The 2010 Vancouver pride parade commenced on Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of people taking part in the festivities. One of the parade’s four grand marshals—under the apt title of “International Hero”—was Nikolai Alekseev, a Russian LGBT rights activist and lawyer.
Mr. Alekseev is the founder of Moscow Pride, a nonprofit group responsible for organizing a march in the Russian capital. Unfortunately, the Moscow parade continues to be banned by city authorities year after year. Still, Alekseev and his colleagues are leading a struggle for freedom of assembly and association in Russia, trying to bring change for the country’s embattled and quiet LGBT community. “My group is a direct-action group. … We want to change things,” says Alekseev.
Vancouver’s recognition of Alekseev as a global advocate for LGBT rights stands in line with a myriad of other awards the activist has received of the years (including several in the United States). Human Rights First has spoken out against the bans of Moscow Pride and highlighted the plight of LGBT communities around the globe in our reports and advocacy with U.S. officials and international organizations. We will continue to urge governments to take specific steps to protect people from violence and to ensure that the right to freedom of assembly and association is guaranteed to all.
While the situation in Russia remains grim, Nikolai Alekseev is glad to acknowledge progress in other European cities: “Well, let’s look at Warsaw. Recently, the first-ever Eastern European EuroPride took place there. It was a big success. Five years ago, the mayor of Warsaw banned the gay Pride. It is only thanks to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights that the Pride started to be allowed. This decision is the legal basis since 2007 for allowing Prides in Eastern Europe. If you look at Vilnius, the Pride was allowed this year only because of a strong backing from the EU member states’ embassies there and also the European Commission.”
Indeed, we’ve documented many improvements in recent years. Pride parades in Eastern Europe are better organized and better protected by the police. We’ll continue to urge governments to offer LGBT people an opportunity to celebrate their identities and to affirmatively take a stand against intolerance and bigotry that surround LGBT people in their daily lives.
Of course, New Yorkers out there, you can also take part in the NYC Pride every June, where you’ll have a chance, among other things, to shout ‘Stop Hate Crime’ with Human Rights First.