Russia needs a total gay rights U-turn: minister

Submitted by ILGA-Europe

Reposted from The Local:

With Stockholm Pride week in full swing, Sweden's EU Minister Birgitta Ohlsson talks to The Local about Russia's "repulsive" gay laws, getting pelted with eggs by gay haters in Lithuania, and how Sweden must lead the way in supporting the LGBT community.

Birgitta Ohlsson, one of Sweden's most staunch advocates of equal rights, has had a busy week. The vibrant colours of Stockholm's Pride Week have been sullied by news of Russia's anti-gay laws, and Ohlsson herself was attacked with eggs when speaking at a pride event in Lithuania on Saturday.

Topless activists even took to the streets outside the Russian embassy in Stockholm on Thursday to protest the Russian laws.

Now, Ohlsson has her plate full ensuring Sweden leads the way in fighting back against the negativity.

"When it comes to countries like Russia I think it's so important to have a united front towards the negative messages that are coming from them, and Sweden is one of the key players in this dialogue," she told The Local.

She added that she was pushing foreign affairs spokeswoman Catherine Ashton into sharing a "very solid and firm position" on condemning the politics in Russia.

"Of course, we have the very horrifying anti-gay law that is repulsive and disgusting, going in the total wrong direction. But then we have other laws that are also very severe for the Russian open civil society and that has to do with the laws concerning freedom of expression, freedom of assembly," she said.

"Other countries are not holding up to the position as they should when it comes to human rights rule of law."

Russia, she claimed, needs to do a complete U-turn.

"I think Russia is going in a total wrong direction, they're not respecting LGBT human rights. What is key now is to have a very dedicated support to LGBT supporters and other human activists in the area and Sweden is definitely one of the key players in the EU," Ohlsson said.

But the minister's dedication and presence at pride events is not always welcome, however, with protesters in Vilnius hurling eggs at Ohlsson on Saturday when she spoke at the second ever pride event to be held in Lithuania, a largely Catholic country.

"That was an interesting experience... but we have to keep up the pressure. When it comes to the Lithuania, they are in the EU, so we can have an even more solid approach with them," she told The Local.

"When you're a member of the EU, you have to follow the ideals that we share."

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