Pride and prejudice

This week sees the seventh annual Pridefestivalen in Stockholm, one of Europe's largest gay events. It's expected to attract 30,000 visitors from Scandinavia and the UK, and many thousands more from all over Sweden. Festival events are concentrated in the Tanto area of Södermalm, with the centrepiece a parade from Östermalm to Tantolunden on Saturday.

The policing of the festival has attracted particular attention following last year’s attacks on several parade participants. Nine neo-nazis were convicted of assault, all between the ages of 17 and 26.

Police spokesman Björn Pihlblad said in Tuesday’s Expressen: “We’re going to do all we can to prevent incidents such as that. The organisers have permission to hold the parade, and they should be able to do so without being bothered by anybody.”

Last year an extra 25 officers were on duty, which proved to be insufficient for an event attracting crowds of 150,000. Pihlblad was keeping his cards close to his chest about the exact numbers and tactics of this year’s police presence, but there will be more than last year.

It isn’t just security arrangements that are being put under the microscope. The festival organisers are miffed at the lack of support Pridefestivalen is receiving from the local authorities in Stockholm. Chairman Håkan Steenberg told Monday’s DN: “Gay tourism pulls in millions of crowns to Stockhom, but we don’t get anything back from Annika Billström.”

Billström is Stockholm’s Social Democratic financial commissioner. Her coffers are filled nicely by ground rent, as well as the millions spent by foreign visitors. But Pride, a charity, has to foot the bill for electricity, phones and other costs, and even has to pay 25,000 crowns for the city to fly rainbow flags.

However, the shabby treatment seems to be down to incompetence rather than any form of prejudice. Lars Redin of festivals and events organisation Folkets Hus och Parker, said: “A co-ordinated political effort is required to bring about a change and the will isn’t there today. It looks like the city got its fingers burnt by the failed attempts to attract the 2004 Olympics and the World Police and Fire Games.”

One of the subjects of debate during the Pride week is the rising level of hate crimes against homosexuals. A new study by the Institute of Criminology at Stockholm University shows that such crime has doubled since 1996 and that homosexual women are as likely to be the victims as men.

The study is a follow up of a survey conducted in 1996 of 2,000 members of gay rights group RFSL (Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande). 52%, compared with 25% in the original study, said they had experienced homophobic crimes and behaviour such as bullying, discrimination, defamation, robbery, violence and sex crimes. The number of female victims has soared from 20% to 53%.

As RFSL’s chairman, Sören Andersson, said when asked whether he felt worried about reports of increasing numbers of far right extremists in the run up to this week’s festivities: “It’s no different to any other week for us. Anything can happen.”