Bosnia and Herzegovina is a society based on equal rights and opportunities for everyone. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state built by active and engaged citizens and accountable authorities.
Sarajevo Open Centre (SOC) advocates the full respect of human rights and social inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) people and women.
Sarajevo Open Centre is an independent feminist civil society organization that strives to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) people and women through community empowerment and activist movement building. SOC also promotes the human rights of LGBTI people and women publically and advocates on national, European and international level for improved legislation and policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By working on European integration issues, SOC is improving human rights in general and encouraging further the development of civil society.
Diversity: we respect and take into consideration intersectionalities, fighting multiple discrimination, especially on the grounds of sex, sex characteristics, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity;
Integrity: we are committed to transparency and accountability in our procedures and work, guided by professional standards, results we want to achieve and broad involvement of different stakeholders;
Proactivity: we identify challenges and find solutions before problems arise;
Innovation and creativity: we introduce new methods, approaches and focus areas, and are prepared for continuous learning in order to be able to respond to new challenges;
Collaboration and solidarity: we invest in long term partnerships and networks on national and international level, using these synergies to further our goals and strengthen our position within civil society;
Communication: we have established successful channels of communication with stakeholders and our target groups;
(updated in February 2016)
Advocacy, legal protection and institutional cooperation
- Established the only civil society-led LGBTI human rights violation monitoring and documentation system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which resulted in Pink Reports – annual LGBTI rights reports for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, concrete advocacy (i.a. written submissions/alternative reports, legislative and policy proposals) actions on national, European and international level;
- Representatives of the national institutions and international organizations recognized SOC as the main source of accurate information and quality legislative and policy proposals;
- Established our internal women’s rights monitoring procedures, which resulted in Orange Report – annual women’s rights reports for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (the only annual women´s rights report in Bosnia and Herzegovina published by a civil society organisation), as well as different advocacy actions on national, European and international level;
- Successfully launched changes or participated in amendments of the following laws: a) Anti-Discrimination Law (improvement of procedural aspects and clear definition of sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual characteristics as the basis on which the discrimination is forbidden), b) Law on BiH Ombudsmen Institution (proposing a model law whose parts that deal with the definition of competences, relations with civil society, and a clear recognition of sexual and gender minorities in the areas of work of the Institution of Ombudsman have been taken into the official law), c) Criminal Codes of RS and FBiH (clear definition of hate crimes, i.a. based on sexual orientation and gender identity);
- Successfully established cooperation with parliamentary commissions and state institutions for gender equality and worked with them on law amendments as well as on inclusion of LGBTI topics in entity’s Annual Operational Plans according to BiH’s Gender Action Plan. As of 2016, LGBTI rights are for the first time included in a public policy in BiH;
- Successfully led campaigns for creation of general human rights public policies, and BiH’s Council of Ministers decided that they will work on Human Rights Strategy (general strategy which is defining general aims) and on Strategy for Combating Discrimination during 2016, and we are involved in their creation;
- Launched talks on big future challenges such as legal regulation of same-sex partnerships, legal gender recognition, and creation of multi-annual Action plan for equality of LGBTI people in BiH, that need to be implemented through separate laws in the following period;
- Decisively and focused contributed to a better status of safe houses in Federation BiH, inclusion of gender sensitive language into the institutions and descending the work on gender equality at the level of cantons and local communities;
- Led and/or participated on the European level advocacy (i.a. contributions to the BiH Progress Report on women’s and LGBTI rights; European Parliament Resolutions, EU-BiH Structural Dialogue on Justice consultations and written submissions; OSCE/ODIHR hate crime report submission; monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on measures of combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity) and on international level (i.a. UPR written submissions, CEDAW Alternative Report and consultations) advocacy actions in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
- Introduced first ever human rights education of public officials in BiH about the infringements of human rights of LGBTI people (i.a. intensive training for police inspectors in 2013 and 2015 in FBiH; permanent education of 1300 police officers in 2014; intensive trainings for prosecutors and judges in 2014 and 2015);
- Started a unique yearlong training and empowerment programme (Equality Academy) for MPs, representatives of executive power and political parties on cantonal, entity and state level in 2015;
- Based on our advocacy, four police stations in Sarajevo Canton, for the first time ever, appointed contact persons for LGBTI victims of human rights violations in 2014;
- Started the only intensive informal educational programme in BiH for students of law and journalism/media sciences on LGBTI rights, in order to educate and influence the next generation of leaders and stakeholders (2012-2016).
- Highly increased visibility of LGBTI issues in BiH media by implementing different online, TV, radio and print media campaigns, giving a voice to the BiH LGBTI community and reaching out each year to more than 1,000.000 BiH citizens;
- Raised awareness of the public on LGBTI and women’s rights issues by organizing dozens of public events (i.a. Merlinka LGBTI film festival in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; theatrical reading of the revolutionary documentary drama “SEVEN” in 2013, 2015 and 2016; exhibition “All human beings are born equal and free in dignity and rights”; film screenings, discussions, exhibitions and film weekends) in Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Zenica and Banja Luka;
- Accurately informed the public about the human rights conditions of LGBTI people and women through production of knowledge as well as through promotion and countrywide distribution of publications (i.a. donations to libraries, promotions and presentations during festivals). Thus, only in 2015, we published over 30 publications that were printed in more than 15.000 copies in total;
- Improved feminist debates in Sarajevo by running the feminist lecture programme “Somebody Said Feminism?” (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016).
Community empowerment and movement building
- Provided accurate and relevant information on LGBTI rights and everyday life to the LGBTI community through the first and only BiH LGBTI info portal www.lgbt.ba;
- Offered the only specialized legal counselling and legal representation to LGBTI persons in BiH;
- Empowered LGBTI community and offered a safe place (i.a. through cultural events, monthly social events, community empowerment in Tuzla, Mostar, Sarajevo, Zenica and Banja Luka);
- Supported and led women’s rights movement development, by strengthening the BiH Women’s Network and continuing the only non-formal academic feminist programme – Žarana Papić’s School of Feminism;
- Supported the development of LGBTIQ activist groups and associations in Tuzla, Banja Luka and Mostar and their street actions. Supported foundation and work of Banja Luka Association of Queer Activists (BUKA), Liberta Mo association and Tuzla Open Centre.
Organizational capacity building and networking
- Organized and/or attended different capacity building actions related to programme developments (i.a. free legal aid, documentation of human rights violations, advocacy and lobbying, trans* rights) as well as organisational and financial management.
You can download Sarajevo Open Centre’ strategic documents:
- Strategic Plan 2013-2015 (ENG)
- Strategic Plan 2014-2017 (ENG)
2.1 Annex 1 to the Strategic Plan 2014-2017, adopted in March 2016 (ENG)
You can find more information on the links Reports, Partners, Team and Programmes.