Russian authorities are suggested to organizers of an LGBT pride parade in St. Petersburg, Russia that they hold this year’s event in a landfill, representing just the latest in the country’s ongoing effort to humiliate the community.
Since 2010, the government has denied the group, Ravnopraviye (Equality), permission to host rallies in public areas and has instead suggested alternative out-of-the-way sites in far off villages. This year, City Hall designated what The St. Petersburg Times described as “a landfill on Vasilievsky Island near the Gulf of Finland covered with tall grass.” The designated area is “a narrow path in the grass for the march and a two-meter-deep, 10-meter-wide square pit in the ground for the stationary rally.”
The group, however, is not deterred and says it plans to hold the event in an area where events can be held without a permit.
“We are confident in our right to public assemblies stated in the constitution and we will insist on it by any means possible, including taking to the street in case of another groundless ban from the city authorities,” the group said in a statement.
LGBT groups sought to defy authorities and staging a gay pride parade in 2013, but the effort was met with swift arrests and violence from Russian nationalists. About 200 counter protesters held signs reading “Sodomy will not pass” and threw “eggs and rocks” at the activists. Police arrested dozens of people, but purportedly stood by while the anti-gay counter protesters struck and beat gay people.
Russia decriminalized homosexual behavior in 1993, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, but classified homosexuality as a mental illness until 1999.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin signed a ban against so-called “homosexual propaganda” at public events and the dissemination of materials to young people. Earlier this week, a St. Petersburg court labeled an LGBT rights group based in Russia a foreign agent. The designation “implies that a group carries out work on behalf of foreign countries, and restricts the work they can do and messages communicated.”
Public opinions show that just “39 percent of Russians believe that gays and lesbians should have the same rights as heterosexuals,” a drop from 2005, when 51 percent of respondents agreed with the sentiment. Forty-five percent of Russians told pollsters that people become gay “because of seduction or of their own licentiousness.”