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How do these 7 Western cities compare to their twins on LGBT rights?

Katharine Swindells August 3, 2017
Russian riot policemen detain a gay and LGBT rights activist during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in central Moscow on May 30, 2015. Moscow city authorities turned down demands for a gay rights rally. AFP PHOTO/DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian riot policemen detain an LGBT rights activist (DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty)

These past weeks have seen demonstrations of LGBT Pride across the world, from small, community-based event to the gigantic citywide parties.

But the biggest thing that differentiates them is the social and legal status of the people marching.

In some Pride parades, police, army and government officials have marched alongside LGBT citizens, while in other countries the participants risk harassment, imprisonment or even violence, simply for being out in their identity.

When we compare some major hubs with their sister cities in other parts of the world, it becomes clear just how large the discrepancy of LGBT rights is.

Brooklyn, New York & Istanbul, Turkey

New York Pride 2017
New York Pride 2017 (Getty)

On June 25th, thousands of LGBT+ people and allies marched through the streets of New York City in pride and resistance.

NYC is known as one of the most liberal cities in the world, and was the site of the Stonewall Riots, a milestone in LGBT history, but in Brooklyn’s twin, Istanbul, it’s a different story.

That same day, LGBT people took to the streets of Turkey’s capital city, despite Pride having been cancelled last-minute by the Turkish authorities. They were soon broken up by the police, armed with dogs and rubber bullets.

LGBT supporters run from tear gas fired by police after attempting to carry out the banned 2017 Istanbul Pride. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
LGBT supporters run from tear gas fired by police after attempting to carry out the banned 2017 Istanbul Pride. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Homosexual sex has been legal in Turkey since the country was founded in 1923, and transgender people have been able to legally change their gender since 1988.

However, often their official rights do not match up with the cultural attitude. Many LGBT face discrimination and harassment, sometimes even become the victim of “honour killings” for their identity.

San Francisco, California & Abidjan, Ivory Coast

The gay capital of the United States, if not the world, pulled out all the stops on Pride weekend, with tens of thousands of people joining together in resistance and solidarity.

San Francisco Pride 2017 (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

San Fran’s twin, Abidjan, may be the gay capital of Ivory Coast, but that’s not really saying much.

Ivory Coast is better than many African countries in regard to LGBT rights, largely due to it being an ex-French colony, while many of its neighbours inherited strict British sodomy laws while under colonial rule.

Homosexual sex is legal in Ivory Coast, however there is no recognition of same-sex couples or legal protections given to LGBT people.

Abidjan is something of a haven though, a city with a strong LGBT community and far more tolerant culture.

HIV-AIDS activists march in Abidjan in 2007
HIV-AIDS activists march in Abidjan in 2007 (KAMBOU SIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Miss Woubi beauty pageant is the closest thing the city has a pride parade, an all-night party where men dress in full drag to compete for the title.

The event brings many LGBT people together, allowing them to express their identity with a flamboyance and joy that is forbidden in the outside world.

Washington, DC & Dakar, Senegal

Six months into Trump’s presidency, it’s no surprise that the US Pride parades have all been highly political this year, not least the one in the nation’s capital and centre of government.

Trump refused to acknowledge Pride month at all this year, and recently became the most unpopular president in history in the polls, just after his recent tweets announcing transgender people will not be allowed in the military.

Related: Trump’s first 100 days have been a total disaster for LGBT people

Pride marchers hit out against Trump with their signs at DC Pride 2017
Pride marchers hit out against Trump with their signs at DC Pride 2017 (JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP/Getty Images)

What does it say, then, that DC’s sister city is Dakar, Senegal, a country with one of the worst gay pride records in the world.

According to the 2013 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97% of Senegal residents believe that “homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept.”

Same-sex relations carry penalties of imprisonment and there have been cases of gay men experiencing torture while in police custody.

A group of Senegalese people did, however, march in Brussels Pride last year.

LGBT Senegalese people march in Brussels Pride in 2016
LGBT Senegalese people march in Brussels Pride in 2016 (From Bitimrew Press)

Related: All the countries where it’s illegal to be gay

Birmingham, UK & Johannesburg, South Africa

Despite taking place only days after the terror attack in nearby Manchester, Birmingham saw a huge turnout at its Pride parade in late May.

Birmingham Pride 2017 (from @BirminghamPride on Twitter)

Johannesburg Pride is the largest pride in the city, and in fact the whole continent, and has been taking place since the 1990s when it began in collaboration with anti-apartheid movements.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the 2017 Johannesburg Pride in October.

