Barents Pride is a Norwegian-Russian Pride that has been held in Kirkenes since 2017 by FRI, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Skeiv verden, Amnesty and Russian Equality Digity. This year's program takes place on both sides of the border. In Kirkenes there will be the following activities:
- Friday 25 September 1830-1845: Quiet celebration at Storskog 20: 00-21: Rainbow Fair
- Saturday September 26: Parade. Departure from Kirkenes school at 14:00.
For the last three years, Russians and Norwegians have gathered for several days in Kirkenes, with parade, exhibitions, seminars and debates.
The location of Kirkenes, just 30 minutes’ drive from the Russian border, represents an enormous symbolic value to us. The gap between LGBTI rights is perhaps the largest in the world, depending on which side of the border you find yourself.
The border is closed this year, due to the pandemic, thus, Barents Pride will be different this year compared to what it has been before. But – Barents Pride has always been a different Pride. Perhaps that is what makes this year’s event well set up to cope with our new everyday life.
Barents Pride has always demonstrated that physical distance and borders do not stop friendships, relations and cooperation. Given that Kirkenes location was chosen from the start, due to the fact that it was impossible to carry out such an event in Russia, the city has allowed us to preserve the lovely, colourful and complex composition and identity we wanted – regardless of where we would be. This year we cannot meet physically – but we will still be together.
Barents Pride has taught us to celebrate opportunities and hope, rather than focus on obstacles. Until that day when we will have a Russia which allows Barents Pride, we will walk side by side in Kirkenes in a parade where politicians, the administration, the church, the business community and not the least, the population of the region, safeguard our community.
Barents Pride has always had a strong focus on the Barents Region, while the issues addressed, have been boundless. In 2017, we asked for justice for the LGBTI victims of persecution in Chechnya. In 2018, we focused on faith- and life stance communities being safe places to be open. In 2019, our goal was for young people to have enough knowledge and competence to become activists.
Regardless of the topics, the main message has been clear: Love without borders. During the pandemic this year, we need love without borders more than ever. The Russians cannot take part this year, but we, who will be present in Kirkenes, will walk for them.
The pandemic has hit the LGBTI community very hard. Many had to stay at home with their families, who either do not know them or do not accept them. We have seen incidents of violence and threats, and we know that the isolation has been hard for many young people’s psyche and quality of life. Many support groups had to decrease their services, during a period when they were needed more than ever. As a starting point, the LGBTI community has a lower social mobility than the population in general. This is due to the structures created by systematic discrimination. The economic crisis brought by the pandemic, has affected hardest the one of us who have the least.
In 2020, with the ongoing pandemic, Russia has made the gap between the Norwegian and Russian LGBTI communities even bigger. Firstly, by adopting a change in the Constitution that emphasise marriage as a union between man and woman. Secondly, by adopting legislation that reinforce the ban on equal sex marriage and adoption. Lastly and perhaps most dramatically, the suggested new practice which will make it impossible to change legal gender, something which will reverse the changes already accomplished.
It is therefore more important than ever to get together, to show each other solidarity, to create attention to the important tasks ahead; as LGBTI community, as activists, as allied and as people. We will do so when we meet first at Storskog Friday 25th of September at 18:30, followed by the parade in the center of Kirkenes Saturday 26th of September, at 14:00. If you are unable to attend physically, we recommend that you participate from at home. Put a rainbow flag on your wall, write a message of solidarity, invite your friends for a rainbow breakfast and share your pictures with us on #barentspride.
FRI- Foreningen for kjønns og seksualitetsmangfold
Amnesty International Norge
Den Norske Helsingforskomite
Equality Dignity Pride