On Sunday, March 31st 2013, activists of the Russian LGBT Network will hold one-person actions at the central square of Syktyvkar (capital city of the Republic of Komi, North-Western region of Russia). One-person picket is a special type of a street action in Russia which does not require permission of the authorities.
The action will be held instead of the Pride Parade, for which the city administration had previously issued a permit only to later revoke it due to numerous complaints from the conservative part of the city’s population. This parade could have been Russia’s first officially approved Pride Parade and would have marked the beginning of the annual awareness-raising campaign ‘Week Against Homophobia’ have the authorities not changed their decision.
On March 20th, the organizers who had filed an application for the parade received a suggestion from the city administration to hold the action in the city’s analogue of Hyde park, where actions of not more than 100 participants can be held without a permit.
Syktyvkar is a rather small town by Russian standards (with population of a little more than 250 thousand). In a situation when pride parades in Moscow and St Petersburg have been repeatedly banned, the sheer fact of approval of the action by the Syktyvkar city administration was a big surprise for civil society activists and human rights defenders.
Several days later the administration informed the organizers about the refusal to approve the action, despite the fact that it was supposed to be held in ‘Hyde park’, where permission is not necessary. At the same time the administration did not have any objections to another action on March 31st in the same park – an action by an openly radical right-wing organization ‘Rubezh Severa’ (Northern Frontier). Organization’s website indicates that their action will last from 8 am to 10 pm, and that such decision was made in order to prevent LGBT actions from happening.
Coupled with the refusal to permit the action by LGBT activists was the order of Governor of Syktyvkar, Ivan Pozdeyev, to prepare a draft law banning the so-called ‘propaganda of homosexualism’. Such law, in the governor’s opinion, will eliminate any possibility of a public event organized by the LGBT community of Syktyvkar. This news was announced by the administration’s press department.
“I believe that public promotion of homosexualism is inadmissible. Administration of Syktyvkar received hundreds of letters from residents, associations, and representatives of different confessions, who expressed a common opinion about the inadmissibility of parades, processions and other public actions that promote the values of the LGBT community. I am absolutely supportive of this opinion and, therefore, I requested that a legal act is developed that would allow us to inscribe this norm in law. The document has to be adopted as soon as possible", quotes the governor’s statement the press department.
“Lesbians and gays in this country have to live in constant risk of violence, degrading treatment and blackmailing. No one deserves this. Through holding this action we want to draw attention of the society to the growing hatred and intolerance. We would also like to invite everyone who is not indifferent to speak up in support of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender people”, comments Vyacheslav Slyusarev, organizer of the action and leader of the regional office of the Russian LGBT Network in the Republic of Komi.
The Week Against Homophobia is a Russian annual awareness-raising campaign that has been held since 2008. In 2013, it will run from April 1st to April 7th, and is aimed at encouraging open and active support of the idea of tolerance and respect of human dignity for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.