The head of the Council of Europe, Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland, has demanded that Russia, which is a member state, allow LGBT Pride parades and rallies.
Despite progress for marriage equality and other civil rights in other countries, especially within Europe, Russia has been working towards a nationwide ban against the exposure of minors to LGBT “propaganda.” It is already law in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city.
LGBT activists have expressed concern that its vague language could result in the law being interpreted as a ban on public demonstrations such as Pride parades.
Secretary-General Jagland said at a press conference, “Russian authorities have an obligation to also protect that LGBT people can express their views and entertain demonstrations in order to express their views. This is a fundamental principle in the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Though the Council of Europe shares certain symbols with the European Union, such as its flag, they are separate entities, and unlike the EU, the Council of Europe is unable to force legislation on a country. Membership within the Council is open to all European countries that share its values regarding the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.
LGBT rights groups have reported that applications to hold events of all types have been increasingly denied; in an interview with Gay Star News, the co-founder of Moscow Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, said that “Russia does not respect its international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, nor the ruling of ECHR. We’ve tried to adapt and accommodate to the Russian authorities, to get permission for Moscow Pride due [on May 25]in several different options… All these requests were turned down and or discredited.
“There are two court cases, one in Moscow, the other in Khimki, pending before the planned event, and I hope they can rule in favor so that we can go ahead. If they don’t… we’ll just have run Moscow Pride for the 8th consecutive year without official permission.”
The equal rights group SOVA reports that homophobia-related violence saw a sharp increase after the nationwide ban was proposed in January. On May 10, a 23-year-old man was beaten and stabbed to death after allegedly outing himself as gay over drinks. On May 17, a gay rights rally lasted only minutes when a larger group of anti-gay protesters, outnumbering the LGBT activists by two to one, screamed insults and threw smoke bombs over police barriers.