regarding same-gender unions that involve transgender individual(s). Amendments to the Family Law, submitted to the National Assembly at the end of 2018, recognise same-sex couples and seek to equalize their status in non-marital relationships. Additionally, a Model Law on Registered Same-Sex Partnerships was prepared in 2013 by several NGOs. While it was under consideration, the media began to report news on the Model Law in a negative manner, and the Government withdrew from further negotiations, which have not resumed since.21 As of this writing, the main policy document recognizes LGBTI persons as a vulnerable group in Serbia is the Anti-Discrimination Strategy, adopted for the period 2013-2018, and accompanied by an Action Plan.22 However, the Strategy and the Action Plan expired, and a new strategy document has not yet been finalized. 

There is little data available on the position of LGBTI people employed in the armed forces.23 Formally, military service is optional and open to everyone in Serbia without discrimination. Therefore, sexual orientation or gender identity is not an obstacle for becoming a professional soldier in the Serbian Army. In practice, LGBTI organizations believe that a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy applies in practice.24 Moreover, if the prevailing interest in society, expressed by key policymakers, is to promote inclusion of LGBTI persons within institutions, the hierarchical nature of police and the military suggests that it will likely happen in practice.25 However, LGBTI persons believe that there is no real intention and ability to integrate them within the Army.26 Additionally, the Military Academy continues to use teaching materials that are discriminatory and offensive towards LGBTI persons27 and contribute to negative attitudes towards transgender persons.28 By elucidating the attitudes of Serbians towards transgender people, this survey adds to the research around transgender people in Serbia and sheds light onto their lived reality.

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Public Opinion of Transgender Rights in Serbia

The most comprehensive academic research is: Zorica Mrsevic, Transrodno lice pravde (A transgender face of justice), Beograd, Institut društvenih nauka, 2017, p. 79.

Gordana Ćosić, Biti transordna osoba u Srbiji (To be Trans Person in Serbia), Radio Free Europe, 20 february 2019, available at

“How a Homophobic Country Became a Go-To Spot for Gender Reassignment Surgery”, Vice, January 5, 2016, available at

Zorica Mrsevic, Op. cit., p. 79.

Transgenderfeed, State of transgender rights in Serbia: Trans people still hope for a brighter future, 4 January 2018, available at

Article 21(3) of the Constitution of Serbia (Ustav Republike Srbije), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia No. 98/2006, 10 November 2006.

Article 2(1) of the LPD.

Article 13 (1) of the LPD.

The most important competence is to provide opinion on the complaints. In 2019, 12 compliants were submitted claiming discrimination based on gender identity (1,6% of total complaints).

Article 5 of the Law on the Youth (Zakon o mladima), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 50/2011; Article 51 of the Law on Electronic Media (Zakon o elektronskim medijima), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, Nos. 83/2014, 6/2016 – other laws; Article 5 of the Law on the Police (Zakon o policiji), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, Nos. 6/2016, 24/2018, 87/2018; Article 21 of the Law on the Health Protection (Zakon o zdravstvenoj zaštiti), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 25/2019.

See Amendments to the Law on Helath Protection, „Official gazette of the RS“, no. 107/2005, 72/2009, 88/2010, 99/010 i 57/2011, and Amendments to the Law on Health Insurance, „Official gazette of the RS“, no. 107/2005, correction 109/005, 57/011. However, the problem of lifelong hormonal therapies and expensive drugs have not be resolved. See Samo neka je sareno – istraživanje potreba i problema LGBT zajednice u Srbiji za 2018. godinu (Just let it be colorful – research of the needs and problems of the LGBT community in Serbia for 2018), p. 43.

The Law on National Identification Numbers prescribes that if a citizen changes data concerning his/her sex, the competent authority is obliged to issue a new ID number within 15 days. Law on National Identification Number of Citizens (Zakon o jedinstvenom matičnom broju građana), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 24/2018, 3 April 2018. In addition, amendments to the Law on Registers provide for the possibility of entering data on ethnicity and a change of sex by decision of the competent authority based on the certificate of the competent medical institution. Amendments to the Law on Registers (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama Zakona o matičnim knjigama), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 47/18, 28 June 2018.

