Activists and politicians across Croatia have condemned the burning of a carnival effigy, which showed a same-sex couple with their child.
The festival took place on Sunday in the small southern town of Imotski in front of hundreds of people.
The incident comes just weeks after Croatia’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to foster children as part of the foster care procedure.
President Zoran Milanovic expressed his outrage on Facebook, calling the burning a “sad, inhumane and totally unacceptable act”.
“Hatred for others, intolerance and inhumanity are not and will not be a Croatian tradition”.
President Milanovic added that the organisers of the event should be ashamed and demanded a public apology, especially as the event was witnessed by many children.
The same-sex parents’ association Rainbow Families announced that it would file a complaint for “public incitement to hatred and violence” for the “horrifying” act.
The association’s coordinator, Daniel Martinovic, told Euronews that he was “surprised” by the “declarative support” from the country’s politicians.
“We must see now if the police and state attorney react and press charges against this hate crime”.
Social Democrat MP, Arsen Bauk, also said that he would file charges against the organisers of the carnival.
The organisers of the carnival have defended the effigy, saying that they were simply respecting tradition.
“We remain conservative and attached to tradition. A child should be in the care of a mother,” one of the organisers told a local media outlet.
The burning of effigies is a satirical tradition at Croatia’s carnivals, often representing public figures or politicians.
In February 2018, a replica of Croatia’s first picture book about same-sex families “My Rainbow Family” was ceremonially burned at a carnival in Kastela.
But state official Lora Vidovi said that it was “unacceptable” to teach children that “hate is OK”.
“I don’t know how this can be fun – I find it incomprehensible, crushing and sad”.
Former prime minister, Jadranka Kosor, also tweeted that the organisers in Imotski “would set fire to all of us who are different for different reasons”.
The Constitutional Court ruling in January was hailed as a major step forward for LGBT rights in Croatia.
The EU country has recognised same-sex partnerships since 2014, and there has been a steady increase in acceptance of the LGBT community in the last decade.
But many Catholic and conservative communities in Croatia are still opposed to LGBT rights.
Daniel Martinovic told Euronews that Croatian society is “still not inclusive” and there needs to be “more public support” for Pride events.
“We see in small towns, there is still a need for a better education system and more discussion when it comes to the LGBT community and minorities”.
“We think that this comes from a place of ignorance and hate towards those things which people do not understand”.
“We really hope that the burning of an effigy in Imotski is a turning point to make people in Croatia stop and think.”