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Ukraine gay rights activists hold first ever march

Around one hundred gay rights activists marched in Ukraine today despite fears of violence and a court ban – marking the first gay pride event in the ex-Soviet country.
May 25th 2013, 1:52 PM 6,167 38

Activists in Ukraine’s first gay pride demonstration during the action in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2013. About one hundred gay and lesbian Ukrainians, and those from other countries, took part in the gay pride rally, protected by hundreds of riot police. Antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

AROUND ONE HUNDRED gay rights activists marched in Ukraine on Saturday despite fears of violence and a court ban, marking the first gay pride event in the ex-Soviet country, where homophobia is widespread and generally accepted.

“This can be considered a historic day,” said Elena Semyonova, a representative of the organisers.

Lesbian and gay rights activists, holding rainbow flags and placards, held a brief, 20-minute-long march along a street not far from the centre of the capital Kiev amid a heavy police presence.

Unlike gay pride events in the West, the Kiev march was low-key and did not feature any provocative clothes or LGBT paraphernalia.

The organisers advised participants to wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes that would make their escape easier in case of a sudden attack or scuffle.

“Human rights are my pride,” chanted the activists who included a delegation from Munich as well as gays and lesbians from Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

“Homosexuality is not an illness” and “LGB rights are human rights” read the slogans they carried.

The activists had defied a ban by a Ukrainian court which on Thursday ruled that no events could be staged in the capital on Saturday because of City Day celebrations.

The city authorities said they had received more than 500 complaints from members of the public over the planned gay pride march, while more than 60 parliamentary lawmakers signed a letter calling for a blanket ban on all gay pride events in May and June.

According to the organisers of the march, there are between 1 million and 2 million gay people in Ukraine, which has a population of some 45 million.

As in neighbouring Russia, the influence of the dominant Orthodox Church is strong and homophobia remains widespread and socially acceptable.

In Russia, gay rights activists also attempted to hold unsanctioned rallies outside the parliament building in Moscow and near the mayor’s office, but were detained by police.

Among the detained was prominent activist Nikolai Alexeyev.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Homophobic assaults surge in France amid gay marriage debate
Read: Horrific murder fuels fears of rising homophobia in Russia

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