The Croatian Government voted on Friday to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, widely known as the Istanbul Convention – and thousands, egged on by the Catholic Church, gathered to protest, saying the move would pave the way to same-sex marriage and will give rights to transgender people.
Ahead of a huge rally against the convention last month, top Croatian Catholic Church clergy said that all those who support the Istanbul Convention should no longer be considered believers.
The Catholic Church in Croatia, to which nearly 90 percent of the country’s 4.2 million people belong, labeled the convention a “heresy.”
To placate critics, the government issued a statement saying the treaty would not change Croatia’s legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
A second rally attended by some 10,000 people opposed to the convention took place on Thursday.
Speakers at the March, 2018, rally on Zagreb’s Bana Jelacica square blasted the EU for allegedly wanting to “conquer” Croatia with its liberal policies. Several placards with photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel were crossed out.
Said Gordana Turic, a former ruling party lawmaker.
They say we are backward because we believe in God. The Istanbul convention is against Christianity.
Their slogans and placards focused on Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, above, and his government, which they accused of rejecting more conservative voters’ views as well as succumbing to pressures from Brussels.
Protesters claim that the Convention will tamper with Croatian and Catholic traditions and beliefs, especially in its mention of gender. Protesters claim that there is no difference between sex and gender, and that the Convention is secretively introducing “gender ideology” into the Croatian legal and educational system
Other well-known right-wing figures also joined the rally, including Zeljka Markic, above, head of the conservative NGO In the Name of the Family, which successfully triggered a 2013 referendum on marriage.
The referendum ended with the majority of voters opting for the constitutional definition of marriage as strictly a union between a man and a woman.
Since joining the EU in 2013, Croatia’s population has been drifting toward the far right, including some who deny the Holocaust and have reappraised the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha regime that ruled the country during the Second World War.