Rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Croatia

Split Pride Parade in 2019 - Croatia
Split Pride Parade in 2019 – The sign says “Trans rights are human rights”

During the last few years, LGBTQIA+ rights in Croatia have been extended. Progress and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ persons are expanding. Although many laws protect their rights, many laws in Croatia still discriminate against them.

Zagreb has a lot of LGBTQIA+ friendly places and happenings including clubs, bars, gatherings, and events. Some friendly cities in Croatia include Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Hvar, Rab, Rovinj, and Dubrovnik. More than 200.000 LGBTQIA+ tourists visit Croatia every year.

In this post, we’ve cover:

The facts are these…

Croatian acts that protect LGBTQIA+ persons

The below laws currently on the books in Croatia include protections for LGBTQIA+ community, either directly or indirectly. By indirectly, we mean that discrimination on the basis of sex is banned.

#1 Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (Ustav Republike Hrvatske)

Everyone in Croatia has rights and freedoms regardless of their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Language
  • Religion
  • Political or other belief
  • National or social origin
  • Property
  • Birth
  • Education
  • Social status
  • Other characteristics

Everyone is equal before the law. Everyone is guaranteed respect and legal protection of his personal and family life, dignity, reputation, and honor. Any encouragement to war or the use of violence related to national, racial, religious, or any other form of intolerance is prohibited and punishable.

This is what the Constitution says but, in practice, LGBTQIA+ persons are often discriminated against, humiliated, and threatened. The Constitution is a general legal act with the highest legal force in Croatia.

The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia is available here.

#2 Gender Equality Act (Zakon o ravnopravnosti spolova)

Gender Equality Act prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation and any encouragement of discrimination. The act also provides for the removal of gender stereotypes from school textbooks and media reporting.

This act is considered organic, which means that all other Croatian acts must be aligned with it.

The Gender Equality Act is available here.

#3 Same-sex Life Partnership Act (Zakon o životnom partnerstvu osoba istog spola)

Same-sex Life Partnership Act regulates life partnership of two same-sex partners and the legal effects of the existence of this partnership. This act defines the right to maintenance and the right to acquire joint property.

Anti-discrimination regulations from this act protect members of sexual minorities from discrimination based on sexual orientation or the existence of a same-sex life partnership.

The Same-sex Life Partnership Act is available here.

[Read: How to obtain a same-sex life partnership in Croatia]

#4 Anti-discrimination Act (Zakon o suzbijanju diskriminacije)

The Anti-discrimination Act covers the protection and promotion of equality and creates preconditions for the realization of equal opportunities. It regulates the protection against any discrimination including sex, marital or family status, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

The Anti-discrimination Act is available here.

#5 Criminal Act (Kazneni zakon)

The Criminal Act enables criminal protection of equality and equality of all citizens. It is the basis for the realization of many other rights and freedoms in Croatia. The law covers the incrimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation and other characteristics. Its regulations enable sanctioning discrimination.

Gender identity and gender expression are not explicitly included in this act. However, by interpreting other Croatian acts and international norms, the protection of people from discrimination based on gender expression and gender identity is possible through this law.

The Criminal Act is available here.

#6 Media Act (Zakon o medijima)

Media Act says that it is forbidden to transmit program media content that encourages or glorifies any inequality including sexual inequality or inequality based on sexual orientation. It is also forbidden to provoke any hostility or intolerance including the one based on sexual orientation.

The media must respect the privacy, dignity, reputation, and honor of citizens regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Advertising considered offensive or degrading concerning gender and sexual orientation is not allowed.

The Media Act is available here.

#7 Electronic Media Act (Zakon o elektroničkim medijima)

Electronic Media Acts says that it is not allowed to encourage or protect hate and discrimination including gender, marital or family status, gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation in audio and audiovisual media services. This also includes anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and ideas of fascist, nationalist, communist, and other totalitarian regimes.

The Electronic Media Act is available here.

#8 Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act (Zakon o znanstvenoj djelatnosti i visokom obrazovanju)

Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act define that all students must be enrolled in the university, polytechnic, or college according to equal rights regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics.

Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act is available here.

#9 Asylum Act (Zakon o azilu)

Asylum Act defines that it is not allowed to forcibly remove or in any way return an alien to a country where their life or liberty would be jeopardized due to racial, religious, or national origin, belonging to a particular social group or political opinion, or to a country where they may be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Asylum Act is available here.

#10 Civil Servants Act (Zakon o državnim službenicima)

Civil Servants Act declares that civil servants mustn’t discriminate or privilege citizens based on gender, marital or family status, sexual orientation, or other reasons that are opposite to the Croatian constitution and acts that define rights and freedom.

