Amnesty International has called on St Petersburg to overturn its gay pride ban and show the world it respects human rights.
Tomorrow’s (7 July) peaceful march by the Russian city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community was cancelled by authorities, despite initially authorizing the event on Tuesday (3 July).
Sergei Nikitin, director of the Moscow office of Amnesty International, condemned City Hall’s decision.
‘It is time for St Petersburg to portray itself as a global city where tolerance and respect for human rights are held high and where there is no place for discrimination,’ he said.
‘Such behavior paints the St Petersburg authorities in a very negative light, as they are flouting their international obligations to protect the basic human rights of all city residents.’
He added that this was a ‘moment of truth’ for the city’s government, which has been condemned by the international community for its notorious anti-gay law.
Nikitin said: ‘By allowing this weekend’s pride to go ahead peacefully, they have a chance to show that they do respect human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and that they do not discriminate against any members of society.’
St Petersburg Pride organizers applied to authorities in different districts of the city to agree on a route for the event in advance and permission was granted for the event to take place at Poliustrov Park on the city’s outskirts.
However, yesterday (6 July) the authorities backtracked on this plan, claiming reports in the media that the event was a ‘gay pride’ were in conflict with their application which described it as a ‘march and a stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights’.
Yury Gavrikov, head of pride organizers Ravnopravie, told Chtodelat News that he and another actvist Sergei Volkov have now been charged by police officers under the city’s anti-gay law which can be used to gag any public discussion of LGBT issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.
In the last two years, the non-governmental organization has submitted applications to the authorities to hold a pride in St Petersburg.
Different courts in St Petersburg have ruled against the authorities’ repeated refusal to let pride proceed and authorities have suggested on a number of occasions that Pride organizers hold the event in remote areas of the city, only to withdraw their agreement at the last minute.
Ravnopravie has vowed to go ahead with the demonstration despite the decision but officials warned that they would be breaking the law if they did.
In March 2012, a new law was adopted in St Petersburg, banning ‘propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors’ in the city.
Two months later, LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev was given a fine for such alleged ‘propaganda’, simply for holding up a banner quoting a famous Soviet actress who said ‘homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice’.
Since the adoption of the law, thousands of people all around the world, urging them to stop human rights abuses against LGBT people and to let the St Petersburg pride go ahead unhindered.
Last month, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Russia to explain how the country intended to uphold its obligations under human rights law after the adoption of similar ‘homosexuality propaganda’ laws in several regions of the country.