Public Transport Woes Over Pride Weekend

strætó bus reykjavík

Overfilled buses led to some inconvenience this past weekend as Reykjavík celebrated its annual Pride Parade, reports Vísir.

With downtown Reykjavík filled with festivities, many capital area residents chose to take the bus instead of parking during a busy weekend. In fact, Reykjavík Pride claims to have had a record number of attendees this time around.

However, reports of overcrowded buses and long wait times show that Strætó was not able to keep up with increased demand, with Vísir reporting that some capital area residents simply gave up after being passed by five full buses.

Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson, a spokesperson for Strætó, stated to Vísir that Strætó followed their normal weekend schedule during Pride. There had been a discussion about whether to increase the service, similar to what’s done on Culture Night (Menningarnótt), but due to a shortage of funds, nothing was done.

Jóhannes continued, saying  “we know of very many who didn’t get a spot. Many buses were just filling up.”

He stated that there will be further discussion next year about whether the bus service should be adjusted to meet the demand during the Pride Parade.

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BDSM Community Speaks Out Against Pornography Laws

bdsm society iceland

A draft bill to amend the ban on pornography in Iceland has served as an occasion for the BDSM community of Iceland to come out in defence of pornography.

Two Pirate Party MPs, Björn Leví Gunnarsson and Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir, submitted a bill last September to revise what some see as Iceland’s antiquated stance on pornography. The bill would lift the current penalties for the publication, importation, sale, and distribution of pornography. Notably, Iceland’s pornography laws are largely unenforced, with the exception of occasional controversies.

See also: Iceland Porn Ban “Outdated”

Now, the Icelandic BDSM Society is also weighing in on the matter.

In a public review of the proposed bill, they state: “We at the Icelandic BDSM Society are happy to see that the laws banning the publication and distribution of pornography are finally being removed from the legal system […] Many of our members have struggled with deep shame because of their own feelings and desires. This shame arises from growing up in a society that closes its eyes to the diversity of human sexuality and insists on outdated attitudes about sexual relations, for example, outdated ideas about the purity of women, the privileging of the marital relation between one man and one woman over all other forms of relationships, and beliefs about what is and is not normal sex. BDSM activities are never discussed except as a negative example, and when the negative effects of pornography are discussed, BDSM is often used as an example of sexual violence. The narrative about us never concedes that there are individuals who enjoy it, and that it is not a form of violence, but of consensual play.”

The statement also pointed out the outdated nature of the law, coming as it does from an age of print media. Now with modern information technology, it is trivially easy to access pornography, making the enforcement of such laws in the modern day essentially impossible.

The society also stated that such laws further marginalize sex workers, making it more difficult to legally and safely make a living. The BDSM community recommends sex education in schools from an early age to combat the effects of non-sex-positive pornography.

The full text of their statement can be read, in Icelandic, here.

Reykjavík Pride Festival Begins Today

Reykjavík pride

Reykjavík Pride will hold an opening ceremony at noon today on Ingólfsstræti. The city’s pride parade has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID restrictions. Nevertheless, festival board member Ragnar Veigar Guðmundsson says there will be a variety of pride events this year that will offer a little something for everyone.

“The week will be full of queerness wherever there’s room for it,” Ragnar Veigar stated in a radio interview this morning. “Of course the festival has a slightly different format compared to a normal year but we know how it has to be done in order to fall within the pandemic restrictions.”

The festival programme features everything from educational events that will be streamed online to drag performances and a drag brunch held in Gamla Bíó theatre. “For example, there’s a very interesting educational event this afternoon, a conversation between generations, in Mál og menning bookstore. Three individuals of different ages will be there talking about their queer experience around the age of 20. It’s just going to be a relaxed event with a good discussion,” Ragnar Veigar says.

Preparation for this year’s pride parade was in full swing when COVID restrictions were reimposed on July 24. Ragnar Veigar says that there are plans in the works for some form of pride celebrations in the city centre on Saturday. He stresses that all are welcome, whether they belong to the LGBT+ community or not.

West Iceland’s First Pride Celebration Draws Crowds

LGBTQ hinsegin vesturland Borgarnes pride parade June 10 2021

Borgarnes, West Iceland was blanketed by rainbows – and crowds – last Saturday at the region’s first-ever pride celebrations. The event was one of the first projects of the region’s newly-minted LGBT+ association Hinsegin Vesturland. The organisers say they are overjoyed with the turnout and hope to change the discourse on LGBT+ issues in the Icelandic countryside.

