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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora