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Gay pride march paints Stockholm rainbow-coloured

From this weekend, the Swedish capital will be awash with all the colours of the rainbow as it gears up for the closing parade of its 12th annual gay rights festival.

world Updated: Jul 31, 2009 13:49 IST

From this weekend, the Swedish capital will be awash with all the colours of the rainbow as it gears up for the closing parade of its 12th annual gay rights festival.

For a whole week, Stockholm taxis, buses, and shops will fly the rainbow flag, a long-time emblem for the gay community across the world.

Stockholm Pride "is by far the biggest of its kind" in Scandinavia, promoter Claes Nyberg told AFP.

Every year, since 1998, the Swedish capital has played host to a quirky mix of culture and politics.

A number of bands and DJs take to the streets during the weekend's closing parade while seminars and exhibitions are held across the city.

But in a break from tradition, this year's festival has something of a straighter twist to it, its main theme this year is heterosexuality.

"Heterosexual norms always make up a part of the way in which people define themselves, Nyberg said.

One exhibition entitled 'Heterospective' was put together by the 28-year-old Swedish artist Hannes Fossbo.

His work presents a series of portraits of straight celebrities such as US President Barack Obama, Hole singer Courtney Love and actress Audrey Hepburn.

Other seminars include "The rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, transsexual) people in Europe" and "Books for children that defy the hetero norms."

"Visitors come to broaden their horizons but also to enjoy themselves and meet new people," said Nyberg.

Last year's festival attracted 10,000 visitors each day while a whopping half a million people lined the streets for the closing parade.

Keeping in step with the rest of the city, a clothes shop in Stockholm's trendy Soedermalm district dresses up its window models as the members of American disco group the Village People.

Even the politicians are getting in on the act. The headquarters of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's Moderate Party has the famous rainbow flag draped across its windows.

Sweden, known for its liberal attitudes, passed a law earlier this year allowing homosexuals to marry in a religious ceremony.

The Scandinavian country is "a lot more tolerant than others", said Soeren Juvas, the president of the Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL).

For him, the Stockholm Pride is "a sign of this tolerance" as it "defends the rights of individuals to be themselves and not as they are supposed to be."