Monthly Archives: May 2010

Same-sex marriage now legal in Portugal

Today is a day to celebrate, for those of us who support liberal values and believe in equality. Last December the Portuguese parliament approved a law on same-sex civil marriage, making it legal by removing the provision on the law which stated that marriage was restricted to heterosexual unions. This was a great victory, but an important battle still lied ahead: the conservative President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva was against it, and around him rallied the most reactionary sectors of Portuguese society.

They failed, however, to mobilize the population, who remained either unsympathetic or indifferent to their  ‘sacred cause’ for the defence of the traditional family values. As regards the President, he sent the law to the Constitutional Court, which then stated that it was in accordance with the constitution. A political veto by the President was, however, still possible, as in Portugal the president’s powers are wider than in most of other european republics.

Tonight the President announced on a declaration broadcast live to the country, that he has decided to promulgate the law. In his statement it’s clear that he is a defeated man. He laments the fact that a softer solution has not been chosen such as the one of creating another institution similar to marriage, as exists in states like the United Kingdom, and regretted that Portugal is one now among 7 countries in the world to have a law which gender abolishes discrimination in a legal institution.

Well, for me, I have good reason to be happy  because Portugal has now a law of civil marriage that does not discriminate between men and women, which allows same sex couples to be legally recognized as having the same dignity as different-sex marriages.

In a moment when Portugal is on the world news because of the state of its finances, and increasingly pointed as the next in line after the Greek crisis, it is great to have, for once, happy news about my country.

The approval of this law makes me proud of being a Portuguese citizen. As I have written in another post (about the cancellation of the gay parade in Belgrade last September), the way the gay and lesbian minority is treated, both by the state and by society, reveals not only the level of tolerance, but above all, an important shift in mentalities in which differences no longer bother ‘normal’ people. The evolution of the Portuguse society, in this regard, should be considered spectacular. Of course there is still widespread homophbia, and other forms of prejudice, but those will be more effectively fought now that we have this law. The fact that, unlike in Spain, the Catholic Church decided not to give active support to those opposing this law, and the fact that, unlike in Spain, the population did not respond to calls for the so-called defence of traditional family values, makes me even prouder of being a Portuguese. The difference in the way Spain dealt with a similar law tells a lot about the differences between both Iberian countries, but the way Portugal followed the steps of our Iberian brothers is a good reminder also of how much we have in common. Without the Spanish example, the efforts of those who fought for same-sex marriage in Portugal would probably not bear fruits so soon.

This is also the beauty of liberal ideas, they spread easily, as soon as we are bold enough to nurture them.

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Two multimedia projects about Bosnia:

I have recently visited the United States for a conference, where I had the chance to meet a few very interesting people, and to get to know about two very interesting documentary projects that I would like to share with my readers.

They have in common both a focus on Bosnia and the choice of the internet as their main medium. I shall leave the discussion about the potential of the internet for innovative approaches into information, knowledge and art, and go on to present the projects.

The Betrayal of Srebrenica: a Commemoration (above one of the photos, showing a wall covered by the portraits of victims, at the Women of Srebrenica office, in Tuzla) was conceived by photographer Paula Allen and social scientist Lisa di Caprio, as a documentary photographic exhibit on occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Massacre of Srebrenica, and displayed in various locations as a conventional exhibit. A website was created to display its catalogue online,  where everyone can access it, the goal with this project being to contribute to raise awareness about the genocide in Bosnia. I had already visited its website, but now that I got to know Lisa di Caprio, I thought it might be a good idea to link it here.

Balkan Express is the second project I came upon with. The website includes an essay film, ‘The Reed Trains‘, conceived by multimedia artist Amir Husak, with an essay by the writer Nihad Hasanovic; and an interactive documentary, ‘Dayton Express: Bosnian Railroads and the paradox of integration‘.

I am fascinated by this project, both by the essay film and the interactive documentary, which includes, among other things, old images of the Yugoslav trains and stations, music and videos, shown randomly on the section ‘Random Access History’; testimonies about the situation in Bosnia nowadays (including one by Jasmin Causevic, from Bihac, who blogs at Jasmin’s Heart-one of my favourite blogs), on the section ‘Future of the Past’; and a very interesting interactive map of the Bosnian railroads across entities.

With this project I got to realize, for instance, that although the train connection between Belgrade and Sarajevo has been re-establish, I will be wiser to keep taking the bus, as the railroad system in Bosnia closely reflects the de facto division of the country: every time entity lines are crossed, locomotives are changed, as is normal procedure when trains cross different countries. This project thus very clearly illustrates the challenges and obstacles facing a unified Bosnia.

In the end, what both projects combined have told me is that justice and development have to come hand in hand, for the sake of the future of Bosnia.

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