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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs