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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More