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Prague’s first pride parade: A success amidst controversy

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Prior to the event, valid concerns about violence erupting circulated, as was the case during similar events held in Brno and neighboring Slovakia and Hungary.

Despite the Czech Republic being the first former communist country in Europe to grant legal recognition to same-sex couples in 2006, the homophobic statements made by leading politicians in the run-up to the Prague Pride festival did little to combat the attitude that gays and lesbians were respected members of the Czech society.

President Václav Klaus decided to support deputy chancellor Petr Hájek’s statements in which he labeled homosexuals as “deviant fellow citizens” — a move which brought the festival into the spotlight at home as well as abroad.

The march was part of a greater festival, called Prague Pride and Tolerance Festival, that took part between 10 and 14 August, and offered festival goers to attend about 80 cultural events, panel discussions and, of course, parties.

The organizers’ intention was to attract as large an audience as possible, hence, opting for Prague Pride, rather than Gay or Queer Prague, according to member of the festival’s organizing committee Bastiaan Huijgen.

On Thursday, festival goers were, among many other events, invited to a frisky morning walking tour, a lecture about architecture, a theatre performance and a talk show with senior homosexuals who gave the visitors a glimpse into what it was like being a gay in Czechoslovakia in the 70’s and 80’s.

On Sunday, they were even invited to church.

Unlike other religious groups who were handing out flyers or holding banners warning against sodomy on the sidelines of the march, Standa Kostiha and Tomáš Adámek from the Eucemenical Church in Kobylisy, Prague 8, came to Střelecký ostrov to invite everyone to Sunday’s sermon. “As the only church in the country, we believe that homosexuality is natural and we have no problems conducting gay weddings. Everyone is welcome,” Kostiha said.

In the pouring rain half-hour before the march was set to take off from Náměstí republiky, a group of about 30-40 males representing the extreme right stood waiting for marchers at Národní třída.

The downpour was short-lived as was the threat from the radicals kept at bay by a wall of police officers, allowing for the free and safe passage of marchers dancing to the sound of pounding electronic beats emanating form balloon-flooded vans.

“We’re very happy and satisfied,” said Huijgen shortly after the parade had ended. “The police have been so absolutely wonderful. They were very cooperative and some were even spotted dancing with the marchers.”

Katrine Hogganvik is Norwegian but based in Prague where she recently graduated with a master dergee in Public Policy.

Visit Prague Daily Monitor’s Photo Gallery for more photos from Prague Pride Parade.

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