Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1996. Households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics is banned.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Bosnia and Herzegovina is governed by two political entities — the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. Homosexual sex was decriminalized in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) in 1996 and in the Republika Srpska (RS) in 1998, by those two entities adopting their own criminal laws. The age of consent is 14, regardless of sexual orientation (having sexual relations with a person under 14 is considered statutory rape).

Recognition of same-sex relationships

There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples on a national or subnational level. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains silent on gender eligibility for a marriage, and on a subnational scale, both entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska – limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, as prescribed by their respective family codes.[1]

Discrimination protections

The Law on Equality of Sexes, adopted in early 2003 and amended in 2009, prohibits discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation (Article 2). In the 2003 version of the Law, in light of this law, sex was defined to mean gender. Sexual orientation was not defined. Since it was amended, the Law makes clear distinction between sex and gender. Both are covered by this law. Sexual orientation remains undefined. This law is on the State level. Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is also found in the Constitution of the Brčko District, Labor Law of the Brčko District and the Criminal Law of BiH (Article 145), the Criminal Law of the FBiH, and the Criminal Law of the RS.

The Law Against Discrimination was adopted in 2009, prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual expression or sexual orientation (Article 2). This Law does not include sexual/gender identity, as it was supposed to. It is not clear what sexual expression is, nor is the term sexual orientation defined in this law either. Furthermore, while this law forbids "every encouragement and advocacy for national, racial or religious hatred", it does not forbid hate speech based on sexual orientation or sexual/gender identity (Article 4).

Subsequent to these implantations, sexual orientation has been consistently and purposefully excluded from drafts of a forthcoming anti-discrimination paragraph,[1] of which parliamentarians have stalled over for over half of a decade (though for unrelated reasons.). It is doubtful that such exclusions will be made final, considering the federation's desire for accession into the European Union, with an official bid being submitted in the eve of 2010. The European Union requires all member states to prohibit at least a minimal amount of anti-gay discrimination in order to join.

In July 2016, the Bosnian and Herzegovinan Parliament adopted a bill amending anti-discrimination laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.[2][3]

Hate crimes

In April 2016, Parliament approved amendments to the country's Criminal Code by outlawing hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The law was published in the country's official gazette on 15 June 2016. Similar bans already existed in the Republic Srpska and the Brčko District.[4]


Quite a few organizations have been working on LGBT rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Organisation Q was the first LGBT organization to register in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Organization Q for Promotion and Protection of Culture, Identities and Human Rights of Queer Persons was founded in September 2002, and formally registered in February 2004 on the level of BiH. Organisation Logos was initially registered at the end of 2005 under the name of the Initiative for Visibility of Queer Muslims (IIVQM), but shortly after changed its name to Logos and reregistered in 2006. Organization Equilibrium was registered in mid-2009 on the level of Republika Srpska, and was the first organization to work out of Banja Luka. Organization Okvir was registered in mid-2011 on the level of BiH. Organization Simosyon initiated registration in 2011. Organization Viktorija is in formation. And, the organization Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar (SOC), although not an LGBT organization, has been working on LGBT projects since June 2010.

Queer Sarajevo festival 2008 incident

Approximately a dozen individuals were attacked at the end of the first day of the Queer Sarajevo Festival. Thirteen people, one policeman included, were reported to have been injured after a large group of Islamic fundamentalists and hooligans attacked visitors to the festival. According to the organizers of the four-day event, police allowed a non-approved protest and anti-gay protestors to get too close to the venue thus endangering the participants.

The festival, organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) non-governmental organization, Udruženje Q / Organization Q, opened in the Academy of Fine Arts in the centre of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The attacks forced the organizers to make the rest of the festival a private event and to cancel it a couple of days later. Although Organization Q organized public events before, this festival was the first cultural event of this kind in history of Sarajevo.

Public opinion

According to a Pew Research poll published in 2017, 13% of respondents in Bosnia and Herzegovina support same-sex marriage, while 84% remain opposed.[5]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1998)
Equal age of consent (14) Yes (Since 1998)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2009)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2009)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2009)
Hate crimes laws include sexual orientation and gender identity Yes (Nationwide since 2016)
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


Other sources

External links