New exhibition celebrates advances made by Czech homosexual minority in recent decades

An exhibition celebrating the history of the gay and lesbian movement in the Czech Republic has just opened here in Prague. It is mostly focused on gay culture in the last two decades, when Czech homosexuals have made great strides in achieving equality. When it comes to an end in the capital, the exhibition will tour the country.

Džamila Stehlíková
The new exhibition documenting the history of the gay and lesbian movement in the Czech Republic has been co-ordinated by Jiří Hromada, perhaps the most prominent Czech gay rights activist. Its official curator, however, is Džamila Stehlíková, government minister for human rights and minorities. She outlined its value:

“The importance of this exhibition is as a celebration of human dignity and freedom. Because 20 years ago homosexual citizens were the first group who began to speak about human rights. Now after 20 years of gay and lesbian development we have a law about registered relationships and the homosexual minority is part of democratic society, with its own structure and with a very interesting cultural and social life.”

Among the items on display at Prague’s Dům národnostních menšin (House of National Minorities) are the covers of gay publications (some dating back to the 1930s), period photographs – and even video recordings of a debate on same-sex registered partnerships from the Chamber of Deputies.

Singer Pavel Vítek himself entered the Czech Republic’s first registered partnership, with his 2006 “wedding” to his manager Janis Sidovský:

“What I have been most taken by is…partly the history, which you now forget, of the period at the end of the 1980s and the start of the ‘90s. And I have also really been struck by the discreditable language used by our politicians, both men and women, when registered partnerships were being discussed – it’s certainly worth hearing Justice Minister Parkanová and others again!”

After Prague the exhibition will go on tour around the country. I put it to Minister Stehlíková that it might perhaps have more impact outside the capital, where people may be less liberal.

“I think it’s very important first of all for the members of the minority, not only for the whole society – in some small towns many people with homosexual orientation have complications with coming out. And this exhibition will help them to understand their own identity and to begin to live their own lives.”