Stockholm hosts EuroPride 2008 with the theme “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders.” By turning an infamous phrase from the '60s into a proud, present-day statement, the festival is highlighting equality for the LGBT community at home and abroad.
Swedish sin? A couple at the inauguration of Pride in Stockholm. Stockholm Pride hosts EuroPride for the second time in 2008. Photo: Fredrik Persson/Scanpix.
EuroPride is an annual event when a major European city becomes the stage for bringing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues to the fore. Traditionally, Pride events are a mix of culture, party and politics and culminate in a colorful parade through the streets.
Stockholm hosted its first EuroPride back in 1998. A decade on and the festivities return to Sweden where much has since changed in awareness and equality when it comes to sexual orientation.
No more sin in Sweden
In the early '60s the term “Swedish Sin” became synonymous with free love, soft porn and a country where sexual liberty was believed to be positively encouraged. Stockholm EuroPride has something slightly different in mind.
“The message behind the theme is two-fold,” says Jonah Nylund, president of Stockholm Pride. “It’s about the achievements made in Sweden when it comes to LGBT rights. But it’s also about focusing on the situation abroad, particularly in countries where being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is still seen as a sin.”
As a testament to this, Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil — with personal experience of being gay in a country where such issues remain taboo — will be one of the opening speakers.
Diversity on the streets of Stockholm
EuroPride invites lively discussion and debate with seminars and workshops as well as visual and performing arts at the Pride House in Stockholm City Theatre (Stadsteatern) and nearby Kulturhuset. A small distance away, Pride Park becomes a playground for international and Swedish music acts. On August 2, the Pride Parade journeys past hundreds of thousands of onlookers lining the streets of Stockholm.
Proud parents marching in the Pride Parade. Stockholm Pride is generally regarded as a broad and open event. Photo: David Magnusson/Scanpix.
“We deliver a Pride that’s very diverse,” says Nylund. “The festival and organization has grown immensely over the last ten years, and we are aiming towards a greater international focus.”
Back in 1998, Stockholm was flying the rainbow flag with the theme, “Unity through Diversity”. Sweden had already made a breakthrough, bringing the Registered Partnership Act of 1994 into effect, but the first EuroPride was a real turning point.
Helena Westin, vice chair of EuroPride 1998 says: “It was an emotional awakening. Back then, the lesbian and gay community lived in tight-knit subgroups, almost hiding away. So it was a place we could come together, be seen and be proud.”
A stream of new legislation followed:
- In 1999 a ban on discrimination in working life on the grounds of sexual orientation goes into effect.
- In 2003 sexual orientation is included in the ban against incitement to violence again ethnic or similar groups and same-sex couples are given the same rights as opposite-sex couples with respect to all forms of adoption and legal custody of children.
- In 2005 a ban on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation within the social welfare and healthcare systems goes into effect and lesbian couples gain the right to medically assisted insemination.
A march for equal footing...
Yet, Sweden, like many other countries, still has a way to go before the LGBT community stands on an equal footing in society. Sören Juvas, president of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) says: “It is generally perceived as a progressive country for gay rights and it is.”
Sören Juvas prioritizes the right to gay marriages. Sweden introduced civil partnerships between same-sex couples relatively early on, but the right to marry has still not been passed into law. Photo: Peter Knutson/RFSL
“But there’s much more to accomplish,” Juvas adds. “We need to address the problem of hate crime that comes with a more open society. There’s much to be done around HIV prevention and education, and gay marriage remains a question of democracy and human rights.”
While Sweden was one of the first countries to introduce civil partnerships between same-sex couples, the marriage debate has been lengthy. The right to gay marriages is a high priority for RFSL, and a long-awaited proposal from the government is expected later this year.
...across the borders
RFSL also places much emphasis on sharing and spreading knowledge to countries where LGBT issues continue to be shrouded in sin. According to Juvas, “They are a reminder to us that our all-important work is never finished.”
Stockholm Pride’s international solidarity fund has been helping LGBT organizations abroad since 2000.
“This year we are particularly focusing on Eastern Europe and have decided to support our friends that organize Warsaw Pride,” says Jonah Nylund. “And when Warsaw hosts EuroPride in 2010, it really will be a milestone.”
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Christine Demsteader is a freelance journalist from England. She has attended Pride every year since moving to Stockholm in 2002 and proves you don’t have to be gay or Swedish to enjoy the Eurovision Song Festival.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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