Armed with rainbow flags and colourful balloons, hundreds of LGBTQI activists took to the streets of St. Petersburg to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Bipobia (IDAHOBIT).
Protestors used the opportunity to speak out against LGBTQI discrimination in Russia and condemn the human rights violations currently occurring in Chechnya.
The peaceful rally went ahead with the co-operation of local police—a rare occurrence for public LGBTQI gatherings in the country.
Just last week, gay rights activists in Moscow were arrested while trying to deliver a petition to prosecutors calling for an official investigation into Chechnya.
Speakers who addressed the rally in St. Petersburg included investigative journalist Yelena Kostyuchenko, who writes for Novaya Gazeta—the paper that first reported gay men in Chechnya were being detained and tortured.
Yosef Kristian, the rally’s organiser, said of the event: “It’s difficult to draw any conclusions in our context, when so much depends on the political will of those in power.”
“But… our strategy is ’constant dripping wears away a stone’ and today a little chip of that stone fell off,” he said.
The Russian LGBT Network released a statement on the day of the rally urging the Russian authorities to take action in the autonomous region.
The author of the statement — Igor Kochetkov — argues that Russia’s human rights ombudswoman is not treating the situation in Chechnya as an LGBTQI rights issue.
“Tatyana Nikolaevna is wrong,” Kochetkov said of the ombudswoman. “The question is precisely about the sexual orientation. In this case, people were abducted, tortured and killed precisely because of their sexual orientation."
“Without the recognition of this circumstance, it is impossible to understand, investigate, and prevent the recurrence of such crimes in the future," he said.
World leaders continue to condemn the persecution of gay men in Chechnya with the European Parliament the latest body to demand immediate action.
“MEPs call on the authorities to end this campaign of persecution and immediately release illegally detained persons,” an EU Parliament statement reads.
“They also urge Chechen and Russian authorities to follow international commitments and to uphold the rule of law and universal human rights standards, to ensure the safety of all persons who might be at risk, including LGBTI individuals.”