News / Europe

Russia’s Reaction Against Gay Rights Starts in St. Petersburg

Russia’s Reaction Against Gay Rights Starts in St Petersburgi
X
September 16, 2013 11:06 AM
Russia has become the worldwide target of gay activists for its new law banning “gay propaganda.” James Brooke visits St. Petersburg, the birthplace of Russia’s reaction against gay rights.
James Brooke
Kirill Kalugin, a St. Petersburg gay activist, recently tested Russia’s new ban on gay rallies. He chose national paratroopers’ day, in front of the world famous Hermitage Museum.
 
Photos of paratroopers manhandling Kalugin circled the globe.
 
“In general, being openly gay in Russia isn't very safe, but when you're an activist, you get used to feeling unsafe,” Kalugin, age 22, said in an interview later.

Kalugin was protesting Russia’s new law that bans “homosexual propaganda.”
 
He said, “The government showed the people who's the new 'enemy.' They chose one of the weakest groups in society that can't protect its own rights. And the law actually restricts any objective discussion of the issues.”

A few blocks away from the Hermitage, at the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Vitaly Milonov dismisses Kalugin as a publicity seeker. Milonov wrote Russia’s first gay propaganda ban. Now, this legislator leads Russia’s reaction against gay rights.
 
“We are not trying to create something new -- we are trying to preserve the natural way of living,” he said in an office decorated with Russian Orthodox religious icons. “We do not have enough authority to call a same-sex couple a family.  A family is a man and a woman, it's said by God. The first society exists from two individuals - Adam and Eve, it was the first family.”

Far from the protests, Alla Kuzmina, a St. Petersburg business student, says Russians oppose gay parades.
 
“You want to be gay, be gay,” said Kuzmina, who adds that she had many gay friends when she lived overseas. Capturing Russian thinking, she continued: “But not by walking in lingerie in front of my window, where my five-year-old kid is looking out the window. Don’t influence my family and my kids. Don’t give them ideas.”

Outside pressure

Gay rights parades in Europe and the United States increasingly include calls for a boycott of next February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
 
Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Lilia Shevtsova says the Kremlin underestimated the impact of the gay rights issue.
 
“Because they couldn't understand that this predatory law that the Duma passed would raise such a scandal outside, such a huge, powerful wave in the Western world,” she said of the protests.
 
Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed the controversy in an interview he gave to the American news agency, The Associated Press.
 
“We have no laws against people with non-traditional sexual orientation,” he told the visiting American journalist. “One can be absolutely sure that Russia will faithfully follow the Olympic principles, which do not admit any kind of discrimination, national, gender or sexual.”

Kalugin, the activist, says that is for foreign consumption.

“I want people to not listen to Putin when he says that we don't discriminate against sexual orientation. This discrimination does exist here,” said Kalugin. “We have a big problem with human rights in Russia, and I think, as long as Putin is in power, this problem won't be solved.”

Obama's thoughts
 
When U.S. President Barack Obama visited St. Petersburg early this month for the meeting of the G20 heads of government, he took time out to meet with local gay and community activists.
 
Looking around the room, he said: “The kinds of activities that are represented here are critically important to Russia’s development -- and I’m very proud of their work.”

One participant was Olga Lenkova, who works with "Vykhod," or "Coming Out," a local gay rights group.
 
“We were talking about the abuses of human rights against LGBT people,” she said afterward. “We were talking about hate crimes not being properly investigated and prosecuted. We were talking  -- and suggesting to President Obama -- that these issues should be issues of international interest.”
 
Three months after Russia's gay propaganda ban went into effect, the debate is just heating up -- inside Russia and outside.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death With IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs