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CIVIC ASSOCIATION ALTERA FIGHTS DISCRIMINATION WITH A NEW FESTIVAL

Lesbian festival fans harmony

THE ASSOCIATION of lesbian and bisexual women, Altera, launches Slovakia's first ever lesbian festival this week. The El Be Fest (Lesbian Culture Days) will run in Bratislava from September 17 to 19 at the A4 - Zero Space at SNP 12.
"Our aim is to draw attention to the lesbian minority in Slovakia and its culture, as well as to provide alternative space to this community for entertainment and reflection," said Paula Jójárt from Altera.

THE ASSOCIATION of lesbian and bisexual women, Altera, launches Slovakia's first ever lesbian festival this week. The El Be Fest (Lesbian Culture Days) will run in Bratislava from September 17 to 19 at the A4 - Zero Space at SNP 12.

"Our aim is to draw attention to the lesbian minority in Slovakia and its culture, as well as to provide alternative space to this community for entertainment and reflection," said Paula Jójárt from Altera.

Over the three days the festival will hold a plethora of events, including an art exhibition, a theatre performance, book presentation, lectures and film screenings. There will also be a dance party, poster displays and discussions to promote anti-discrimination. Along with Slovak artists and lecturers, it also welcomes guests from abroad. The Hungarian film director, Katrin Kremmler, will screen her movie Pink Ferret, Jana Štepánová from the Czech Republic will chair a discussion panel, along with Jójárt, on the problems facing the lesbian community, and Miguel Méndez will entertain with his Latino Flash group.

The festival is part of a six-month project organised by Altera, in an attempt to bring awareness to the majority of the population in their approach towards sexual minorities. A prime feature of the project and opening festival is the staging of a competition to find the best posters to illustrate the theme of sexual discrimination. Following the result of the winners, the posters will then form the banner for Altera's campaign in Slovakia.

A supporting activity is the preparation of a booklet called Discrimination: How to Face It?, designed to offer advice and help to people who are the subject to a variety of discriminatory acts.

According to the organisers, the festival is open not only to lesbian and bisexual women but also gays, bisexual men, and transgender people, as well as anybody else interested in the topic.

Under communism it was virtually impossible to openly form lesbian or homosexual associations and administer their rights, explained campaigner Jójárt, because they were seen as opponents of the regime and were persecuted.

Yet despite being over a decade since the fall of communism, Jójárt believes the situation is still far from improved, although there are several formal and informal organisations attempting to combat prejudice. And whilst homosexuality is no longer considered a criminal act, its advocates are hounded by church representatives whose attitudes are shared by conservative Christian politicians.

"Among the many activities of civic associations is to fight the political questions the Christian Democrats like to bring up," said Jójárt.

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