As It Happens

Singing gay sailor promotes peace in Sweden - and abroad

Peace activists in Sweden are taking on Russian President Vladimir Putin, one hip swivel at a time. Their Singing Sailor Underwater Defence System is promoting gay rights and demilitarization with Morse code and neon lights.
The sign being installed off Sweden's coast (Courtesy: Anna Ek)

In March, the Swedish government announced increased military spending in response to alleged spying by a Russian submarine.

Now a pacifist organization in Stockholm has come up with an alternative mode of protection. It's called the "Singing Sailor Underwater Defence System."

It's a neon sign the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society lowered into the Baltic Sea off Stockholm's coast. It features an image of a gay Swedish sailor, dressed only in his sailor's hat and underwear, with hips that gyrate in neon; and a message in English, Russian and morse code that says, "This way, if you're gay." 

"It has a very clear message. It's a humorous touch on a very serious issue. We know that homophobia is deeply spread in Russia. So we're criticizing the way [Russian President Vladimir Putin] treats the LGBTQ community," explains Anna Ek, the group's president.

"But it also says 'Welcome. Let's talk and solve our conflicts through discussion rather than military power."

The sign (Courtesy: Anna Ek)

Ek says the message of tolerance and acceptance is meant for everyone, including those in Sweden, where gay rights have been legally recognized since 1944. 

It grew out of a massive military operation last fall when the Swedish military searched for a submarine that was reportedly patrolling in Swedish waters. Sweden suspected the sub was Russian, but no sign of it was ever found. 

The group named their gay soldier Fred, which means "peace" in Swedish.