Hundreds of gay and trans men and women, together with their supporters, marched through the capitals of Poland and Latvia today, demanding greater acceptance and rights in their respective societies, where they still face high levels of homophobia and transphobia.
Although several of the former-Soviet countries joined the EU in 2004, and have moved towards more liberal policies for LGBT people, homosexuality still remains a taboo subject, with outright hostility from rightwing groups and politicians.
Today, the marches both in Riga and Warsaw required heavy police protection, Associated Press reports, though this year, the opposition was smaller in number and force than the previous ones.
In addition, the march in Riga included the participation of the US ambassador to Latvia, Judith Garber, under instructions from Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Ms Garber said: “”Human rights belong to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. So we are marching in support of LGBT people here in Latvia, in the Baltics, in Europe, and throughout the world.”
Meanwhile, Poland’s LGBT community used the occasion to mark the inclusion of Poland’s first gay and transgender MPs into the parliament last year, which marked a significant improvement in a country where politicans have repeatedly denounced gay and trans people. The party to which these MPs belonged, Palikot’s Movement, had its own float in the Warsaw march.
A group of about 20 people from Belarus also marched in Warsaw, local media reports say, ahead of a pride parade in Minsk in October. In response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s statement that it was ‘better to be a dictator than gay,’ a remark made at Germany’s gay foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, the marchers carried a banner which read: “It’s better to be gay than a dictator.”