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Moscow Gay Pride Parade Should Not Be Banned, Says Scott Long of HRW









NEW YORK, February 27, 2006  –  Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s promise to ban the city’s first-ever gay pride parade is a threat to civil liberties and civil society, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the mayor (see below).

Human Rights Watch is calling on Mayor Lukzhov to let the parade proceed as scheduled on May 27.

“Mayor Luzhkov is giving prejudice a veto over the rights to peaceful expression and assembly,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The freedom to speak out and demonstrate publicly is not just a reflection of diversity. It is essential to democracy.”

Organizers have been planning a parade of over 5,000 participants for several months.  However, the mayor’s spokesman, Sergey Tsoy, told reporters on February 16 that, “The Moscow government is not even going to consider allowing a gay parade.”  He claimed that the proposed event has “evoked outrage in society, in particular among religious leaders.”

Tsoy said the mayor “was firm that the city government will not allow a gay parade in any form, open or disguised, and any attempts to organize an unsanctioned action will be resolutely quashed.”

National politicians stepped in to condemn the parade. “Some say that the ban on the gay parade does not correspond to human rights,” Lubov Sliska, the first vice-speaker of the State Duma, said. “There are several million people in Moscow who do not want homosexuals to have this procession. Who is going to protect their rights?”

The move comes in the wake of actions by other governments in the region against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  Last year in Poland, city authorities banned the gay and lesbian Pride March in Warsaw, but organizers defied the ban and went ahead.  In Latvia, authorities sought to ban a parade in Riga, but the ban was overturned by court order.

In response, the European Parliament in January overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning prohibitions on the marches, as well as “incitement to hatred and violence.”

“Human rights are not a popularity contest,” said Long. “Letting this march proceed is an international obligation. If prejudice is allowed to trump the rights that all citizens should enjoy, then everyone’s freedoms are ultimately endangered.”


Letter from Human Rights Watch to Mayor Yuri Luzhkov:

February 27, 2006

Dear Mayor Luzhkov,

On behalf of Human Rights Watch, I write to protest your threat to ban Russia’s first gay pride parade, scheduled to be held in Moscow on May 27, 2006.  Prohibiting this parade would constitute an unacceptable and discriminatory interference with the peaceful exercise of the freedom of assembly.

Your press spokesman Sergey Tsoy told reporters on February 16 that "The Moscow government is not even going to consider allowing a gay parade."  Claiming that the proposed event has "evoked outrage in society, in particular among religious leaders," he stated that you were "firm that the city government will not allow a gay parade in any form, open or disguised, and any attempts to organize an unsanctioned action will be resolutely quashed." 

The chair of Moscow City Council’s security commission, Inna Svyatenko, has suggested that the parade should be banned because it could “artificially provoke” disorder in response: “Moscow is not Amsterdam, Brussels, Manchester or Tel-Aviv. Are they craving compassion and understanding or a scandal? If they want a scandal, they have succeeded. It is absolutely obvious that the gays will have to meet with an aggressive crowd. The problem is not just with skinheads or other young people’s groups. It is just that the gay-culture in our country is marginal.” She specifically referred to a pride march that was held in Latvia in 2005, which assaulted by violent counterdemonstrators.

Banning the parade would violate Russia’s obligations under international law.  As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Russia is obligated not to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity in relation to any of the rights enjoyed under the Convention—including the freedoms of expression and assembly. The European Court has on several occasions made clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation is strictly prohibited. Most recently in Karner v Austria, the Court pointed out that "very weighty reasons have to be put forward before the Court could regard a difference in treatment based exclusively on the ground of sex as compatible with the Convention. Just like differences based on sex, differences based on sexual orientation require particularly serious reasons by way of justification." Similarly, the U.N. Human Rights Committee—charged with monitoring states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) –held in 1994 in Toonen v Australia that sexual orientation should be understood as a status protected against discrimination by the treaty’s equality provisions. 

Banning the parade because of fears of disturbance due to counterdemonstrators would amount to allowing prejudice to stifle free expression simply because its voice may be louder and its imprecations more violent.  City authorities and police are responsible for ensuring that people can exercise their freedoms safely.  They should restrain counterdemonstrators if they threaten violence, not give them a veto over peaceful assembly. 

