Is Russia on the way to more efforts to tackle homophobia?

Justine Rodier, translated by Amélie Rastoin
14 Juin 2015

In Russia, homophobic groups are multiplying violent actions against homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals. Many actors in the international community are denouncing them, however the expanding anti-homophobic actions are scarcely part of a plan. Let us see what is going on with these activist homophobic movements.

Credits Mads Nissen
Credits Mads Nissen
Humiliations, harassment, chasing in the streets, severe beatings, and murders, are some of the violent actions done to homosexual people today in Russia. A crime until 1993 and a mental disease until 1999, homosexuality is not meant to be wrong anymore. Yet members of this minority remain victims of physical and moral violence, discriminatory insults and dismissals, among others. Who are the actors? They are mainly supporters of the homophobic group Occupy pedophilia, people claiming their right to punish homosexuals for the sake of civil security and the protection of children. The attackers record their victims and stream the videos on the Internet.

Despite this existing violence, the LGBT community does its best to resist. According to this community, the actual issue is that the police don’t punish the violent actions, and even sometimes harass homosexuals themselves. Such a situation makes it hard for the LGBT community to keep willing to claim their rights. According to them, the citizens are too few open-minded, mostly the Russian majority of people living below the poverty line who don’t always express their anger in a positive way.

According to LGBT, in such a huge and diversified country Russia is, a government working on gathering the ethnic groups and advocating human tolerance would be the solution to cope with these attacks. However, Russian authorities don’t seem ready to act this way; contrarily, they tend to raise the number of laws discriminating homosexuals. Gay pride parades are henceforth banned. Since 2012, homosexual parents lost their child custody by law. In 2013, a deputy minister banned any form of “homosexual propaganda”; any action showing a homosexual relationship is likely to be punished since then. In 2013 as well, President Vladimir Putin sentenced all demonstrations from LGBT members who were willing to highlight their claims during the Sochi Olympic Games. More recently, the January 6th, 2015 law bans people with “personality and behaviour disorders” from driving.

Among these disorders are the ones base on “gender identity” or “sexual preference”, elements that, according to the government, are likely to influence the way people drive and thus jeopardize the society. It seems that political authorities are not actually ready to support the homosexual cause. According to the majority of Russians, same-sex people having a relation is not a problem, until they express it publicly.

Civil actions that condemn such injustice

Despite this homophobic wave, Russian and international citizens seem to get more and more involved against these actions, and movements are spreading around the planet to claim each one’s rights. First in Russia, Elena Masiouk, member of the Kremlin Human Rights Council expresses her indignation. She condemns every measure implemented by the government that create injustice against some of the Russian citizens. Along with her, many Human Rights partisans protest around the world and take support in their main weapon: the Human Rights Declaration. In 2013 during the Sochi Olympic Games, an advertisement campaign against homophobia in Russia was launched by the sports brand XXL All Sport aimed to call for an international civil mobilisation.

Two lesbian protesters in favour of homosexual rights kissed for freedom in a St Petersburg-Moscow flight. The two women took a photo of their kiss in order to spread the impact of their action. Why is this selfie so special? In the background of it is Vitaly Milanov, a Russian deputy minister was presumed to be a religious extremist. This man implemented the bill banning the homosexuals from expressing their sexuality in the street, accused of “homosexual propaganda” and punished with fines or imprisonments. Vitaly Milanov, close to Vladimir Putin, had declared François Hollande as the “Hell’s Gate keeper” after the gay-marriage bill passed in France on May 17th, 2013.

In Romania occurs a valuable support to homosexuality from the orthodox Christians who have been publishing the orthodox calendar for fifteen years now. This calendar is the equivalent of the Stadium Gods calendar published every year in France, however the orthodox calendar models have been pictured naked for three years only out of fifteen. The 2015 calendar openly aimed to tackle Russian homophobia. On the photos are homosexual couples in love. The pictures keep their artistic touch, they are esthetical and not rude. The people who developed this project were very open-minded Christians. Such publication is a great supportive material to address the whole population since it is not only aimed at homosexuals. And even more important is that in a few Easter countries, the orthodox church is still very present in the citizen and State life. Therefore it looks like all the conditions are matching so the anti-homophobic demonstrations get bigger.

Artists against homophobia

A young Irish musician, with one song played by millions of people of promoted “song of the year” by the Grammy Award, a video watched all around the world, though few know what it means. Singer Hozier recorded in 2013 Take Me To Church to condemn homophobic actions, being violent without valuable reason. The lyrics denounce these violent behaviours, and the video shows two young men in love being victims of homophobic harassment. By this creation, Hozier condemns how the LGBT members are treated and advocates tolerance for everyone’s sexual preference. According to him, “what we have seen going in Russia is nothing less than a nightmare”.

In art, the 17 members of the World Press Photo 2015 jury chose a photo of a young homosexual couple in St Petersburg as winner of the competition. This year, Danish photograph Mads Nissen got first prize for this yearly press photography competition. He had taken this photograph during a photo-reportage about homophobia in Russia. The picture shows these two young men in a dark room, far from anyone’s sight/ This closed place expresses the careful measures homosexuals have to take today to avoid being discriminated.

Society seems therefore to have mobilize more and more, and homophobic contesters are joined by a great deal of artists. The movement spreads today by the world on the Internet via a petition to “President Putin, the Russian managers and our world leaders”. Its aim is to get 500,000 signatures. The web page of the petition says: “We ask the State leaders all around the world and Russian managers to work to revoke the homophobic laws and to protect every citizen against violence and discrimination in Russia”.