The small communist south-east Asian country of Laos celebrated its first LGBT Pride on Monday (25 June).
The event ‘Proud to be Us’ was organized by local activists and the US embassy in the capital, Vientiane. It featured performances exploring discrimination, gender roles and sexual health on a stage in the US embasssy’s sports field, AFP reported.
Since Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s historic address at the UN last December in which she said ‘gay rights are human rights’, supporting LGBT rights all over the world has been high on the US’s agenda.
US Ambassador to Laos, Karen Stewart spoke at the event.
‘The message we want to send is that no matter what you look like or where you come from or what your sexual orientation is, every single one of you is a person with value and should be treated with dignity and respect,’ Stewart told the crowd to loud applause.
The single-party Lao government also supported the event, shown by the attendance of the ministry of health’s Dr Bounpheng Philavong, director of the Center for HIV/AIDS/STI.
Around 100 people were at the Pride event, including those from local LGBT outreach groups: the Purple Sky Network, Lao Positive Health Association, Population Services International, the Burnet Institute and the Vientiane Youth Center for Health and Development.
Purple Sky Network’s Anan Bouapha, one of the event’s organizers, said: ‘I am proud to call this event our first victory for the LGBT movement in this country. We have made history. I’ll remember this memorable day and will meaningfully celebrate it throughout the generations.’