Gay and lesbian pride parades represent the enjoyment by citizens of their basic rights, which all governmental authorities in the Russian Federation are bound to respect. They also represent an affirmation of pluralism.  To restrict basic rights for one group, however unpopular they may be among some parts of the population, opens the gate to restricting them for others.  Russia should not move along that route.

We urge you to respect the basic freedoms of Moscow’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: to let this march proceed, and ensure that participants enjoy whatever protection is necessary for the peaceful exercise of their lawful rights.


Scott Long
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

See Also:

Polish Gays Spearhead Euro Demos at Russian EmbassiesOf all the demonstrations in support of Moscow Pride to be held on Thursday March 2 outside Russian embassies in Europe, perhaps the most poignant will be in Warsaw.  Gay men and women in Warsaw just happen to know a thing or two about a homophobic mayor who tries to bans Prides.  (UK Gay News - February 22, 2006)

Moscow Mayor Again Says ‘No’ to Gay Pride Parade Minutes after signing the “Berlin Declaration” which included a clause recognising “the necessity of eliminating all forms of discrimination and intolerance”, the Mayor of Moscow, Juri Lushkov, said this afternoon that he would not give permission for the Moscow Gay Pride march and festival to go ahead at the end of May.  (UK Gay News - February 22, 2006)

Deputies Line Up to Back Moscow Mayor on Gay PrideRussian politicians have today been virtually queuing up to give statements to the media in support of the Mayor of Moscow who last week said he would ban a gay pride parade in the city.  (UK Gay News - February 20, 2006)

World Shows Solidarity with Russian Gays Gay men and women in Russia are tonight very encouraged at the world-wide response to the homophobic outbursts of religious leaders and the Mayor of Moscow during the week, with the Mayor proclaiming that Moscow Pride in May was a non-starter.  Condemnation of the outbursts, coupled with messages of solidarity with Russian gays, has come from across Europe – and as far a field as New Zealand.  (UK Gay News - February 17, 2006)

Mayor of London Asked to Intervene in Moscow Gay Pride “Ban”The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has called on the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to appeal to his counterpart in Moscow to lift the threat of a ban on a gay pride parade in the city scheduled for the end of May.  (UK Gay News - February 17, 2006)

Moscow Authorities Will Not Allow Gay Pride In Any Form – Mayor’s Office.   The row over the planned Gay Pride in Moscow, highlighted over the past two days by religious leaders, went squarely into the local political arena today when the Moscow city authorities said they will not permit “under any circumstances” the first-ever Gay Pride parade, scheduled for the end of May in the city.  (UK Gay News - February 16, 2006)

Russian Muslim Leader Calls For Gays to be “Thrashed”Russian Muslims could arrange serious protest actions if representatives of “sexual minorities” try to stage a Gay Pride parade later in Moscow in May, according to Interfax news agency following an outburst from an extremist religious leader. (UK Gay News - February 15, 2006)

Putin Gets Protest Letter Over Anti-Gay Russian TV News BroadcastThe grandson of British gay literary giant Oscar Wilde has written personally to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, following a biased and homophobic television programme screened in Russia last weekend. (UK Gay News - February 8, 2006)

Russian Web Sites Claim Moscow Gay Pride Is On Religious Holiday ... But they get dates wrong as they try to whip-up objections.  A number of news internet sites in Russia have started what appears to be a campaign against Moscow’s LGBT Festival and Gay Pride.  Some reports suggest that the festival and Pride Parade will take place on May 24, a day considered as a ‘religious holiday’ in Russia.  (UK Gay News - January 31, 2006)

Gay Pride March in Moscow Will Be Under Watchful Eye of International Community.  Commentary.  The Russian gay and lesbian community are convinced that 2006 will be a watershed year.  Some have said that the projected Moscow Pride – the first-ever in the city – is doomed to failure.  Russia, they say, is just not ready for a “Pride” event, let alone the accompanying “cultural” festival. (UK Gay News - January 3, 2006)


Human Rights Watch website


Posted: 27 February, 2006 at 18:00 (UK time)