Pride and prejudice
As London prepares to host its biggest ever Pride celebration with World Pride coming to town this weekend, in the last week the anniversaries of two other milestones in the history of gay rights have come around.
Today marks 30 years since the death of Terrence Higgins, the first man in the UK to be identified as dying of AIDS and after whom one of the first charities to be set up in response to the HIV epidemic in the 1980s is named.
Then last week saw the 43rd anniversary of the first big uprising in New York of gay rights activists against police assaults – the so-called Stonewall riots, named after the Christopher Street pub in Greenwich Village where the protest started - on 28 June 1969.
Over the last 40 years significant progress has been made on gay rights – The Netherlands, Spain, Argentina and the US states of Massachusetts and New York have legalised gay marriage, homosexual acts have been decriminalised in India, the US army’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been repealed, Iceland has the world’s first openly gay head of state. A year ago this month, the UN passed the first ever Gay Rights Protection Resolution, which established a formal U.N. process to document human rights abuses against gay people, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence.
However, Amnesty International figures show there is still a long way to go. Consensual same-sex relations are still illegal in 76 countries worldwide. Harassment and discrimination are common in many more, as evidenced by recent agitation by religious leaders in Uganda to revive the “Kill the Gays” bill introduced then dropped last year and the arrests in Moscow in May of 40 people taking part in a gay rights rally. In many countries, being gay is still a criminal offence, as highlighted by the case this week of a Cameroonian asylum seeker claiming to be gay whose deportation from the UK was halted after he refused to board a flight from London to Paris. He faces up to five years in prison in Cameroon because of his sexuality.
Of the 40 European countries ranked by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)on protection of gay rights, Russia fares particularly badly (along with Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Macedonia and Belarus).
Russia came under fire in Amnesty’s annual report published in May this year, which criticised its record on gay rights, saying: “LGBT rights activists faced harassment and attacks. Attempted pride marches and LGBT rights pickets in Moscow and St Petersburg were banned and promptly dispersed.”
In the same month the US State Department’s annual human rights report said that, according to gay activists in Russia, “the majority of LGBT persons hide their orientation due to fear of losing their jobs or homes, as well as the threat of violence”.
The situation looks set to worsen as the St Petersburg regional assembly passed a city-wide bill in March banning ‘propaganda of homosexuality amongst minors’. Now, people who take part in “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderness amongst minors” are liable to face a hefty fine.
No Pride events have ever been authorised in Russia and people who have tried to hold such events without authorisation have been arrested or subjected to violence.
Just last year, gay rights activists requested to hold a Pride celebration in St Petersburg. They were repeatedly and unjustifiably turned down by the city’s authorities, and 14 of the activists were arrested for their part in planning the Pride.
This Saturday, despite strong opposition from the authorities Russian gay rights organisation Ravnopravie will try to hold a Pride event in St. Petersburg. Help them to make it happen by writing to the city’s Governor asking that the march be allowed and for a review of the new local legislation which discriminates against LGBTI people in the region.
If we can change their minds, the first ever authorised Russian Pride will be another milestone to celebrate on the route to equality.
Date for the diary:
On Friday 6 July, Amnesty International will host a free panel discussion and screening of Homo@LV charting the difficult birth of Baltic Pride in Riga, Latvia in the midst of religious opposition and violent homophobia. Starting at 7pm, the event will be hosted by US entertainer Lea DeLaria, The panel includes:
• Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican LGBT activist
• Kristine Garina, chair of Mozaika, Latvia and a founder of Baltic Pride
• Sam Dick, head of policy at Stonewall
• Emily Gray, Amnesty researcher on sexual orientation and gender identity
The screening and discussion will be followed by drinks reception.
Limited spaces to book email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.