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Jews wearing pink kippahs, scantily-clad "African warriors" and grey-haired seniors joined a Gay Pride parade on the canals of Amsterdam Saturday, in the land that first legalised gay marriage.
An estimated 500,000 people gathered along the Dutch city's historic canals despite heavy rain, the highlight of a week of activities including concerts, art exhibitions and film festivals.
The theme for this year's parade was "Celebrate", and 80 boats decked out with mirror balls and pink balloons travelled up the canals pumping out music.
"We want to celebrate the fact that this is the 15th year we have organised Gay Pride in Amsterdam," said Philip Tijsma, a spokesman for the gay rights group COC.
"It's a day when you can make the most of who you are," he said.
One of the boats featured dancing African warriors, part of the efforts by organisers to draw attention to the plight of homosexuals in countries where it remains illegal.
"In Sudan, you can be beheaded if you are gay. In Malawi, you can be jailed for 15 years," said Toni La Tegola, from a federation supporting gay young people in Africa.
The parade was opened by Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, whose black and red boat -- the colours of Amsterdam -- was followed by around 80 others including one celebrating "Grey Pride", or homosexuality among older people.
Hans Demitra, a 68-year-old attending the festival with his partner, said the festival remained important for the Dutch gay community.
"Its always a big celebration, where all homosexuals can say: We are here," said Demitra, who was wearing a pink T-shirt and pink hat with white fur.
In another boat, mentally handicapped people wearing the colours of the rainbow joined in the party.
"Sexuality is a sensitive issue for the mentally handicapped, and if they are homosexual, it is even more sensitive," said Tijsma.
A "Jewish boat" was also part of the parade, with its occupants sporting pink Kippahs.
"Everybody has the right to be gay and to show it," said Linda van Zutphen, a 34-year-old lesbian. "As far as I know, you don't stop a person from choosing their religion, so why can't you chose your sexual identity? We are who we are!"
There are around one million homosexuals in the Netherlands, and in 2001 it became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
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