Timor Leste holds its first Pride Parade

Timor Leste held their first Pride parade over the weekend and got a great turnout. Prime Minister Rui Maria De Araujo voiced his support for LGBT rights ahead of the celebrations.

“Everyone has the potential to contribute to the development of the nation, including members of the LGBT community,” De Araujo said in a video last week.

“Discrimination, disrespect and abuse towards people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity does not provide any benefit to our nation.”

Natalino Ornai Guterres, the Chief Coordinator of Hatutan Youth, who organised the event, told OUTinPerth that the Pride celebrations had been a great success.

“There were about 500 to 1,000 people attending the week-long pride event. We had a discussion session on the topic of creating a safe environment for LGBT youth, and then a Pride march, followed by a concert.” Guterres said.

The country had held its first pride related event in 2016, but this year the festivities included a march through the streets of Dili. The parade was led by a marching band and hundreds of people joined in.

Gutterres told us that Hatutan means “connect” in English and the organisation aims to support young Timorese and encourage inclusiveness.

“Hatutan is a group of young Timorese founded with the vision of building an inclusive society where every youth has the opportunity to grow regardless of their socio-economic background, ethnicity, religion, health status, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Our objectives are to connect young people from different walks of life, provide a safe space where they can work together to identify issues that affect the young generation, and inspire each other to take actions to contribute to positive changes in their community through creative activities.”

The theme of this years Pride event was “acceptance”. While the country has laws which aim to stop discrimination, the group say violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity still occurs.

While there is no official data, the team at Hatutan say they do encounter in their work many people who admit to being physically abused and kicked out of home for being LGBTI.

“Some say they drop out of school due to excessive bullying and some feel uncomfortable walking on the streets.” the group said.

The LGBTI rights advocates hoped that their pride events would increase public knowledge and understanding on the issue, including from the law enforcement and policymakers.

Check out the Prime Minister’s video showing his support.

Graeme Watson, image: Clementino Amaral 

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