News / Europe

Russian Laws Keep Gay Life Behind Closed Doors

Russian Laws Keep Gay Life Behind Closed Doorsi
|| 0:00:00
X
James Brooke
July 16, 2012 7:51 PM
St. Petersburg is often seen as Russia’s most liberal city, but it may be leading a conservative movement against public displays of gay life in Russia. VOA's James Brooke reports from Moscow.

Russian Laws Keep Gay Life Behind Closed Doors

TEXT SIZE - +
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.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid