World Pride (Aug 12-22) kicked off in Copenhagen at the weekend. Denmark has been a pioneer when it comes to LGBTIQ equality. It was the first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships. It was among the first to introduce explicit protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and allow legal gender recognition without third party interventions. There is a lot to celebrate when it comes to LGBTIQ equality in Denmark.
But LGBTIQ pride is not just about celebration. Pride events are a loud and visible expression of the LGBTIQ community affirming our existence and demanding recognition and protection of our human rights.
The protest nature of pride is especially relevant during World Pride because according to OutRight’s recent briefing on prides around the world, only 102 countries hold some form of pride event. This means that almost the same number do not.
In too many places pride events can not happen due to active persecution of LGBTIQ people (such as in Egypt or Indonesia and others), due to restrictive legislation (such as in Russia and Uganda), or due to continuing criminalisation of same-sex relations (such as in Kenya and Nigeria).
Moreover, in most places where some form of Pride is held, organizers face restrictions, attacks, and broader backlash. It is particularly the backlash that I want to highlight, because prides, while being indispensable for the LGBTIQ movement, hold importance way beyond the LGBTIQ community.
At their very basic level pride events are a manifestation of freedom of assembly – a fundamental element of democratic societies available to all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other distinguishing features. Whether or not a state allows and protects a marginalised, often hated community to hold a public event like pride is indicative of the health of their democracy because at the very heart of democratic values is [the] protection of the rights of minorities. As such, pride events serve as a litmus test for democracies. Without a minority like the LGBTIQ community being able to peacefully assemble, democracies lose their essence.
This broader link is painfully evident in places with a long history of pride events that have seen a rising backlash. More often than not a backlash against LGBTIQ people coincides with a rise of authoritarian governments bringing with them a clampdown on civil society, and civil liberties more broadly.