Has the international human rights paradigm failed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? If so, what can be done to fix it?


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




Two basic human rights principles are the prohibition against discrimination and the guarantee of equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground to all people. However, these principles have not been applied equally to those who face discrimination based on sexual identity. There is still a prescribed death penalty in eight countries for homosexual behavior and homosexual sex is criminalized in approximately 80 countries. In Uganda there is an ongoing debate about a proposed “anti-homosexuality bill,” which would inflict the death penalty on repeat offenders. In Russia, Moscow, gay Pride has been banned for the next 100 years. The goal of this thesis is to explore the power and weakness of international human rights protections for sexual minorities using Serbia, a transitional country, as a case study and to recommend best practices for fostering change. I assess the situation in Serbia by analysing the formal domestic and international legal framework in comparison to the social outcomes on the ground, as manifested by four years of Pride events. Until 2010, attempted annual Pride events were banned every year due to the “high-level of risk.” In 2010, the first Gay Pride took place in Belgrade inside a ring of protection of 5,000 police officers. In 2011 and 2012, Pride was banned once again. I demonstrate that the successful 2010 outcome – when Pride actually took place – had much to do with pressure from the international community. However, it did not result in very much positive and measurable social change on the ground. My research suggests that law cannot achieve change on its own and that alternative “out of the legal box” methods are needed. I suggest creating long term educational initiatives that can generate the necessary pressure from inside the state.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International




Law, Faculty of