The sister Guðrún Steinunn and Bjargey Anna Guðbrandsdóttir are among the finders of the association and organisers of the local pride festival. “This is so, so much bigger than we ever expected,” Bjargey told RÚV. “When [Guðrún] started talking about this idea a few years ago we imagined one float and walking with our family on the float. I don’t even know how many people are here, it’s wonderful.”

Alexander Aron Guðjónsson is another one of the event’s organisers. Asked about the importance of holding an LGBT+ festival in the countryside, he answered: “There is a slightly different rhetoric here in the countryside about LGBT+ people. So it’s very positive to do this in as many places as possible so that there is an open discussion about everything and everyone, everywhere.”

The West Iceland LGBT+ Association (Hinsegin Vesturland) was founded in February of this year. North Iceland and East Iceland also have regional LGBT+ associations. Samtökin ’78 is Iceland’s National Queer Organisation as was the first association of its kind in Iceland.

Living Art Museum Aims to Reflect Iceland’s Diversity

Nýlistasafnið/The Living Art Museum

The Living Art Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland, has sent out an open call for its autumn exhibition for the year 2021. The call is particularly directed at individuals and groups who have traditionally been excluded from fine art institutions in Iceland, such as the LGBT+ community, Icelanders of foreign origin, mixed Icelanders, immigrants, and “people who find themselves voiceless within the socio-political structure.”

“With this open application process, we want to counteract any kind of discrimination that takes place in our society today, such as racial inequality, and the suppression of marginalized groups and cultures,” a press release from the Museum reads.

The idea to direct the open call to marginalised groups and individuals came from the Museum’s staff and board earlier this year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests occurring around the world. “This struggle […] led to a great deal of introspection by the board of the Living Art Museum. As a result, it has become clear to the museum’s management that we have not been able to fully reflect the diverse growth that characterizes art and human life in Iceland.”

“It is important that all cultural institutions in the country undergo a substantial self-examination. What kind of space are these institutions creating? And for whom?” the Museum states, and the project representatives say they hope the initiative serves as a guiding light for other institutions in Iceland

To go over the open call submissions, the Museum’s board is putting together a special selection committee “in order to ensure diversity and counteract hidden bias.” The deadline for submissions is October 4. All the application details, including translation of the text to Arabic, Polish, and Icelandic can be found here.

European Court of Human Rights Backs Icelandic Court in Hate Speech Case

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected a complaint from Carl Jóhann Lilliendahl, who was convicted for homophobic hate speech by the Supreme Court of Iceland. Carl Jóhann made homophobic comments in response to an online article in April 2015 and was eventually fined ISK 100,000 (around €800 at the time). The ECHR unanimously declared Carl Jóhann’s application inadmissible.

Comments Ruled “Serious, Severely Hurtful, and Prejudicial”

In April 2015, the local authorities of Hafnarfjörður, Southwest Iceland, approved a proposal to strengthen education in elementary and secondary schools on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender matters in co-operation with the National Queer Association (Samtökin ‘78). The decision led to substantial public discussion which Carl Jóhann became involved in. The case concerns comments he wrote in response to an online article on the issue, expressing his disgust and using derogatory words for homosexuality, namely kynvilla (sexual deviation) and kynvillingar (sexual deviants).

Samtökin ‘78 reported Carl’s comments to the police. Following an investigation, he was indicted in November 2016 under Article 233 (a) of the General Penal Code which penalises publicly mocking, defaming, denigrating or threatening a person or group of persons for certain characteristics, including their sexual orientation or gender identity. Though he was acquitted at first instance, in December 2017, the Supreme Court overturned the court’s judgment and convicted him, fining him ISK 100,000.

The Supreme Court found that the applicant’s comments were “serious, severely hurtful and prejudicial,” and weighing up the competing rights at play in the case, ruled that it was justified and necessary to curb the applicant’s freedom of expression in order to counteract prejudice, hatred and contempt and protect the rights of social groups which have historically been subjected to discrimination.

Argued Freedom of Expression Was Breached

Carl Jóhann lodged a complaint with the ECHR alleging that the Supreme Court’s conviction had breached his freedom of expression. The ECHR has now rejected the complaint, finding, like the Supreme Court of Iceland, “that the comments had promoted intolerance and hatred of homosexuals,” according to a press release from the Court. The release goes on to say that, although the comments did not amount to the “gravest” form of hate speech as it was not immediately clear that they had aimed at inciting violence, they fell under the court’s definition of “less grave” hate speech, which the court has previously held that states were allowed to restrict.

The ECHR found that the Supreme Court of Iceland “had extensively weighed the competing interests at stake, namely the applicant’s right to freedom of expression against the rights of homosexual persons to private life. The Court therefore found that the applicant’s complaint […] was manifestly ill-founded and rejected it as inadmissible.”