What do Los Angeles, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Florida have in common? They, along with several other cities around the globe, are Sister Cities to St. Petersburg, Russia — one of the most homophobic cities in the world.
St. Petersburg’s “gay propaganda” law singles out a vulnerable minority group for persecution and legitimizes violence against LGBT people. World cities that value LGBT human rights have an obligation to suspend their Sister City relationships with St. Petersburg, as Venice and Milan have already done, until this unconscionable law is repealed.
St. Petersburg’s malicious anti-gay law was exported to the rest of Russia when President Vladimir Putin signed a national “gay propaganda” ban.
St. Petersburg’s Sisters:
Los Angeles, California, USA
State of Maryland, USA
Québec City, Québec, Canada
St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Manchester, United Kingdom
A UK gay arts festival has been forced to cancel a two-year project in St Petersburg for fear of arrest under the Russian city’s new homophobic laws.
Liverpool’s Homotopia was due to show an exhibition chronicling the emergence of the gay rights movement in the UK and Europe, but organizers have pulled the program after being warned by British officials that they could be arrested or fined as a result.
St Petersburg has been condemned by world leaders and human rights activists after it passed an anti-gay ‘propaganda’ law which effectively gags any public discussion of LGBT issues or events targeted at gay and trans people, including pride.
Artistic director Gary Everett was due to fly out later this month with a colleague.
‘The British Embassy and British Consulate were really monitoring what was happening and the advice was that if we go we would be open to arrest and could end up being put in prison because we are an overtly gay festival,’ Everett told Gay Star News.
He added: ‘I’ve never encountered these obstacles before but it’s more insidious than that. It’s more severe in terms of the law’s enforcement. They will arrest people. They’ve already arrested Russian activists so what would stop them from doing that to someone from our country?’
Art as Social Change was launched following a hugely successful exhibition of Tom of Finland in the gay artist’s home city of Turku.
Part of the legacy of Homotopia’s time in the Finnish city was the creation of three projects, including a show on human rights in Turku’s twin city St Petersburg.
‘What is sad is that St Petersburg is one of the most progressive cities in terms of art and culture,’ Everett added.
‘It’s a very exciting place in terms of art, music, fashion and creativity but they don’t want to have a gay and lesbian element to that. They seem to want to just wipe it out.
BY MATTHEW JENKIN