Serbia Pride: lesbian prime minister said on Sunday she was working “one step at a time” towards a more tolerant society, as she joined Belgrade’s annual gay march held under heavy security.

Ana Brnabic, 41, became one of the few openly gay government leaders in the world when she came to power in June, but activists say homophobia remains a widespread problem in the conservative Balkan country.

Setting off on the Pride parade with hundreds of activists waving rainbow flags and balloons, Brnabic was keen to give a more positive message, saying Serbia was “finally showing what I believe is its true face”. She encouraged gay youngsters to be “full of understanding for people who are very traditional and who do not yet truly understand what this is about”.

Although the country has various legal acts addressing gender identity and anti-gay discrimination, rights activists say that implementation is poor.