South Africa has far more legal rights for LGBT people than most of the rest of Africa, but there is still a big problem with social opinion.

A 2008 survey found that 84% of South Africans said homosexual sexual behaviour is always wrong, and in a 2013 survey, 61% said society should not accept homosexuality.

South Africa also does not have hate crime discrimination specifically for LGBT people, and the Pride parades often have a political tone as the community protests violence against them.

LGBT activists speak out against violence against LGBT women at Pride in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 2012
LGBT activists speak out against violence against LGBT women at Pride in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 2012 (photo Charles Haynes/Wikicommons)

Human Rights Organisations have accused the South African government of turning a blind eye to murders of lesbians and the crime of “corrective rape” against LGBT women, and there have been a series of murders of men that are believed to be homophobically-motivated.

London, UK & Tehran, Iran

The huge Pride in the UK’s capital city was once again led by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who turned the tide last year by attending after his predecessor’s five-year absence.

The parade was bigger than ever before, with over 26,000 people made up of more than 300 groups marching, and an estimated one million attendees total in a weekend celebration of love and freedom.

Sadiq Khan at Pride in London in 2016
Sadiq Khan at Pride in London in 2016 (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

However the situation in London’s sister city – Tehran, Iran – could not be more different.

Same-sex activity for men or women is punishable by death in Iran, and Human Rights Organisations believe as many as 6,000 people have been executed for crimes related to sexuality since 1979.

Although transsexuality is legal, and Iran actually performs more sex-changes than almost any other country in the world, it is believed that in some cases these surgeries are forced on gay and gender-nonconforming men.

LGBT people have over the past years held a “secret pride” on what they call ‘Rainbow Friday,’ posting pictures with rainbow flags and messages but with their faces covered.

LGBT Iranians post pictures for their secret Pride in Tehran on “Rainbow Friday” (from @Ranginkamaniha on Twitter)

This weekend, for the first time ever, a group of LGBT Iranians will be able to march proudly, joining the Amsterdam Canal Pride Parade, organised by the Human Rights group JoopeA. Some may still hide their faces, but this is a big step for many LGBT people in Iran.

Brisbane, Australia & Hyderabad, India

Although Australia recognises same-sex relationships, and many states grant benefits and protections to couples, they remain one of the last Western countries not to legalise gay marriage.

The equal marriage question is being constantly debated in Australia, with the hope that it may be legalised in the near future.

Brisbane’s 2016 Pride parade (from @BrisbanePride on Facebook)

In comparison, same-sex activity is illegal in India, carrying a penalty of up to life imprisonment, and LGB people have no legal protections.

Some regions of India do however legally recognise Hijras, a third gender, and transgender people do have a number of specific legal protections and rights.

Despite discrimination, LGBT people have been holding Pride parades in some of the major cities, including Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore, for almost 10 years.

Indian gay rights activists at Bangalore gay pride 2009.
Indian gay rights activists at Bangalore gay pride in2009. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Last years Bangalore Pride celebrations ran over almost two months, culminating in a Parade in November in which over 3000 people marched.

Glasgow, Scotland & Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Up until this year, Scotland was considered the “best country in Europe for LGBT legal equality,” until it was overtaken by Malta, for its equal rights and discrimination protections. Glasgow has also been hailed for its LGBT-inclusivity, for its thriving gay social scene.

Glasgow Pride 2016
Glasgow Pride 2016 (from @prideglasgow on Facebook)

Glasgow Pride is set to take place later in August, with 4500 people marching in the parade last year despite rainy weather.

In Russia, although same-sex activity has been legal since 1993, the country has made global news over the past decade for their appalling LGBT rights record.

In 2013, Russia cracked down on materials that ‘promoted” homosexuality and many Russian LGBT citizens have been arrested.

Although the larger Russian cities do have a thriving LGBT community, their openness is heavily repressed. Moscow Pride has been banned every year since 2006.

Russian riot policemen detain a gay and LGBT rights activist during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in 2015
Russian riot policemen detain an LGBT rights activist during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in 2015 (DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Those who carry out discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people often use the law as justification for their actions.

In Chechnya, a semi-autonomous region of Russia, there has been a violent crackdown on the LGBT community, where a large number of gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured.

More: Australia, Birmingham, Brisbane, Brussels, Glasgow, Iran, Istanbul, Ivory coast, johannesburg, London, Pride, San Francisco, senegal, tehran, Turkey, UK, USA, Washington DC

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