The Walk with Pride Project
This is a gay issue.
This is a straight issue.
This is a human rights issue.
Walk With Pride (WWP) is a project to photograph and document gay pride parades around the globe. Our aim is to promote pride, empathy, and understanding on an international level, while highlighting the similarities and differences in gay rights and gay culture around the world.
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Category Archives: Lithuania
We just got back from Baltic Pride … it was an honor to participate in Lithuania’s first pride march, and it was a very memorable experience.
This morning we met with other supporters at the meeting place in the Conti Hotel. There was an air of anticipation among those who gathered, as this event was the first of its kind to take place in Vilnius. Not only Lithuanians, but people from all over the Baltic region, and across Europe joined to support the march. Large buses carried everyone to the demonstration’s starting point. The permit that Baltic Pride organizers were able to obtain allowed 350 in all to participate.
When we arrived there were already people gathered on the opposite side of the river, as well as any accessible point around the perimeter of the area. I saw very few of these people carrying protest signs, but instead most seemed to be watching; maybe waiting to see what would happen.
The city had provided 800 police to keep everyone safe. Many along the perimeter were in riot gear, but there were also police on horses, and even on Segways. As everyone gathered, I saw large signs of the different organizations in attendance – Amnesty, ILGA, the Estonian Youth League, Mosaic, and LGL (sorry if I missed anybody).
Here’s video of the march:
At one point those opposing the march became more vocal. Smoke began billowing up from the East perimeter, but I spoke with Chad who said he thought the police were using that to push back the protesters, but wasn’t sure. There was also a yellow inflatable raft briefly launched into the river, with 2 guys shouting derogatory remarks in English. However, this did not last very long.
The whole march lasted maybe 30 minutes, and then veered into a large green field where a stage had been put up. Music played, followed by organizers getting up and speaking on stage, while everyone stood around listening. They also announced plans for next year’s Baltic Pride march, which will take place in Estonia.
After the march, I asked some Vilnius locals who attended the march what they though. They were pleased that everything went well, but also mentioned that it was “heartbreaking we have to be separated by the river.”
Chad will be posting photos from the march within the next couple of days. They’ll be available at: http://walkwithpridenow.com
It’s Saturday morning and we’re getting ready to attend the first ever gay pride march in Lithuania. About 350 supporters are expected to show up, with 800 police protecting the area. I have no idea how many people will be demonstrating against the pride march, but we are beginning to hear rumors it may be a lot.
We will be leaving shortly for the meeting place where all marchers will attend a security meeting in preparation, and then be bused to the demonstration area. The marchers will be on the North side of the river, while those opposing the pride will be lined up on the other side .
I think everyone is a little nervous, as this is the first pride march in the country and no one knows exactly what to expect.
On Monday Raimondas Petrauskas, interim Attorney General of Lithuania, filed a petition to revoke the Baltic Pride march permit citing issues with security. Since that time the planned march for equality had been suspended awaiting a vote by the courts, however as of 3:45p on Friday the march has been approved and will take place as planned tomorrow @ 12n.
Congratulations, Baltic Pride is Approved!
Country Details: Gay Rights and Culture in Lithuania
Lithuania LGBT Rights:
Homosexual Acts Legal? Yes, since 1993
Same-sex Relationships Recognized? No
Same-sex Marriages Allowed? No
Same-sex Adoption Allowed? No
Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? Yes
Anti-discrimination Laws? Yes
◊ Law on Equal Treatment 2005, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned in the areas of employment, education and access to goods and services.
Legislature Concerning Gender Identity? Some
◊ Article 2.27 of the Civil Code allows any non-married person to change legal gender if this is medically possible, but there are other legal challenges to applying this article.
Cultural Points of Interest:
The Lithuanian Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information went into effect on March 1, 2010. The law bars ‘minors’ from receiving information about any type of sexual relationships, and seeks to protect the ‘traditional’ concept of family defined by the Constitution as based on the union between a man and a woman. – The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights ( http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/news.php)
Many prejudices still exist in Lithuania with a recent 2009 poll showing 81.5% of respondents considered homosexuality as a perversion/disease/filth, but these perceptions tended to relate to the age of respondents. The oldest age respondents were more likely to consider it as a disease or depravity, while the youngest age group of respondents was more likely to consider it a normal state of sexuality.
Lithunian Gay League Organization – Lithuanian Gay League is a national NGO supporting the rights of LGBT persons, and is one of the longest existing NGOs in Lithuania. The group is working closely with other Baltic LGBT organizations and with Amnesty International “to make the second Baltic Pride march and conference a breakthrough event for LGBT human rights in Lithuania.”
