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Lesbian Activist Lepa Mladjenovic Selected For Ann Klein Award

by Tanya Domi on December 9, 2012

in Human Rights,News,Tanya Domi

Post image for Lesbian Activist Lepa Mladjenovic Selected For Ann Klein Award

Mladjenovic is recognized for a lifetime of courageous work on behalf of women, girls and LGBT persons in Serbia and the Balkan Region, with special recognition for her work against fascism and extreme nationalism 

Serbian feminist lesbian Lepa Mladjenovic was announced  the winner of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Anne Klein Women’s Award this past week.  The award ceremony will take place in Berlin on 1 March 2013. The prize money is 10.000 €.

Lepa Mladjenovic is the second winner of the Anne Klein Women’s Award–an award that embodies the work and legacy of Klein, who was a dedicated lawyer and openly lesbian politician in Germany.  Klein had been a pioneer of feminist causes who had served as the first feminist Women’s Senator in Berlin’s state government. The prize is annually awarded to women who have shown exemplary commitment for making gender democracy a reality.

Mladjenovic  is the first openly declared person in Serbia, who emerged in the late 1980s during the same period that Slobodan Milosevic emerged  nationally as he led Serbs into a series of genocidal wars that resulted in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

“I am proud and happy to receive it in the name of lesbian solidarity in the world,” said Mladjenovic.  “This award is  sisterly heritage of  Anne Klein who was a great feminist lesbian in Germany, born in 1950 who died of cancer in 2011, active  to end all kinds of discrimination of women and specially to end sexual violence.”

Mladjenovic co-founded numerous organizations in Serbia, all feminist oriented.  Among them include Arkadia, the first LGBT organization in Serbia an its spinoffs, including Gayten LGBT and Labris; Serbia’s “Women in Black” an anti-fascist and anti-nationalist organization that employs civil non-violent disobedience, chiefly known and respected for its opposition to Serbian regieme during the 1990s when it engaged in several genocidal-ridden wars in the Balkans.

She also founded Belgrade’s Autonomous Women’s Center that  established the first domestic violence help hotline in Serbia and provides counseling to women who are victims of domestic violence, as well as workshops and educational programs to women and lesbians.

The statement of the Anne Klein jury in recognition of Mladjenovic’s work:

”Lepa Mladjenovic is a Serbian intellectual and activist campaigning for peace and human rights. She is especially committed to women’s rights and the rights of people whose sexual orientation and gender identity does not conform to majority norms. Focal points of her work are sexual political violence in war and peace, prevention of violence, and trauma work. For her commitment she has become well known far beyond the borders of Serbia and the region.”

Barbara Unmüßig, co-president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and head of the jury points out:

”Lepa Mladjenovic is an exceptional personality, combining political courage with intellectuality, as well as actual counselling of traumatised women with political lobbying and scientific research. Repeatedly, Lepa Mladjenovic has put herself in great danger. To campaign for the rights of homosexuals in Serbia one has to be fearless. Severe discrimination and the hostility of large parts of the people as well as state authorities are an everyday reality for homosexuals in the region.”

Unmüßig adds: “The Anne Klein Women’s Award is a clear political statement against homophobia in Serbia and many other countries in that it supports, by means of actual solidarity, the work of Lepa Mladjenovic and her Serbian fellow campaigners for the rights of lesbians.”

Charlotte Bunch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University:

I am very pleased that Lepa Mladjenovic has been awarded the Anne Klein Award as a recognition of the important lesbian feminist work and vision that she has represented locally and globally for over two decades.   Hers is a unique and highly influential voice among feminists and LGBT activists globally, especially coming from an authoritarian state, where civil society is often suppressed – yet she has remained irrepressible.  A critical dimension of her work has been her openness as an “out” lesbian and feminist working in areas – like anti-war activism and sexual violence counseling where this was not always visible or even welcomed.  Nevertheless, Lepa has managed not only to gain respect in this process but also to show the inter-relationship of LGBTQ oppression with other issues of domination and power.  She has demonstrated, acted upon, and taught the meaning of the intersectionality of gender, race, class and sexuality in daily life.”

Milan Djuric, Coordinator at Gayten, LGBT, Belgrade:

Lepa’s award is wonderful and so deserved. Her recognition is important for all of us in Serbia.  As Audre Lorde said: “I am not like my sister, I am my sister.”  Lepa is my sister.  Over the years I have had my doubts as we have lived through so many difficulties.  But in recognizing Lepa’s shining example– all of the difficulties have really served its purpose. She is always there–working on behalf of our Roma neighbors, of LGBT persons and for women.  Wherever she is–in her apartment, which has served as a center for help and assistance.  What is really wonderful about Lepa’s politics is that she works to heal through the SOS help line established by Gayten LGBT and changing and reforming institutions.  She has always put her life at risk–especially during the 1990s when she was the only open lesbian activist in Serbia.”

Congratulations to Lepa Mladjenovic from The New Civil Rights Movement!

Photograph of Lepa Mladjenovic courtesy of the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation

Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog.  She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia.  Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues.  She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL.  Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.




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