Stonewall-like Pride in Eastern Europe
Gay Prides in Eastern Europe often reminds of the Stonewall riot. While Prides in Berlin, London, Paris or Madrid are annual carnival where hundreds of thousands can take the streets and dance on floats, Eastern European Prides often need to be protected by the police where they are legal and participants need to protect themselves from the police where they are banned.
In 2004 and 2005, the Warsaw, Krakow and other Polish cities blocked gay prides to take place. The organizers of Warsaw Pride made a precedent against Poland for banning their pride at the European Court of Human Rights in 2007 and later, the March was authorized. In 2010, Warsaw staged the EuroPride with a few thousands participants coming from Europe.
Though the situation developed on the positive side in a matter of a few years, freedom of assembly for LGBT people remains an issue in Eastern Europe.
In general, it is possible to divide the area into two different blocs.
The first one would include the former members of the soviet block which are now members of the EU. In these countries LGBT people benefited from the support of other EU member states and no country is still banning a Pride or a March for Equality.
The second group is formed of the members of the former soviet block which did not join the EU. Among them are Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. Despite being a member of the Council of Europe and as such a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights none of these countries ever allowed a Pride march. Though Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, it is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a UN treaty which in theory prevent its signatories to restrict freedom of assembly.
GayRussia has been campaigning since July 2005 for the rights to freedom of assembly of LGBT people in Eastern Europe. First as an initiator of the Moscow Pride which despite being banned every year since May 2006 by the Mayor of Moscow is still taking place in the format of an unsanctioned rally where participants often face police arrest and angry anti-gay protesters and, second, as a founder of the Slavic Pride with Belarusian Pride organizers in November 2008. The movement enlarged to Ukraine in 2010. The same year, GayRussia co-organized the St Petersburg Pride with a local LGBT group.
The Slavic Pride aims to be a symbol of the lack of freedom of assembly rights for LGBT people in Eastern European countries which are out of the EU.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is the society ready for a Gay Pride March in Russia or Belarus?
This is not a valid issue for us. The society is never ready when it turns to give more rights to a minority. First, it is necessary to provoke a debate in the society but this debate cannot happen if the society ignores our existence. The Moscow Pride
Why hosting Prides in such difficult local context?
The key point is to raise awareness. There is no dispute that in Russia there is “before” and an “after” Moscow Pride. Prior to launching the Moscow Pride initiative in 2005, gays were discussed mostly by tabloid media and only to be mocked. Moscow Pride helped to change this attitude. Hosting prime time TV debates, talk shows, interview, articles in Russia’s most serious papers and magazines helped to raise awareness. As Milk said “We have to come out to fight the lies”. GayRussia’ strategy is not different.
An April 2011 poll by Russian institute FOM, ordered by GayRussia found that a third of Russian heard of the attempt to stage a Gay Pride in Moscow. The amount goes as high as 56% in Moscow. This is un-doubtfully the evidence that the campaign worked. Moscow Pride allowed us to launch other campaigns. The same applies to our campaign for same-sex marriage.
Russia is not ready for it today but probably in some years. But if we do not start one day, the society will never be ready for it. Education takes time.
Shouldn't Pride unite the LGBT community?
In an ideal world it should. The LGBT community is diverse and as it shows in most countries, there are different views and different strategies followed by its members. The main role of Pride is to give a signal to the society and to convey a message. If we can achieve this campaign united, it is better. If not, the fact that some are not ready to march and defend their rights publicly do not mean that others should not do it.
Who is sponsoring Moscow Pride?
Moscow Pride is sponsored by GayRussia which is solely sponsored by its members. Moscow Pride and GayRussia do not receive sponsorship or grants of any kind.
What is Moscow Pride? Is it a Gay carnival?
Moscow Pride is a march for the rights of sexual minorities. Although the media do not always convey this message, the organizers always made it clear that their aim is to make Moscow Pride a human rights and peaceful march. They always explained that they have no intention to organize a similar Pride than in Berlin or London.
TODAY IN HISTORY
In 1993, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality. Starting from 2006, Russian gay rights activists started to celebrate this date by attempting to organize an annual gay rights march known as Moscow Gay Pride. The first edition was banned and marred with violence. It was reffered as the first Russian Stonewall.
This day was founded in 2004 by French Academic Louis-Georges Tin to mark the anniversary of the declassification of homosexuality from the list of disease by the World Health Organization. Russian LGBT have been celebrating this day every year since 2005 under the leadership of Project GayRussia which was itself founded on May 17, 2005. GayRussia is Russia's coordinator of IDAHO.
Following Moscow in May 2009, Minsk was the second capital to host the Slavic Gay Pride. The March was banned and marred with violence but it did not prevent two dozens of Pride organizers from Moscow, Minsk and St. Petersburg to march over 300 meters waiving a 10meters long rainbow flag. 11 participants including some of the organizers were brutally arrested by police forces.
2009 marked the launch of GayRussia's campaign for the opening of same-sex union of gays and lesbians in Russia. While the Constitutional Court already expressd the opinion that marriage is between a man and a woman, activists believe that the lack of partnership or marriage for gay couples is a strong point to impose legislative changes via a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
The five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber of the Court rejected the appeal of the Russian Federation in the Moscow Pride Ban case. The decision given on October 21 is final. By repeatedly banning Gay Pride Marches as well as other LGBT themed public action, Russia breached the European Convention on Human Rights.