Europride made history in Riga
Large counter-demonstrations were announced, but the voices of criticism were drowned by the 5 000 who celebrated Europride in the streets of the Latvian capital on 20 June.
For the first time a post-Soviet country hosted Europride - a European festival for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT). Norway Grants was sponsor of the event.
“I think a lot of the international guests were a bit concerned about how the parade would turn out, but people were cheering in the streets when we communicated the message of love,” said Bård Nylund, chairman of the National Association for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Norway (LLH). According to the organisers, about 5 000 people took part in the parade.
“We have made history. We have done something amazing. This exceeds all my expectations,” said Kaspars Zālītis, the leader of the Latvian LLH Association Mozaika after the week-long festival was over.
There have been many obstacles during the preparations for the event and the organisers have been faced with local opposition. Also in other areas of the Latvian society, there are similar challenges.
A survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014) shows that 26 percent of LGBT people in Latvia feel discriminated against in the workplace because of their sexual orientation (EU average: 19 per cent).
66 percent say that they are not open about being gay (EU average: 38 percent). 77 percent said negative comments about gays are common from politicians (EU average: 44 percent).
“Not everyone in Latvia understands that LGBT persons' rights are are a part of the human rights. Many Latvians want to have a modern society, but in this area there a lot still remains to be done. This event means a lot for Latvia and for the whole region,” said the Norwegian Ambassador to Latvia, Steinar Hagen. Along with ambassadors from several countries he led the parade to show Norway's support for the event.
Promoting LGBT rights
Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are financing a number of projects promoting LGBT people's rights in Europe.
“Without the EEA and Norway Grants our organisation had probably not existed,” said Kaspars Zālītis.