LGBTQ Rights in Today’s Russia
hope is not lost
On June 30, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial bill banning the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors." This law was the beginning of a very dark new chapter in the history of LGBTQ rights in Russia.
The vaguely defined and definitively antigay law, Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, allows the government to fine individuals accused of the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors. This law was purposely kept ambiguous for a reason. Without a clear legal definition of ‘propaganda’ or ‘nontraditional sexual relations,’ authorities are now able to apply the law as they see fit.
Banning Pride parades across the country, shutting down an LGBT website for teens struggling with their sexuality, and striking down an attempt to obtain a Pride House at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are some of the more notable examples of how Russian authorities have used the law to date.
hate and vigilante groups popped up
This new law has also helped to usher in a new era of hate and violence in Russia as harassment and attacks on gay people have increased, according to activists. New vigilante groups have started popping up across the country with the sole purpose of luring gay men into private meetings where they can humiliate and beat them, while recording the attacks to post online later.
As bleak as this new anti-LGBTQ Russian era is, all hope is not entirely lost yet. In 2015 the Stonewall Organization, which is the UK’s largest LGBT rights organization, were able to welcome 10 prominent Russian human rights defenders to its office in London with the help of private donations. Stonewall invited the Russian activists for a week of workshops and training on how to influence power by using the media while maintaining their security.
The Stonewall organization spent the week teaching the Russians about media strategies, and giving them tips by a former ITN news journalist on how to look, stand and sound when giving interviews to camera. The Russian guests had learned all about what makes a good campaign; the importance of using evidence, targets and goals; and ways of winning powerful allies, by the end of the week.
The first week of November 2016, saw The Human Rights Campaign meeting with a diverse group of human rights lawyers from Russia in Washington DC to discuss the intersectionality of LGBTQ issues and their own respective causes.
The Human Rights Campaign hopes to achieve worldwide equality
The atmosphere of the meeting has been described as lively as both groups discussed HRC’s work to achieve worldwide LGBTQ equality. The Russian lawyers were very interested in learning more about HRC’s Project One America, which is a comprehensive campaign to expand the equality of LGBTQ citizens in the South, and how they could apply the same principles in Russia. The meeting ended with HRC announcing that they will continue to monitor the situation in Russia and saying that they look forward to building on their relationships with advocates and allies there.
Due to the vaguely defined ban in Russia it is difficult to obtain news of any progress being made on the Russian home front as it is now becoming too risky to report any positive LGBTQ news in Russia without facing severe penalties, however, earlier this year it was reported that two openly gay men ran for Russian parliament. Both men, Korolyov and Bulat Barantayev, knew that they had no chance of getting elected, but they hoped that by running they showed that they are not afraid to stand up for their rights and stand against the homophobic government.
There have also been several reports that the city of Perm was seriously considering breaking national law and allowing a Pride parade to take place in their city square on November 7, 2016. As any media coverage on the Parade itself would have been illegal under Russian law, there is no way to know for sure if the parade actually took place; but when you take into consideration how strongly the Perm City Council felt about their citizens right to freedom of assembly, and couple that with the fact that there are no reports of the parade not being allowed, there’s a very good chance that it did indeed take place.
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