Conchita Wurst's Eurovision Win Will Benefit LGBT Rights In Europe: Official

Posted: Updated:
isifa via Getty Images

PARIS (AP) — The head of Europe's leading human rights body is praising Conchita Wurst's Eurovision victory as a positive sign that freedom of expression is thriving, and that Europeans are "allowed to shock."

Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland of the Council of Europe spoke with The Associated Press by phone about new initiatives to fight anti-gay discrimination before Saturday's International Day against Homophobia.

Despite Russia's ban on dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors, Jagland said "the general public is moving in the right direction" on tolerance and nondiscrimination in Europe and "we shouldn't put too much pressure" on countries — some in eastern Europe — that take longer.

"I think that Europe wants us to demonstrate that they are for freedom of expression," he said of the victory of Wurst, a bearded transvestite, "that you are also allowed to shock."

"You should be allowed to disturb ... public opinion a little bit. That's what brings us forward — that somebody has the courage to do something different, and appear a little bit different," he said.

A spokesman for the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe later provided more comments from Jagland, who said Friday he was "saddened" by Moscow's decision to reject an application by gay activists to hold a parade celebrating Wurst's Eurovision song contest victory. The secretary-general also called on Russia "to uphold the right to peaceful freedom of assembly," according to the spokesman, Daniel Holtgen.

Jagland said each country must advance at its own speed. In his native Norway, which has made strides in fighting discrimination against gays, passports as recently as the late 1970s would indicate whether a citizen was homosexual, he said. In the Baltic states, it was "impossible" to speak freely about gay rights issues just two or three years ago, "and now it's more natural."

He said the 47-nation council plans to launch this year a new intergovernmental initiative called the European Committee for Social Cohesion, Human Dignity and Equality that will help countries share experiences and strategies in fighting discrimination.

Also on The Huffington Post

Eurovision 2014 Winner: Conchita Wurst
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Conchita Wurst's Eurovision win grants Vienna gay tourism boost ...

Russian politician condemns Eurovision as 'Europe-wide gay parade'

Parade for Eurovision's Conchita Wurst banned by Russian officials ...

Russia proposes a breakaway Eurovision competition after Conchita ...

Conchita Wurst to appear on Graham Norton ·

Official: Wurst win good for European gay rights - Appeal-Democrat ...

Moscow Authorities Block Gay Pride March in Honor of Eurovision's ...

Official: Wurst win good for European gay rights - Arizona Daily Star