News / Europe

Russia's Anti-Gay Law Sparks Backlash

Russia's Anti-Gay Law Sparks Backlashi
X
August 13, 2013 9:04 PM
Russia will host the Winter Olympics in Sochi six months from now, the World Cup in 2018 and is bidding for the World Expo in 2020. But a new law banning expressions of support for gay rights has generated a worldwide backlash. VOA's Mark Snowiss has more.
Russia's Anti-Gay Law Sparks Backlash
Russia will host the Winter Olympics in Sochi six months from now, the World Cup in 2018 and is bidding for the World Expo in 2020. But a new law banning expressions of support for gay rights has generated a worldwide backlash that has blindsided the Kremlin.

Even as support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased in the West, homophobic violence and stigma are rampant in Russia.

This year, there have been at least two killings motivated by anti-gay bias in the country, including a 23-year-old Volgograd man whose skull was smashed after he was raped with beer bottles.

In May, a gay activist was attacked in front of Moscow's State Duma. Six more were detained last month after attempting to stage a protest outside a children's library in the Russian capital.

The anti-gay propaganda law, passed overwhelmingly in parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, is supposed to protect minors by banning public discussion of "non-traditional sexual relationships." It is modeled on similar legislation for the city of St. Petersburg whose main author is Russian legislator Vitaly Milonov, an outspoken proponent of Russia’s Orthodox Church.

Milonov has branded gay people "perverts," and has accused activists of colluding with Western governments to convert Russian children into homosexuals.

"We demand that law enforcement defend us and stop propaganda of sodomy and [the] pedophilia of children," Milonov said at an anti-gay rally in May.

'Creeping authoritarianism'

Critics say the law is really an attempt to criminalize homosexuality and Russia's fledgling gay rights movement.

The legislation is part of a broad attack on civil society groups in Russia, according to British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

"We're seeing journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and political opposition activists being harassed, arrested, and, in some cases, framed on trumped up charges. So that's the context of this new law. Its part of a creeping authoritarianism," Tatchell said.

The trend has not gone unnoticed in the West, where gay bars have dumped Russian vodka and calls have been issued for a boycott of the Sochi Games.

On Saturday, thousands in London and other major cities protested against the anti-gay law. British actor Stephen Fry urged athletes competing at the Olympics to show solidarity with Russia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"All athletes who attend the Sochi Olympiad next year [should] show their disgust at the homophobia in Russia by a simple gesture, just by [crossing their hands over their chest] for a moment on the podium when they receive their medals or before they do their ski jump or whatever," Fry said.

U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in last week. "Nobody's more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia," Obama said.

Social conservatism

However, there is overwhelming support for the gay propaganda ban in Russia, where almost 75 percent of those polled in a recent Pew Research Center survey said homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

Peter Tatchell said the country's social conservatism plays into Putin's hands.

"In Russia, the Putin far-right regime, in alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church, is turning homosexuality into a litmus test of Russian identity and culture. It's a very, very good diversionary tactic, and I think Putin and his party are deliberately exploiting it in order to win political advantage and deflect criticism from their own failures," Tatchell said.

Russian officials, including U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin - confronted by protesters in New York last week - have said the law does not ban homosexuality but was written to protect children.

Gay rights advocates disagree, saying the legislation is vague and can be used to arrest anyone who appears to support LGBT rights.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs