A few weeks into Pride month 2019, it is worth remembering not every country has the freedom to organize a parade.
In certain nations where being LGBTI is illegal – or the so-called ‘LGBTI propaganda’ is – governments and local authorities have banned Pride parades on multiple occasions.
Pride really is a protest
Taking to the streets to march in fabulous outfits and unapologetically affirm your identity is one of the crucial elements of most parades in Western, liberal countries. But a smooth march isn’t always the case.
Many LGBTI communities put their effort, time and money in parades that don’t always take place.
Whether authorities claim security concerns or blame Pride to promote ‘dangerous’ values, LGBTI events often don’t get the green light. And they might face violence by extremists groups if they do go ahead.
Pride in Cuba
In May 2019, communist authorities in Cuba unexpectedly cancelled the annual conga against homophobia. Activists then organized an alternative march on the same day, Saturday 11 May.
More than 100 demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, Havana.
Some said plainclothes security officers stopped them and used violence on them. Moreover, police arrested at least three people.
Tbilisi Pride in Georgia
Georgian LGBTI activists are battling with the police in order to celebrate Pride.
As the powerful Orthodox Church and extremist groups actively protest against the LGBTI community, police claim it won’t be able to protect Pridegoers during a public event.
Protests turned violent at an IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) event on 17 May this year.
Following that, police told the Tbilisi Pride team that going ahead with their planned five-day festival would be ‘impossible’ and that they could not ensure safety for all.
Jerusalem Pride in Israel
While Tel Aviv Pride has been taking place relatively peacefully since 1993, Jerusalem’s fourth LGBTI event couldn’t initially take place.
2005 saw a rare instance of religious leaders of Jerusalem’s Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities unanimously asking the municipal government to revoke permits. The court later canceled the ban, allowing the event to go ahead.
Kenya hosted the very first refugee LGBTI event
As homosexuality is a crime punishable up to 14 years imprisonment in Kenya, public LGBTI parades aren’t an option for local lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
However, in 2012 the American embassy in Nairobi held the first ever Pride event in Kenya.
Furthermore, the Kenyan refugee camp of Kakuma, a town in northwestern Turkana County, hosted the very first refugee Pride in 2018. Many of the LGBTI refugees at the camp come from Uganda, where gay sex is illegal.
Despite organizers received death threats after the event, they said they plan to host another event this year.
Latvia hosted EuroPride in 2015
Latvia held their first Pride in 2005. The event had been previously banned by the council and the Prime Minister, but a court’s decision allowed the march to go ahead.
Prides in Latvia faced significant violence since that first parade and up until 2009 when Riga hosted Baltic Pride. The capital also hosted EuroPride in 2015, attracting 5,000 participants.
Lebanon never hosted a Pride march
Lebanon has never had an LGBTI parade. Over the past two years, police have banned the event for fear of offending ‘public morality’.
In October 2018, threats of violence also shut down a queer Halloween mixer at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Despite opposition, embassies, activists and locals shops flew the rainbow and the trans flags on 17 May to mark IDAHOBIT. It was a historic day in a country where being gay is illegal.
Authorities have banned several Prides in Poland
In 2005, local authorities forbid Warsaw Pride. Then-Mayor Lech Kaczyński was among those opposing the event, which occurred nevertheless. The ban, in fact, was later declared a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Authorities have been trying to ban other Prides ever since, including Lublin and Rzeszow in 2018 and Gniezno in 2019. They went all ahead among the protest of nationalist, anti-LGBTI groups.
Russia has always banned Pride
Russian authorities have been banning Pride events for years in order not to promote LGBTI lifestyle to children. Former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov also labelled Pride ‘satanic’.
Federal laws passed on 29 June 2013 ban the distribution of ‘propaganda’ to minors encouraging ‘non-traditional sexual relationships’.
Despite being fined by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 for interpreting it as discrimination, the city of Moscow denied 100 individual requests to hold Moscow Pride through 2012. They cited a risk of violence against participants as the main reason for the parade not to go ahead.
Moreover, the first government-approved Pride march in Russia got banned in August 2018 within 24 hours of approval.
Following the initial announcement by prominent local LGBTI activist Nikolai Alekseev, officials said they would not let the event go ahead. The parade was due to take place in the village of Yabloneviy, outside Novoulyanovsk, 500 miles east of Moscow.
What’s more, 30 participants were detained for trying to set an LGBTI march in St. Petersburg on 4 August 2018.
Pride in Serbia
Before becoming one of the biggest LGBTI events in the Balkans, Belgrade Pride was banned several times due to safety concerns.
The capital’s first attempt to hold a Pride event saw extremists injuring several people and clashing with the police.
In 2009, authorities moved the location of the march from the city centre to a space near the Palace of Serbia, therefore effectively banning the original Pride.
Authorities also banned every attempt of organizing the parade between 2010 and 2014.
In 2013, local authorities canceled Pride just one day before it was supposed to take place. Activists organized a protest, marching to the Parliament building.
Pride events in Turkey
Turkey has recently lifted its ban on LGBTI events.
Kaos GL, a Turkish LGBTI rights group, successfully appealed the ban at the 12th administrative court in April 2019. The ban had been in place since November 2017.
In the past, far-right groups have attacked Prides. LGBTI rights activists in Turkey have also experienced widespread discrimination and abuse from the authorities.
In July 2018, Istanbul police stormed an LGBTI event and fired rubber bullets and teargas into the crowd. The police raid happened after Pride organizers had reached a last-minute agreement with the authorities to allow the march.
Despite the ban lift, police in Ankara also violently ended a student-led march at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in May 2019.
Uganda had a secret LGBTI event
Ugandan laws prohibit both male and female homosexual activity. ‘Carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ between two males carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment.
Therefore, Ugandan LGBTI people have always struggled to hold marches and demonstrations publicly.
In September 2018, the Minister for Ethics and Integrity in Uganda Simon Lokodo tried to ban arts and music festival Nyege Nyege (which translates to ‘sex sex’). Lokodo claimed the event promoted ‘homosexuality’, ‘LGBTI’, and ‘open sex’.
However, the next day the minister backtracked, allowing the event to run.
In May 2018, Lokodo forbid the country’s IDAHOBIT event minutes before it was about to begin.
After Pride was banned in 2017, Ugandans lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people held a secret Pride in Kampala, the capital.