St Petersburg holds gay culture festival despite ban

Russian campaigners want fourth Queer Fest to be ‘twice as big’ in face of law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’

St Petersburg holds gay culture festival despite ban
11 September 2012

The Russian city of St Petersburg is pressing ahead with its annual Queer Fest despite a law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’.

The law was introduced in March this year and officially is about stopping children from hearing information about homosexuality, although activists say it is an excuse to silence debate and campaigning on LGBT issues.

Last month Madonna faced prosecution under the law for speaking out for gay rights during her concert in the city.

Run by St Petersburg organization Coming Out, the Queer Fest is one of the largest LGBT rights events in Russia.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors are expected to attend across 10 days of seminars, discussions, photo exhibitions and concerts against homophobia.

Polina Savchenko, Coming Out’s director, told Gay Star News that Queer Fest 2012 can work around the law.

She said: ‘For street demonstrations we need to get prior permission but for cultural events which take place in private venues we don’t need to.

‘We have invited the official ombudsman for human rights for St Petersburg. I am not sure if he can come. But he is the only official we have notified.

‘It is difficult to predict what will happen. We suspect there will be attempts to apply pressure on the festival. This is what our government usually attempts to do. They will put in a phone call to the main venue and say “don’t run this event”.

‘Unfortunately, because of the law, we will have to put up signs saying children under 18 are not allowed to attend the event as the law is about protecting minors, so we will be keeping to the law.’

If, however, the authorities find an excuse to prosecute Coming Out, they could face a 1million rouble ($34,400 €25,000) fine. Harassment and arrests by the city authorities are also possible.

And earlier this year, 100 right wing extremists attacked Coming Out’s International Day Against Homophobia street demonstration so attendees and organizers also face a risk of violence.

But Savchenko thinks the current persecution is a reason to press ahead and hopes for international support in doing so.

‘The “propaganda of homosexuality” law condones homophobia and stigmatization of LGBT people,’ she said

‘We already see a significant increase in aggression and violence towards LGBT. Until the public learns about us and stops being afraid of us, such absurd and populistic laws are going to be possible.

‘The law was intended to force us into hiding. Instead, we are going to double our efforts at open dialogue with society, and will make this festival twice as big as before.’

Queer Fest 2012 will welcome international award-winning Spanish photographer Diego Verges, Swedish artists Anna Viola Hallberg and Annica Karlsson Rixon and it will close with a concert by Lena Katina, the voice of former group tATu.

Politicians attending include Flemish Minister for Youth, Education and Equal Opportunities Pascal Smet, Swedish Minister for Gender Equality, Deputy Minister for Education Nyamko Sabuni, and State Secretary to the Minister of Education of Sweden Bertil Ã



No thumbnail available
No thumbnail available

Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion is getting married

Plans to marry partner Rubem Robierb later this year in New York
No thumbnail available

Derrick Gordon is now the first out gay player to compete in a Division 1 men's basketball game

'I went into it like a regular game. I've been here before, but it was good to see the support I had'
No thumbnail available

Out on the street

A global networking initiative for LGBTI people in the banking business
No thumbnail available

Church charity board member quits due to Cardinal Dolan's stance on gay youth

Joseph Amodeo leaves charity board because of Cardinal Dolan's position on LGBT youth
No thumbnail available

Europe ends law requiring trans people be sterile before seeking treatment

21 European countries have laws such as this including France, Italy and Turkey
No thumbnail available

Group calls on Pope Francis to replace anti-gay San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

More than 100 prominent Roman Catholic donors and church members say he sets 'pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization'
No thumbnail available

Mugabe threatens to cut gay people's heads off

President of Zimbabwe makes violent threat during rally to thousands of people in Muture, a city in the east of the country
No thumbnail available

Nigeria court dismisses challenge to anti-gay law

Judge says the law does not affect the straight man who filed the suit
This is what IKEA imagines our kitchens will be like in the future

This is what IKEA imagines our kitchens will be like in the future

From a fridge-less pantry to the intelligent sink, the Concept Kitchen 2025 is full of surprises