Everyday, people are assaulted, tortured, and murdered in Russia for their sexual orientation and for supporting the freedom of LGBT community.
A survey in 2013 found that in Russia almost 75% of people were against LGBT rights as they saw homosexuality as being morally unacceptable. The majority of Russians surveyed also thought homosexuality leads to sexual harassment, paedophilia and rape, despite President Vladimir Putin claiming that it is “duty” to “uphold traditional values and family values” and that gay Russians are neither threatening nor being threatened.
“The majority of people interviewed were aware of Russia’s negative views towards homosexuality but did not realise to what extent Russian LGBT people were rejected and abused by their own society.”
Our reporters at the University of Portsmouth Amnesty International Society have been interviewing students and locals in Portsmouth asking for their views on the situation in Russia. The majority of people interviewed were aware of Russia’s negative views towards homosexuality but did not realise to what extent Russian LGBT people were rejected and abused by their own society.
One student interviewed called Russian society “traditional backwards thinking” and another said that they thought that Russia was; “not blatantly against homosexuality, but it is frowned upon”. The true extent of Russia’s human rights abuse towards LGBT people is a lot more extreme than simply being “frowned upon”.
On 11 June, 2013, the Russian government voted unanimously (with just one MP abstaining) in favour of the federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values”. This law is known as the “anti-gay law” or the “gay propaganda law”. Russian families have been encouraged to carry out honour killings against LGBT family members.
The stated purpose for the law in Russia is “Protecting children from being exposed to homonormativity” as it is seen to contradict traditional family values. Russian authorities have also changed the country’s child protection law so that sharing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships” is an offence punishable by large fines and even time in prison.
Many people in Russia have already been persecuted under the ‘Homosexual Propaganda’ law. Evdokia Romanova is one of them. She is currently an activist working for the Samara regional LGBT movement Avers, which is also a member of global human rights organisation ‘Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’.
Romonova was arrested in summer 2017 and charged with “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors using the internet”. Evidence used against her included Facebook posts where she had shared an article from UK newspaper The Guardian about the legalisation of same sex marriage.
Amnesty International was campaigning for her to be released but she was charged and later fined $1,750. The people interviewed by our reporters saw this is as a violation of the right to freedom of speech. One student said that raising awareness for LGBT issues in a non violent way should not be provoking such a reaction.
An interviewed student went on to say, “Freedom of speech is one of our most important rights as citizens and to have that taken away is basically inhumane. I think if you have something to say you should be able to, especially with a topic as important as this.” A local also said that, “All information travelling across the internet, unless it’s of illicit nature, should be allowed to be shared and shared with everybody across the world.” Another charge Romonova faced was “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The Russian government is determined to eradicate any positive content about LGBT people in an attempt to eradicate homosexuality.
“Amnesty International activists across the world have been coming together against the denials made by the authorities to show their support and solidarity with the LGBT community.”
As well as violence towards and persecution of LGBT people, Russia’s view of homosexuality has also lead to the well publicised ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya, a mostly Muslim republic located in southwestern Russia. It is home to some of the most violent methods of persecution in a mission to eradicate homosexuality. The current leader of the area, Ramzan Kadyrov, hasbeen accused of ordering the arrests and torture of homosexual men in the region. Kadyrov arose to power following the appointment, by Vladimir Putin, of his father to the same position.
Kadyrov has allegedly used his power to re-enforce strict and ‘traditional’ values regarding homosexuality, all whilst being financially supported by Putin and ultimately the nation themselves. Amnesty International activists across the world have been coming together against the denials made by the authorities to show their support and solidarity with the LGBT community in Chechnya. Around half a million people signed a petition in June demanding a fair investigation into the allegations and demanding an end to the horrifying persecution. Amnesty International is asking international governments to open their doors to gay men fleeing Chechnya. It is important that the governments that condemn these atrocities follow up by ensuring that Chechens seeking international protection are granted access to fair asylum procedures.There’s a second petition that is still to be signed and UoP Amnesty International are campaigning to get as many signatures as possible on the new petition and also raise awareness on this major human rights breach. Loving who you love is a fundamental human right and Amnesty International will hold any government accountable for violating it.
Authors: Jordan Rydlewski, Mysha Alom, Qamar Aden and Rebecca Mullen