Russian LGBTQ+ Community under threat

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It’s Pride month in the UK and across the world, and while it’s being celebrated a little differently than most other years, this country can still take solace in the fact that society has, in recent years, become generally more tolerant towards queer people. Unfortunately, that same progress cannot be seen in Russia, a notoriously homophobic country and arguably becoming more so.

The situation is murky, ambiguous and contradictory. While same-sex relations are not criminalised like in some areas of the world, the country has, in recent years, ramped up legislation that makes everyday discrimination easier. This, added to the generally intolerant views held in much of a society where transgender individuals are officially labelled as mentally ill (something that goes against WHO standards), makes life in Russia particularly hard.

Putin is portrayed as a bulwark against the tide of the LGBTQ+ agenda

Much of the coverage surrounding the Referendum on amending the current Constitution scheduled for 1st July is on Vladimir Putin’s outlandish proposal to extend his current term limit,allowing him to remain in office until 2036. But activists have pointed out the affirmation of “traditional family values” which would define marriage solely between man and woman. To accompany this amendment, a comically ridiculous advert has done the rounds on social media depicting a young boy being assigned two fathers as adoptive parents. In the video from Patriot Media Group (a company closely allied with Putin himself), an elderly woman spits in disgust as the stereotypically feminine gay man presents the boy with a dress, because… of course he does. It transcends insult to the point of farce, depicting gay men as nothing more than a regressive stereotype and a perverted danger to children. It is sentiments like this that continue to plague the image of homosexuality across the world.

The advert also paints the illusion that Putin stands as a bulwark against the tide of the LGBTQ+ agenda (a sentiment reminiscent of many western country’s half a century ago). In so doing, it ties the political career of one man to the discrimination of an entire community, and scaremongers ignorant voters into voting for fundamental constitutional shifts. Indeed, this is a savvy move by Putin, as much of the discriminatory sentiment is shared across Russian society, and terrifyingly, even admired in some demographics across the world.

The dangers faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia are very real. For instance, traversing through the section of the Youtube video for the advert shows that many take the messaging deadly seriously, and back in April, a survey found that 1 in 5 Russians want gays and lesbians “eliminated”; interpret that how you will. Thus, the discrimination extends further than simply the upper echelons of government. Russian society is systemically homophobic and there is no outlet for unorthodox expression and free protest in this regard. While Russia has a large underground network of activist communities, the infamous 2013 “gay propaganda” ban is consistently enforced to shut down any sort of dissent. Back in October, “Russian LGBT Community” and “Russian LGBT Network” were deemed to violate the law and were forced to shut down their pages on the Social Media site VK. The next month, LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova was charged with “obscenity” for posting sexually explicit images. Amnesty International claim that Tsvetkova was targeted in a deliberately homophobic fashion. 

As often is the case among oppressed communities, protest and civil disobedience remains, but the efforts the Russian Government goes to suppress these movements makes progress difficult at best. With Putin in power, and the ideology of much of the Russian society against the advancement of equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals, not much looks set to change.

Image: Evgeniy Isaev via Flickr

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