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14 Sep, 2007 12:22

Russian gays detained in blood donor protest

Seven protesters have been detained in Moscow for holding a demonstration against a law which prohibits homosexual men from giving blood.

A doctor at Russia's health ministry claims that the law banning gay men from giving blood exists for a good reason.

“The fact is that this part of society is considered to be at risk of sexually transmitted infections and when they passed this law they were thinking about those people who are infected and only about these people,” explained Sergey Oprishenko, a doctor from the blood donor centre. 

However, the doctor also says that all blood donated is checked for infections.

The leader of Moscow's Gay Pride movement, Nikolai Alekseyev, believes that the law is discriminatory. The same law also prevents prostitutes and drug addicts from giving blood.

Mr Alekseyev says its unfair to compare gay men to drug users and sex workers, pointing out that there is no law preventing gay women from giving blood. He added that the health service  is desperately short of blood, yet it is “stopping people giving blood for reasons that are incomprehensible.”

Ten protesters picketed outside the Russian Health Ministry.  Seven were arrested and held in a nearby police department.

Mr Alekseyev questioned the legality of the arrests, saying there was no trouble at the demonstration and that the protesters “didn't interfere with anyone.”

Alekseyev added that the protest was in no way connected to politics or the inflammatory Gay Pride parade, which takes place in Moscow every summer.  He insisted Friday's action was meant only to show the discriminatory nature of the law.