Serbian army accused of forcing out transgender officer

Military called her a threat to its reputation, says complainant
By Aleksandar Vasovic/Reuters
||Last Updated: 01/14/2015

BELGRADE (Reuters) — A rights group accused Serbia's defence ministry of discrimination on Wednesday over the forced retirement of a veteran officer whose transgender identity was deemed a threat to the reputation of the army.

Aspiring to one day join the European Union, the Balkan country is under pressure to promote greater tolerance for minorities within a society that is strongly conservative.

Egal, an activist group, submitted a complaint to Serbia's Commissioner for the Protection of Equality over the retirement in October of a transgender army major identified only as Helena.

It cited the defence ministry order as saying Helena had received a "psychiatric diagnosis" that may harm the reputation of the army. The defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, an independent watchdog whose head is appointed by parliament, said in a statement it had begun investigating the case and would issue its findings within 90 days.

Egal said Helena, who it said had recently begun the process of changing sex, had approached the organisation for help saying she had been forced out of the army having spent "almost half her life serving the fatherland.".

"Though the Military Hospital told me I am fit for military service, someone in the Defence Ministry claims I threaten the reputation of the army," the Egal statement quoted Helena as saying.

Egal spokeswoman Tamara Trikic told Reuters: "The legal position of transgender persons in Serbia is difficult. They encounter many problems related to legal matters such as securing new personal documents, employment, health protection."

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