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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid