Serbia’s first openly gay prime minister joined several hundred activists at a gay pride march that was held amid tight security in the conservative Balkan country.
Holding rainbow flags, balloons and a banner reading “For change,” participants gathered in Belgrade before marching through the capital.
Many approached Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, greeting her and taking selfies.
She said: “The government is here for all citizens and will secure the respect of rights for all citizens.
“We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger, that together we can do more.”
Riot police cordoned off the city centre with metal fences to prevent possible clashes with right-wingers opposed to the march who gathered nearby.
Ms Brnabic was elected this year amid Serbia’s efforts to improve its image as it moves toward European Union membership.
Gay activists in Serbia have hailed her appointment as an important step in their struggle for gay rights, but say much more still needs to be done.
“Today we walk together and together we will stress that problems still exist and that we want to work together to solve them,” said activist Goran Miletic.
Serbia’s gays have faced widespread harassment and violence from extremists.
The first pride march in 2001 was marred with violence, and more than 100 people were injured during a gay pride event in 2010 when police clashed with right-wing groups and football hooligans.
Several pride events had been banned before marches resumed in 2014.
Yesterday, despite the hundreds of riot police on duty, marchers said the atmosphere was more relaxed than in previous years.
Ms Brnabic attended the pride march last year when she was public administration minister in the previous government of now-President Aleksandar Vucic, who has declined invitations to attend the pride march.
She is one of only a few leaders worldwide who are openly gay. The others include Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel.