A giant papier-mâché effigy of a same-sex couple, holding a doll intended to represent a child, has been burned in front of a large carnival crowd in Croatia.
The carnival took place in the town of Imotski on Sunday. It’s a tradition of the carnival, stretching back 150 years, to burn giant effigies of political figures or others in the news.
The effigies are carried through the town and then set alight. This year’s effigy was followed by a group of kindergarten children on its walk through the streets.
The doll had the face of left-wing Social Democratic Party MP Nenad Stazić. The politician has recently called for laws to allow same-sex couples to foster children.
The effigy featured two men kissing and had a rainbow-colored design on its chest, clearly marking them out as a same-sex couple.
Before the figures went up in flames, an announcer could be heard telling the crowd, “My head is spinning from this culture of death… This year, let’s set this grotesque family with baby Nenad Stazić on fire!”
Defending the stunt, one of the festival’s organizers, Milivoj Djuk of the Bako Ceremony Cultural Society, told Slobodnadalmacija: “We remain conservative, we stick to the tradition. Give your mother a baby, as the saying goes. We think it’s the right thing to do.”
Although same-sex couples are allowed to enter civil partnerships in Croatia, they lack other rights. A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was introduced in 2013 following a referendum and same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt.
Related: Croatia bans gay marriage
LGBTQ campaigners and allies were outraged by the carnival burning. Croatian MP Arsen Bauk has indicated he will lodge a complaint with the police, while local group The Rainbow Family Association says it intends to file a criminal complaint against the organizers for the crime of public incitement to violence and hatred.
“The frightening scenes from Imotski cannot be justified by carnival customs,” said the association’s coordinator, Daniel Martinovic.
“What kind of message is being sent to our children, children who nowadays in Croatia grow up with their lesbian mothers or gay fathers?
“What message is being sent to children without adequate parental care that it is okay to burn them because an adult cannot understand that someone wants to help them not spend their childhood in the home?”
Martinovic said that poking fun at powerful political figures is one thing, “but attacking the minority within the minority, and specifically those who want to specifically help the most vulnerable members of our society, abandoned children in homes, is simply unacceptable and horrifying.”