The Civil Servants Act is available here.

#11 Sports Act (Zakon o sportu)

Sports Act declares that sport must be available to everyone under the same rights regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics.

The Sports Act is available here.

#12 Volunteering Act (Zakon o volonterstvu)

Volunteering Act says that volunteering organizers must equally treat all volunteers regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, marital status, family obligations, and other personal characteristics.

The Volunteering Act is available here.

[Read: How to volunteer in Croatia and get residence]

Split Pride Parade in 2019
Split Pride Parade in 2019

Croatian acts that discriminate against LGBTQIA+ persons

The below acts include clauses that specifically discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people in Croatia, predominantly through exclusion of rights.

#1 Family Act (Obiteljski zakon)

Family Act denies the right to marriage for same-sex couples. According to this act, marriage is an orderly living community of a woman and a man. It discriminates against persons based on sexual orientation which means that same-sex couples don’t have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

According to this act, adoption is available only to heterosexual couples. However, all these limitations are unconstitutional and against other Croatian acts. In 2021, a same-sex Croatian couple received permission to adopt after several years of legal battles. This decision will leave an impact on other Croatian acts since same-sex couples will now be able to adopt children. We will keep you posted.

The Family Act is available here.

[Read: How to adopt a child and adoption by foreigners]

#2 Act on Protection of Patient Rights (Zakon o zaštiti prava pacijenata)

According to the Act on Protection of Patient Rights, only close family members and marital partners have the right to make decisions in medical emergencies. This means that life partners and same-sex couples are discriminated against and excluded.

The Act of Protection of Patient Rights is available here.

#3 Croatian Citizenship Act (Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu)

The Croatian Citizenship Act discriminates against homosexual persons. According to this act, same-sex partners of Croatian nationals cannot apply for Croatian nationality based on their same-sex partnership. This act considers a heterosexual marriage as the only marriage.

The specific clause says “stranac koji je u braku s hrvatskim državljanom”, which means “foreigner married to a Croatian national”. Since marriage is defined between a man and a woman, this implies that same-sex marriages would not count.

However, this conflicts with the Family Act, which can be used to argue that same-sex spouses are recognized under the law. We have requested an official decision from the Ministry to clarify if same-sex partners qualify for citizenship definitively regardless of whether they are common law, official married outside Croatia, or hold a life partnership.

Once we have an official decision from MUP, we will publish it here. If you are in this situation, our recommendation would be to pursue citizenship.

The Croatian Citizenship Act is available here.

[Read: How to apply for Croatian citizenship (hrvatsko državljanstvo)]

#5 Pension Insurance Act (Zakon o mirovinskom osiguranju)

A same-sex life partnership is not equal to marriage in Croatian acts. Pension Insurance Act excludes persons who were in a same-sex relationship from inheriting a family pension from their partner.

The Pension Insurance Act is available here.

[Read: Everything you need to know about Croatia’s pension system]

#6 National Population Policy (Nacionalna populacijska politika)

National Population Policy defines different subsidies for young married couples. However, it discriminates and excludes same-sex couples.

The National Population Policy is available here.

#7 Other acts, regulations, and laws

Other legal acts that discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community are acts, regulations, and laws that use these terms:

  • Marriage
  • Married couple
  • Spouse
  • Extramarital union
  • Divorce
  • Widow/widower
  • Family
  • Adoption

These terms often appear in acts that define:

  • Family
  • Medicine
  • Patient rights
  • Nationality
  • Taxes
  • Incomes
  • Pension
  • Inheritance
  • Insurance
  • Social welfare

The number of acts that discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community is large. The easiest solution would be to change the Family Act to allow marriage to same-sex couples. This way, other acts that include the term “marriage” would be transformed into acts that protect the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. All citizens would be equal against the law regardless of their sexual orientation.

Short list of LGBTQIA+ rights

Below is a summary of all LGBTQIA+ rights in Croatia:

  • Legal same-sex activity (since 1977)
  • Equal age of consent (since 1998)
  • Anti-discrimination laws
  • Recognition of same-sex relationship (since 2003)
  • Life partnership (since 2014)
  • Adoption after the death of a life partner
  • Joint fostering (since 2020)
  • Joint adoption (since 2021)
  • Service in military bodies
  • Change of a legal gender
  • In vitro fertilization of lesbian couples

Below is a list of forbidden LGBTQIA+ rights:

  • Same-sex marriage (since 2013)
  • Commercial surrogacy for male couples (regardless of sexual orientation)
  • Blood donation for men who practice same-sex sexual activities

Check out our other LGBTQIA+ posts


Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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