This is a guest post by Peter Tatchell
For the sixth year running, the Moscow city authorities have banned the Gay Pride parade, scheduled this year for 28 May. In recent weeks, four separate applications for different Gay Pride events have been turned down by Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.
I will march with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights campaigners in the Moscow Gay Pride parade this Saturday 28 May, in defiance of the Mayor’s ban.
I will be marching in solidarity with Russia’s courageous lesbian and gay human rights campaigners. This ban must be challenged. It is an attack on civil liberties, which threatens the rights and freedoms of every Russian person.
All of us will be at risk of arrest and bashing by the Moscow police, and by neo-Nazi groups who have threatened to attack the parade. We fear what will happen to us but we are determined to defend gay human rights and the right to protest.
The ban on the Moscow Gay Pride parade is in defiance of a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in October 2010. The court ruled that prohibiting Moscow Gay Pride is a discriminatory, illegal violation of the right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The homophobic bias of the Moscow mayor is self-evident. He has prohibited Moscow Gay Pride while giving a permit for a 3,000-strong, right-wing anti-gay rally against ‘sexual perversion’, which will call for the recriminalisation of homosexuality.
While the British Foreign Office has been supportive of Gay Pride parades in Poland and the Baltic countries, they have previously offered no support to the organisers of Moscow Gay Pride, despite the arrests and bashings of the last five years.
I have written to the British Ambassador to Moscow, requesting that the Embassy send observers to the Moscow Gay Pride news conference on 27 May and to the Pride parade on 28 May. James Ford at the British Embassy in Moscow has advised me that they will be sending observers on Saturday, which is a much appreciated gesture.
The Moscow Gay Pride organisers have made similar requests to EU and US Embassies.
Moscow Gay Pride chief organiser, Nikolai Alekseev, says:
We have written to the EU Ambassador in Moscow and also to the Embassies of France, UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the US asking them to show public support for our right to peaceful protest.
In past years, foreign diplomats always told us that they cannot express support for Moscow Gay Pride due to the absence of a European Court of Human Rights decision in our favour. This year, we have the European Court ruling on our side, so we hope they will publicly defend out right to march and send observers.
The excuses for banning Moscow Gay Pride – given by the deputy mayor of Moscow, Ludmila Shvetsova – include ‘the impossibility to provide security,’ the risk of traffic disruption, the large number of letters received in protest against the Pride events and Russia’s international obligation to protect the rights of children because Gay Pride ‘may impact psychological health and inflict moral damage on children and teenagers who were to become unwilling witnesses of the event.
The reasons for banning Moscow Gay Pride this year are exactly the same reasons used in past years – which resulted in the European Court of Human Rights judging that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Our many attempts to hold a Gay Pride parade in Moscow have generated massive news coverage and public debate, leading to more Russians supporting equal rights for LGBT people. We are slowly but surely winning the battle for hearts and minds, despite repression by the authorities and bashings by neo-Nazis, ultra nationalists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists.
The Moscow Gay Pride news conference will be held in central Moscow, just a stone’s throw from Kremlin, at 1pm on Friday 27 May (the 18th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality by Boris Yeltsin’s government in 1993).
The planned defiance of the authorities is about more than the human rights of gay people. The Moscow Gay Pride organisers are asserting the right of all Russian people to freely dissent and protest.
Freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed by the Russian constitution and law. Moscow Gay Pride campaigners are not law-breakers. The mayor and his allies are. Their parade ban is illegal and unconstitutional.
The Russian activists are inspirational heroes, risking arrest and beatings. I am honoured to support them. They deserve our admiration, respect and support.
Amnesty International has called for the ban on Moscow Pride to be lifted:
“The Moscow City authorities must overturn their decision to ban this year’s Moscow Gay Pride. So-called public morality concerns can never be used to justify restrictions on the freedom of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.
“The right response to such objections is not to cave in to their demands, but to ensure that those seeking to exercise their rights lawfully are able to do so in safety and in dignity,” she said.
For more information and daily updates during the week, monitor the Moscow Pride / Gay Russia website.