TRACE - For LGBT Equality, Against Homophobia in Lithuania – - Created as part of an EU program between Lithuania, Slovenia, France and Sweden. The common interest is to abolish discrimination and the inequality of LGBT persons in the area of employment. The website also includes the position of several Lithuanian MPs concerning their attitudes toward homosexuality.
We arrived in Vilnius late in the evening on the Wednesday night before the pride parade. It was not an easy trip, as it involved several dashes through the UK airport as we struggled to catch our connecting flight.
The first leg of the trip took us from Kuala Lumpur to London’s Stratford airport, a 13 hour flight. We had 2 hours to make a connecting flight to Vilnius, but huge lines through mandatory UK immigration slowed us down. Three staffers were leisurely checking the passports of several hundred passengers. After an hour of waiting, Chad spoke with a staffer to let us shortcut the rest of the line, which allowed us just enough time to race to the Star1 airport counter for the flight to Lithuania. This was again followed by more check points, security, and trying to make it the correct gate via train. We made the flight, and at 10pm the plane touched down at the Vilnius airport.
We had our first glimpse of the city as we traveled that night by taxi to a guest house near the central train station. The taxi, driven by a young 20-something guy, took us through the old center of town, very quickly as the streets were deserted. Even completely exhausted and jetlagged, the old center of Vilnius looked impressive with huge churches around every corner, and its’ well kept architecture.
The next morning we were able to explore the city further, but it was pretty miserable weather outside – cold and rainy. We also discovered the area seriously lacked places to buy umbrellas. After walking around the city streets for a few hours, we stopped by the Conti Hotel to pick up our registration material for the pride march. Members of the “Baltic Pride 2010” team provided us with materials, and information on the Human Rights conference and LGBT film festival that are also taking place, as well as a safety leaflet with emergency numbers and safety advice for all those attending the pride events.
One of the most central activities of Baltic Pride is the Equality march that takes place on Saturday. The organizers have already overcome many obstacles and hurdles so that they can hold the parade and their battles are not yet over. However, if they are able to hold the march it will be the very first pride parade held in Lithuania.
Back in October Chad first had the idea of spending a year photographing international pride parades. The goal is to show the similarities and differences in gay rights and gay culture around the world.
Since that time he and I have been actively involved in developing the “Walk with Pride” project. During the initial preparation stage Chad photographed the Taipei, Manila, and Sydney pride festivals getting a feel for photographing these types of large colorful events. At the same time, I’ve been busy with the organizational part, contacting pride organizations and arranging travel details. Finally, we are ready for the next stage of the project, traveling to Europe to photograph 15 parades over the next several months.
Last Saturday was spent saying goodbyes to friends, and returning the apartment we’d been renting back to the landlord. What we aren’t bringing with us has been boxed away, safely stored in a friend’s spare room.
On Sunday we flew from Taipei (where we’ve been living for the last two years) over to Kuala Lumpur. Some of the most economical flights to Europe take off from KL, so we are spending just a few days here, before flying to our first stop – Baltic Pride in Lithuania.
This will be Lithuania’s first ever pride parade, and we are looking forward to documenting it.
Facebook has become a new forum for those wishing to show either their opposition or support for this year’s 2010 Baltic Pride Festival in Vilnius. However, this has taken a hateful turn as the Lithuanian Attorney General’s office is now investigating those advocating violence at the march.
“I am for fighting and people supporting it in May 2010” and “I am against homosexualists’ parade in Vilnius in May 2010” are two main groups against the pride march, and contain plenty of threats for violence and harsh sentiments..
On the other side, there are also FB groups starting in support of the march. If you want to show your support, here are some that we’ve found:
In a month and a half from now, the “Walk With Pride” project will travel to Eastern Europe to photograph gay pride marches. Our first stop will be Baltic Pride 2010 in Vilnius, Lithuania (May 8).
Baltic Pride is a joint effort between LGBT organizations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Last year’s Baltic Pride was held in Riga, and faced serious issues as the Riga City Council revoked permission to march only 2 days before the march was to take place. However, a last minute court injunction the morning before the Saturday march overturned the council’s ban and allowed the pride march to take place. Almost 600 people marched during last year’s Baltic Pride in support of LGBT rights and against discrimination. Around 70 yellow shirted activists from Amnesty International were also among those present. Here’s a video from last year’s march, which you can see as part of the 2010 Pride Parade Calendar.
While this year’s Baltic Pride is scheduled to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, it is also facing the risk of a government ban. While the organizers have received a permit to hold a peaceful march, legal requests have been made to the Lithuanian Attorney General to cancel Baltic Pride as they say it would violate a new law concerning “Protection of Minors Against Harmful Public Information.“
Unfortunately, the marches held in this region currently face many prejudices, including threats of violence and the risk of cancelation. This makes the strong efforts of the LGBT organizations operating in this area very inspiring as they work under more challenging circumstances.