News / Europe

    Russian Laws Keep Gay Life Behind Closed Doors

    James Brooke
    MOSCOW — Saint Petersburg has long been seen as Russia’s most liberal city.  But now it may be leading a national movement to ban public displays of gay life across Russia.

    When gay rights activists recently released a rainbow of balloons from a Saint Petersburg park, the predictable happened.  City police herded activists into a waiting bus.  Then, black-shirted nationalists attacked the bus.

    In March, Saint Petersburg, Europe’s fourth largest city, banned any public display of “gay propaganda.”  Now, Russian legislators are debating adopting a nationwide ban.  The goal is to keep gay life behind closed doors, out of the sight of children.

    A gay pride march last month in Berlin shows Russia is a target of the international gay rights movement.  As 700,000 Berliners watched or paraded, a cannon shot a rainbow of colored confetti at Russia’s embassy.

    But 1,300 kilometers to the east, here in Saint Petersburg, no one is laughing.

    Artem makes a specialty of tracking down gay rallies and breaking them up.

    To him, gay parades and posters, gay-themed talk shows and art shows all add up to undermining traditional Russian society with the gay lifestyle.

    He says that Russia will never permit open displays of what he calls “filth.”

    Once Artem is out of sight, Olga and Irina step from behind the bushes to talk. Olga says that she and her partner of seven years are not recruiting converts.  They are simply looking for tolerance, equal rights and the ability to get married.

    With no tolerance for gays on the horizon in Russia, Olga and Irina plan to move next year across the Gulf of Finland, to Helsinki.  There, this couple of seven years can register their partnership and legally adopt a child.

    Downtown, Olga Lenkova works with Vykhod, or Coming Out, a gay rights group. She says the new law is changing life for gays in Saint Petersburg, long seen as Russia’s most liberal major city:

    “Part of the community just goes back into the closest and tries to hide even more than they did before.  And, part of the community becomes more active than they ever were, or becomes active for the first time,” Lenkova said.

    For now, the gay movement’s biggest allies are from outside Russia.

    Early this month, Lenkova was one of several Saint Petersburg activists who met with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
     
    Next it will be Madonna, who gives a concert here on August 9.  In advance, the American pop star has denounced Saint Petersburg’s “gay gag law” as “a ridiculous atrocity.”

    But with polls showing big majorities of Russians backing bans on public displays of gay life, Russian police may be breaking up gay rallies for a long time to come.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Augis
    July 18, 2012 9:36 AM
    Homophobia is ubiquitous in Russia. Actually, this is official agenda in modern Russia. The interesting thing not mentioned in this post is that in Saint Petersburg the same law imposes fines for "gay propaganda" and "propaganda of pedophilia" - that is in the same legislation homosexuality is equaled to pedophilia.

    Also notable are recent comments of Sergey Lavrov (Minister of Foreign Affairs) who said that Russian society will never accept homosexuality - http://redhotrussia.com/homophobia-in-russia/

    by: Lara
    July 17, 2012 12:34 PM
    Don't argue,guys!people in Russia will soon have no rights,anyway!thanks to Tsar Putin.

    by: Bruce from: Ann Arbor, MI
    July 16, 2012 11:29 PM
    Is Trinidad as homophobic as people say?

    by: Sergey from: Dallas
    July 16, 2012 10:57 PM
    I love it how people like to speak for the entire nation. Such laws are governments decision no the peoples. In the west no one knows what common Russians think of same sex marriage but people sure love to make stuff up. Last two generations of Russians are very evolved far beyond their government. They do not care enough about gay rights to make a big deal about it, however many are not against it. Some of the older generation with in the government and ruling elite allow their personal believes to cloud over their judgement in this pursuit of ban on gay marriage. Really it's almost like in any other western country. Only deference is that the west got a decade or two of head start.

    by: Bruno from: trinidade
    July 16, 2012 8:52 PM
    Mike they have equal rights. They have the right to private life behind close doors. You speak of democracy then why are against the majority of Russians in support of such laws? They may happy seek life style they wish in west. Russia on other hand does not want it openly

    by: Mike
    July 16, 2012 4:52 PM
    Tsar Putin's authoritarian Russia will never allow gays to have equal rights with other citizens of the country. Similarly, there were Nazis in Hitler's Germany and the communist authorities in the Soviet Union, where homosexuality was a crime. When Russia becomes a democratic country, then gays will be able to live a normal life in this country.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.