The Constitutional Court of Serbia established that denial of legal recognition of the sex change of a post-operative trans person violated the applicant’s right to privacy and right to dignity. See more on this Tatjana Papic, Right to privacy and legal recognition of gender identity in Serbia – Constitutional Court of Serbia at Work, Annals – Belgrade Law Review, 2016, no. 3, pp. 113 – 125.

Rulebook on the manner of issuance and the form of the certificate of the competent health institution on gender reassignment (Pravilnik o načinu izdavanja i obrascu potvrde nadležne zdravstvene ustanove o promeni pola), no. 110- 00-392/2018-26, Minister of health, 21 December 2018. 

In 2011, the Ombudsperson (the Protector of Citizens) produced a special report on LGBTI population in Serbia, claiming that the status of transgender persons is not adequate. Some of identified problems were: very expensive surgery costs, diverse practice with respect to entering the new identity in the registers, and obstacles in issuing new documents. Ombudsman, Special report on LGBT population in Sebia – human rights and social status, Belgrade, September 2011, pp. 14 – 18. In 2019, the European Commission requires from Serbia to step up measures to protect LGBTI persons from discrimination. See European Commission, Serbia Progress Report 2019, 29 April 2019, p. 23.

The high rate of physical or sexual attacks motivated by the victim being LGBTI is observed in Serbia (17 %), including recent incidents. FRA, A Long Way to Go for LGBTI equality, 2020, pp. 39, 41. See also the results of 2016 research on the perception of LGBTI on the reasons of being exposed to violence in Svetlana Đurđević Lukić, Tanja Jakobi (eds.), Kako reforma sektora bezbednosti utiče na ljudsku bezbednost u Srbiji: Ponovna procena uticaja reforme sektora bezbednosti na LGBT populaciju (How the Security Sector Reform Affects Human Security in Serbia: Reassessing the Impact of Security Sector Reform on the LGBT Population), OSCE, Center for Public Policy Research Center, 2017, p. 25.

Almost half of the respondents to the 2012 survey (47 %) said they avoided certain places for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed because they are LGBTI. In 2019, overall, one in three LGBTI respondents (33 %) said they always or often avoid certain places. The highest shares of respondents avoiding certain places are in Poland (79 %), North Macedonia (77 %) and Serbia (76 %). FRA, A Long Way to Go for LGBTI equality, 2020, p. 25.

Article 54a of the Criminal Code. Also, in 2016, an amendment to the Criminal Code expanded the prohibited grounds of discrimination in a criminal act concerning violation of equality to cover gender identity. Article 128, Amendments to the Criminal Code (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama Krivicnog zakonika), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 94/2016, 24 November 2016, Article 9.

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding observations on the combined second to fifth periodic reports of Serbia, 12 December 2018, para. 3.

ECRI, report on Serbia (fifth monitoring cycle), Council of Europe, adopted on 22 March 2017, p. 10. See also, the Annual Report of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality for 2019, March 2020, pp. 15, 109, 117.

Since the report for 2016, the Commissioner called for the adoption of this law.

Strategy for the Prevention and Protection from Discrimination (Strategija prevencije i zaštite od diskriminacije za period od 2013. do 2018. godine), Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia No. 60/2013.

Being LGBT in Eastern Europe: Serbia Country Report, USAID, UNDP, 2017, p. 24. More on discrimination of LGBTI persons in the workforce see IPSOS, Survey on Income and Living Conditions – Socio Economic Outcomes for LGBTI People in Comparison to General Population in Serbia, October 2017; IDEAS, GLIC and XY Spektrum, Research on the position of LGBT+ persons in the labour market (Istraživanje o položaju LGBT+osoba na tržištu rada), Belgrade, 2018.

Public Policy Research Centre, Biti gej ipak nije sasvim ok (Being gay though isn’t quite ok), availabe at http://www.

Svetlana Đurđević Lukić, Tanja Jakobi (eds.), Op. cit. p. 36.

Ibid, p. 41.

27 Ibid, p. 42.

Egal, Commissioner for Protection of Equality: Trans Major Helena has been discriminated against, available at http://