BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Despite St Petersburg's ban on so-called propaganda of homosexuality and Pride bans in 2010 and 2011, organizers of the city's Pride say they will proceed with plans to stage the event that has led to arrests in the past.
Gay Star News (GSN) says Pride organizers want to attract attention to the presence of queer people in the city and to advocate tolerance and equality.
GSN quotes activist Yury Gavrikov as saying that Pride this year will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Russian Duma's repeal of a law criminalizing gay sex that was invoked to detain thousands of people during the Soviet era.
The law was repealed in May 1993, but Gavrikov says that 20 years on, history has taken a turn for the worse, as in January, Russian State Duma deputies voted 388 to one in favour of a national anti-gay
gag law that bans "propaganda of homosexuality" among minors in the
first of three readings.
Last July, activists in St Petersburg made good on their promise to ignore their
city's decision to ban their third Pride march and were arrested for
trying to stage two Pride rallies.
A St Petersburg court also ruled in May last year that the city's use of its gay propaganda law to
ban queer activists from staging rallies for the March 7 Day of Silence
and the May 17 International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia was
unlawful. The Smolninsky district court judge said authorities were not
in a position to determine whether the rallies — even before they had taken
place — would lead to homosexual propaganda. The judge also found
there was no authority to deny a public rally under federal law.
However, the judgment did not mean future rallies would be approved by city authorities.
Still, Gavrikov is encouraged by the court rulings that have come down on the side of gay rights advocates and is hopeful for a favourable European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling later this year regarding the 2010 Pride march ban.
"We are confident that the verdict will be similar to the case of the ECHR 'Alekseev vs Russia,' which ruled the ban against Moscow Pride as breaching the European Convention of which Russia is a signatory," he told GSN. "Taken together these are substantial rulings by several courts that show St Petersburg Pride has been banned illegally."
A Russian regional court in Kostroma recently ruled that gay pride marches and rallies
against the "propaganda of homosexuality" law were
The court's press secretary announced that gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev's appeal of a
district court's decision on the matter was granted and that activists
can "already apply for these activities."
"Gradually, international and local pressure is bearing fruit," Alexeyev said following that ruling. "I cited court cases we have won in the UN
Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights. This is a
good sign and a good example for other courts that you cannot ban
public events such as gay pride."
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