Russia’s drive against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people continues unabated as the country’s Duma considers a law banning “homosexual propaganda”, Elena Vlasenko reports from Moscow.
Before 1993, being a homosexual in Russia meant the possibility of being sent to either a mental institution or prison — and it wasn’t until 1999 that it was dropped from the country’s official list of mental illnesses. Even though homosexuality was eventually decriminalised twenty years ago, there is still an active campaign to silence Russia’s gay community.
More than 70 per cent of Russians consider the LGBT community to be “dissolute” and “mentally retarded”. The government has nourished the already negative public opinion around homosexuality. Ten Russian regions have implemented laws banning “homosexual propaganda” since 2006, and the country is currently considering passing a countrywide ban.
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The bill was passed unanimously in a preliminary vote at the start of this year, and this month it will be considered by the State Duma. The law forbids promoting information about homosexuality amongst minors. If caught spreading the message that “traditional and non-traditional relationships are socially equal” to minors, offenders face criminal charges and a fine of up to 500,000 Roubles (£10,782).
Activists have expressed concerns over the law, which they say gives the authorities ground to fine organisations and activists for public work — in the name of protecting minors.
In addition to its campaign against “homosexual propaganda”, the country has never sanctioned a gay pride parade. Approximately 30 LGBT activists were arrested on 25 May for attempting to hold unsanctioned protests against discrimination, in front of the State Duma’s building. In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared the ban to be illegal. According to gay rights activist Nikolay Alexeev, the annual bans on pride parades as well as his own appeals to the ECHR should make it clear to the court that Russia’s violations of gay rights are systematic.
Russia was recently rocked by a violent homophobic murder: Vadislav Tornovoy was allegedly brutally beaten and murdered by 2-3 drunk acquaintances last month. Investigators say that Tornovoy came out to his friends, and they then broke his ribs, and pushed beer bottles into his anus. After a failed attempt to set him on fire, the men smashed unconscious Tornovoy’s head with a 20 kg stone. Alexeev told Index that the authorities’ policies towards the LGBT community reflect a deep-seated homophobia in Russia, and unless they change the country would still continue to see cruel and homophobic attacks.