Want to be horrified? Do a Google image search for “anti-gay attacks in Russia.” Scroll through the photos of gays, lesbians, and pro-LGBT rights protesters being arrested, harassed, and beaten. Let’s just say that Russia makes places in the United States like Alabama and Virginia and Michigan seem like an LGBT paradise.
While Russia has never been known as a progressive place, life for LGBT people has become considerably more dangerous after the passage of a strict law banning “gay propaganda.” The law was intended to keep impressionable children from hearing that homosexuality is anything but evil. Not surprisingly, the law is very broad and basically makes it illegal to be openly gay in Russia. Rainbow flags are, literally, a crime now.
Needless to say, gays and lesbians who are either planning to attend or compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia are a little worried. A lot worried, actually, that they will be fined, or put in jail or, say, kidnapped and tortured by anti-gay thugs. Because that’s a legitimate hobby in Russia now.
“The latest laws against so-called gay propaganda … have essentially legalized violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws,” Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, told The Guardian earlier this month. “With this legislation, the government said that, yes, gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group.”
Kochetkov described the law as “an action to terrorize the entire LGBT community.”
Of course, this nightmare could have never come true had it not been for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signature. But not only did Putin sign it, he also had the audacity to claim that gays and lesbians are not discriminated against in Russia.
According to the Associated Press, Putin claimed only “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” was banned under the law. There is “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities,” he said.
Tell that to young gay man kidnapped and raped with a bottle after being tricked into a meeting on a gay social media site.
Tell that to Dmitry Isakov, a 24-year-old man arrested for standing outside with a sign that read, “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!”
Tell that to the 17 activists arrested in St. Petersburg, the proving ground for the law that became nationwide in late June, for wearing rainbow suspenders and waving rainbow flags last year.
Tell that to the parents in Russia who risk having their children taken away should Putin sign a bill currently advancing in the parliament. Should this bill pass, gays and lesbians would have their parental rights terminated. Just for being gay.
Russian journalist and lesbian activist Masha Gessen recently fled the country in order to protect her family. She doesn’t trust Putin one bit and she’s been watching him closely for years. Her advice to LGBT people is to “get the hell out” of Russia.
“Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia,” wrote Harvey Fierstein in a July 21 op-ed in the New York Times. “Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook.”
Comparing anyone to Hitler is usually ridiculous, but Putin is truly a dangerous man. It’s not hard to imagine him with a mustache.