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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 33
Prague Pride a success despite government opposition
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Prague Pride a success despite government opposition

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In spite of its reputation as a cosmopolitan city and Gay-friendly tourist destination, Prague was the last European Union capital to host a Pride Parade.

Pride festivities did not come to the Czech capital until August 13 this year, and even then it was in the face of opposition from the Czech Republic's president and one of his senior advisors.

Some 5,000 LGBT people and their supporters marched in a light rain while thousands of riot police held back right-wing anti-Gay extremists shouting abusive slogans.

The conservative Christian Democratic Party called for a counter-parade in support of traditional family values. According to the New York Times, only 200 people attended.

The far-right Workers Party for Social Justice also held a counter-demonstration.

The ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic group DOST issued a statement accusing Pride organizers of violating their freedom of thought and expression.

In spite of the right, there was no violence. A Pride march in the Czech Republic's second city Brno in 2008 ended in fighting between marchers and rightists, who attacked the march with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The Prague marchers danced down the street to music played from loudspeakers mounted on vans.

The march then concluded with a concert on an island in the Vltava River, as part of a five-day 'tolerance festival' with some 80 events - concerts, films, seminars, exhibitions, and parties - in 30 venues around the capital.

'The space between the start of the march and its ending point on Strelecký Ostrov (Shooters' Island) was completely filled for more than an hour with a diverse crowd of people,' the English-language Prague Post reported.

'Some showed up in ordinary jeans and T-shirts, decorated only with a small flag on their backpacks, while others chose multicolored costumes and wigs. Others wore masks resembling the Czech president and his vice-chancellor.'

Vice Chancellor Petr Haiek had denounced the Pride celebration as a political statement by 'deviants.' Haiek was supported by his boss, Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

Prague's mayor, Bohuslav Svoboda, backed the Pride festivities, however.

'We live in a society where tolerance is a basic philosophical principle,' he said. 'This is not a debate about 'isms.' It is an obligation of everyone in a tolerant society to protect minority rights.'

Thirteen foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, also intervened with a joint statement supporting Prague Pride.

In 2006, the Czech Republic became the first formerly Communist country to grant domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples. Since then, 1,181 same-sex couples have registered partnerships, according to Colourplanet.cz.

LGBT activists continue to fight for marriage rights and the right to adopt, however.

Attacks on religious, national, or ethnic minorities are classed as hate crimes in Czech law, but attacks motivated by homophobia are not.

The LGBT rights group In Iustitia has been working to amend the country's hate crimes laws as part of a Justice Ministry working group, In Iustitia Director Klára Kalibová told the Prague Post.

'In the Czech Republic, we do have an anti-discrimination law where sexual orientation is forbidden as a reason to discriminate,' Kalibová said. 'From this point of view, the lack of criminal protection does not make sense. We provide the LGBT community some rights, but we do not protect them.'

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