The Czech capital is currently hosting Prague Pride 2013, a week-long series of gay pride events, including open-air performances, concerts, exhibitions and debates. Now in its third year, the LGBT festival has become the biggest of its kind in central and Eastern Europe, attracting thousands of visitors from at home and abroad. The theme of this year’s Prague Pride is “coming out” and one of the foreign guests who attended Tuesday’s debate on coming out in politics is U.S. Congressman David Cicilline. In a brief interview for Radio Prague he explained
The week-long Prague Pride festival, which supports the LGBT community and tolerance towards all sexual orientations, began on Monday in Prague. This is the third year that a Pride festival is held in Prague and this year will feature many musical performances, public discussions, art exhibits and other events. On Saturday, the traditional Pride parade will take place in the center of the city. Last year, around 15,000 people attended the parade and organizers are expecting even greater attendance this year.
The third Prague Pride has just got underway, with a week of events celebrating sexual minorities due to culminate in a huge parade through the city on Saturday. On the eve of the event, I spoke to its director Czeslaw Walek about a range of issues, including Prague Pride’s relations with the current and former Czech presidents. But as this year’s theme is coming out my first question was what Walek and other LGBT leaders can do to make that process easier for those who are still in the closet.
One time a few years back I went to record vox pops outside Prague’s Nový Smíchov shopping centre. However, a strikingly high percentage of the men and women in the street whose opinions I was attempting to elicit were not what I was looking for. They weren’t Czech but were from Ukraine or other states east of here.
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Human rights groups Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre have asked the Czech authorities to protect the country’s Romany community from violence and intimidation. The call comes ahead of a series of anti-Romany rallies planned in 13 Czech towns by far right extremists in the coming weeks. The groups say the government must ensure that these protests do not lead to violence against Roma communities, and that those at risk get the protection they need. The Czech Republic has seen rising ethnic tensions between the majority population and the 300,000 or so strong Romany community. The Czech secret services recently warned mainstream anti-Romany sentiments could become a bigger threat than far right extremism.
In recent months, a series of violent rallies targeting Romany communities have been seen in the Czech Republic. Besides known far-right activists, the protestors have included large numbers of ordinary locals frustrated with what they see as the authorities’ inability to deal with high crime levels and other problems plaguing Romany-dominated districts. Now, the Czech intelligence service has warned that anti-Romany sentiments in mainstream society could become a more serious threat than far-right extremism. I discussed the report with sociologist
In a quarterly report on national security, the Czech intelligence service BIS has warned of an alarming rise in anti-Roma sentiments among the public. The report pointed to the fact that in the recent protests and clashes in the towns of Duchcov and České Budejovice a large number of regular citizens joined small groups of right-wing extremists. BIS experts believe that frustrations with everyday petty crime and violence in combination with latent anti-Roma sentiments may prove to be a serious threat for the security of the country in the future. Until now, smaller groups of extremists were behind the major anti-Roma clashes, and did not present a significant threat. The security report said that the ethnic tension needs to be resolved an effective, pragmatic and unemotional manner as soon as possible.
The regional court in Liberec has handed out three to sixteen year sentences for attempted murder in the case of a group of Romanies who launched a brutal machete attack on people in a bar in Novy Bor. Two of the five accused who led the attack got 15 and 16 year sentences, the others three to five years in jail. The incident happened in August of 2011 after two young Romanies felt they had been slighted by some of the guests in the bar. They left and soon after five other Romanies appeared armed with machetes and knives and started attacking people in the bar at random. One man, who was attacked with a machete, nearly died of his injuries.
Lukáš Houdek is a man of varied interests. As well as being a photographer who has explored the post-war massacres of Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Germans, he is co-curator of an exhibition entitled Transgender Me that gets underway in Prague on Monday. In addition, Houdek, a Romani Studies graduate, writes for a leading Roma affairs website; indeed, for much of our interview I was under the mistaken impression that he himself was a member of the ethnic minority.
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