Ten days of homophobia-free celebrations

Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

One of Russia’s largest LGBTQ events, QueerFest, is taking place in St Petersburg 18-27 September. The aim of the festival is to empower and provide support to LGBTQ communities and to promote tolerance within the Russian society.

Since Putin’s return to the presidential seat in 2012, several new repressive laws have been adopted in Russia; spreading information about homosexuality among minors can now legally be viewed as propaganda and is prohibited, freedom of expression has been restricted in media and on the Internet and the authorities are actively targeting human rights organisations and their work. QueerFest supports everybody’s right to express themselves, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The theme of this years’ QueerFest is, The Art of Being Yourself.

”It is the 6th year Civil Rights Defenders supports this event and given the latest clamp down on civil society and specifically on the LGBTQ community, QueerFest, has become increasingly important. It creates a platform for the LGBTQ community free from homophobia and social stigma. These kinds of free-zones and safe havens have dramatically shrunken in todays Russia“, says Cecilia Rosing Programme Officer for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Civil Rights Defenders.

The festival consists of discussions, seminars and workshops led by artists and project coordinators from Russia and Europe as well as photo exhibitions and dance performances. The festival will be topped off with a concert against homophobia -headlined by the Swedish singer Jenny Wilson.

Despite the festive occasion, with local and international artists and visitors present, the planning of the event has not been with out obstacles and complications.

“We expect to receive; bomb threats, visits from extreme right groups and orthodox activists, and harassments directed towards our organisation. But even though the Internet is already filled with threats – it feels like we have succeeded. For ten days the LGBT community can set aside these threats and join together in an open and public celebration of our work, identities and lives” says Polina Andrianova, one of the festival organisers.

Read more about QueerFest 2014 here.

In the past years several laws that ban “propaganda about homosexuality” among minors have been adopted. In 2013 a law was adopted on the federal level, which ban propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The laws mean that it now can be seen as propaganda to spread positive information about LGBT-related issues. Since the laws were adopted violence and harassment against the LGBTQ community and those protecting LGBTQ-rights has increased. LGBTQ organisations have also been targeted by the “foreign agents” law for their human rights work. Read more about this here.

In May, a new law entered into force that further restrict Freedom of expression and Internet freedom. Bloggers, with more than 3000 followers, are now required to register with the authorities and comply with the same regulations as media outlets, including accountability for veracity of information. The same law requires Russian blogging services and social networks to store user activities and make it available to the authorities on request.

Categories: Events and News.
Tags: Cecilia Rosing, Freedom of Speech, QueerFest, and yttrandefrihet.
Regions: Russia.