Hundreds of thousands of people braved pouring rain in Stockholm on Saturday at this year’s colourful EuroPride parade.
Sweden was the host for this year’s week-long EuroPride festival, which takes place in a different European country each year.
Organisers had expected as many as 100,000 to take part in the parade and around 500,000 spectators.
But the heavy rain pounding the Swedish capital dissuaded many from coming out.
“Around 45,000 people took part in the parade and more than 450,000 watched,” EuroPride spokeswoman Anna Soederstroem told AFP.
“The weather has been terrible, so we’re thrilled so many came,” she said, shrugging off the fact that the number of those participating fell short of last year’s sun-drenched Stockholm Pride parade.
Colourful umbrellas lined the parade route through central Stockholm as onlookers craned their necks to see the passing floats draped in rainbow flags and pumping out loud music.
Flamboyant drag queens, some wearing only shiny thongs, and others dressed to look like Marie Antoinette, strutted alongside groups including Dykes on Bikes, the Homosexual Doctors’ Association, Gay Police and Proud Siblings and Friends of Homosexuals.
Guest of honour Manvendra Singh Gohil, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla of Gujurat, charmed participants and audiences alike.
“I had been told fabulous legends of a Prince Charming since my cradle days, but I never thought I would ever behold one in flesh. Manvendra is truly charming,” Elin Nordh, a 34-year-old bisexual mother of two sons, told Indo-Asian News Service.
“Had he been a frog and I had caught him, I would have taken good care never to de-metamorphose him with a kiss!”
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The only Indian royal who is openly homosexual, Mavendra is on a mission to promote the interests of gays globally.
He made headlines around the world when he publicly came out of the closet in 2006 and has subsequently appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show, starred in the gay film Emotionally Yours and set up an HIV-awareness charity to educate gay men about the dangers of the disease.
“If the gay movement needs a paradise, Sweden is the place, the veritable Valhalla,” told Indo-Asian News Service.
“Here, I have seen the incredible: members of the parliament, cabinet and people from socio-religio-political spheres, replete with multi-gender proclivities, hobnob without the blinking of an eye.”
While the word “marriage” cannot yet legally be applied to same-sex couples in Sweden, homosexuals who form civil unions have since 1995 enjoyed the same rights as married couples.
The Swedish government is currently preparing a bill that would remove any reference to gender in the marriage law.
Last week’s festivities were marred by a homophobic attack on two men who were set upon after kissing each other outside near the EuroPride festival area and robbed in the early hours of July 28.
One of the victims was knifed in the stomach and sustained serious injuries.
Three youths have since been arrested for assault and robbery and a hearing is set for August 15th.