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Belarusian, Russian Activists Agree a Slavic Gay Pride for Moscow in May Next Year
Will then alternate between Moscow and Minsk
MINSK, November 16, 2008 – The first trans-national meeting of gay activists from Russia and Belarus has agreed that there should be a Slavic Gay Pride, which alternates each year between Moscow and Minsk.
The agreement came at the weekend when activists from GayRussia.ru and the Moscow Pride organising committee met for the first time with Belarusian groups Gay.by and Gayby.by, the Belarusian Initiative for Sexual and Gender Equality and the LGBT Rights Committee of the Belarusian Green Party.
“We were looking to cooperate with Belarusian gay activists this year, but until recently we believed that local activists were not yet ready for public events,” said Moscow Pride chief organiser Nikolai Alekseev.
“The turning point was last month when 20 activists took the streets of Minsk to hold an informal –and unsanctioned – gay march. This was the signal for us,” he added.
The agreement will mean that Moscow Pride, which has being organised every year since May 2006. It will become the Slavic Gay Pride, Belarusian activists travelling to Moscow next May to join the March on Saturday May 16, the day of the iconic Eurovision Song Contest final, a ‘favourite of the European gay community.
“In In 2010, we will attempt to organise the Pride in Minsk – it will be our turn to host the event,” said Sergey Androsenko, leader of the Belarusian Initiative for Sexual and Gender Equality.
The activist from both countries also wrote a joint letter to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko demanding equality for sexual minorities in Belarus.
They also asked the Belarus government to meet them.
GayRussia activists promised the Belarusians access to their network and contacts and pledged that they would make available their experience for gay rights lobbying.
Over the next few weeks, activists will launch a lobby campaign in the European Parliament insisting that European Union includes LGBT rights in its discussion with the Lukashenko regime.
Last week, the European Commission sent a delegation to Minsk in order to discuss prospects for the development of relations between the European Union and Belarus
“We will help our Belarusian colleagues as much as we can,” said Mr. Alekseev.
“In our eastern [European] countries, the gay movement needs courage and emotions more than money. As soon as you pull money in Russian organizations, it always ends something and only starts quarrels,” he added.
Mr. Androsenko said that the Russian group had succeeded in raising attention towards gays and lesbians in Russia in the last three years.
“We followed their actions on the internet, and we are honoured we could meet those who unveiled a [Rainbow] banner in front of the windows of the Moscow Mayor’s office.
“In general, we have a lot to learn from activists from other countries,” he continued. “No one ever come to Belarus. The destination is not appealing for foreigners.”
With Belarus currently expelled from the Council of Europe, gay men and women are not protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr. Alekseev pointed out.
“For us, in Russia, things are different – we have every chances to win our 165 appeals against Russia in the Strasbourg Court.
“But Belarusians can’t even make an appeal.
“Since EU has only just lifted the travel ban of high ranking Belarus officials, we believe that the regime will think twice before confronting the EU on gay rights issues.
“If you ban the Russian politicians from flying to Nice or Courchevel, they will be the first to organize a gay pride – most of them spend more time abroad than in Russia,” he said.
There is a political logic between the ‘union’ of Russian and Belarusian gays and lesbians. In 1996, under President Yeltsin, Russia and Belarus entered into the Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus, now simply Union State of Russia and Belarus – and not unlike the EU in concept, with member nations retaining sovereignty..
The Union includes a joint Parliament, a rotating head of State, visa and custom free regime as well as other economic agreements on taxes and residence rights.
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