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Croatia introduces same-sex family bedtime stories

From BBC - January 21, 2018

Zrinka Znidarcic has a new picture-book for her two-year-old son, Patrik. And she can hardly contain her excitement.

"His reaction was complete delight," she says. "He just took it and immediately said: this is familiar."

The book in question is called My Rainbow Family. At first glance it looks like many other publications aimed at pre-school children - heavy on full-page, colourful illustrations and light on text.

But it quickly becomes apparent that something different is going on here. For starters, it can be read from the back or the front - as there are two different stories which meet in the middle.

And then there are the characters. A little girl with two fathers. And a young boy with two mothers.

It is the first time that a children's book in Croatia has depicted families with same-sex parents. And for people like Zrinka, who has been in a civil partnership since 2014, it is a welcome reflection of life in her family.

"We are very happy," she says. "Patrik picks his own books for a bedtime story. Since he got this one, it's always in his favourite two or three. We did not explain anything about it to him, he just took it. He says, 'I want to read the book about me, about my family'."

My Rainbow Family may be a source of joy to Zrinka and her family. But it is a direct challenge to conservative organisations backed by the Catholic Church. Five years ago, they forced a referendum which blocked the then-government's plans to legalise same-sex marriage. Now they are taking aim at a children's picture-book.

One organisation, Vigilare, says its mission is to "promote the original (natural) identity of marriage between a man and a wife in which children are raised".

It called My Rainbow Family "homosexual propaganda" and urged the education minister to ban it from schools. Vigilare did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

Senada Selo-Sabic of Zagreb's Institute for Development and International Relations says there has been a resurgence in conservative forces since Croatia joined the European Union, five years ago.

"Croatia made a mistake during the EU accession process - we silenced and marginalised everyone who did not agree with this course of action. The political parties created this image of Croatia being very liberal, progressive and egalitarian. But in reality, it was only one side of the story."

Rising nationalism

The opposition to a book featuring same-sex parents is just one of the symptoms. There has also been an increase in extreme nationalism and even incidents of Holocaust denial.

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