While Russia has never had a great track record on the topic of human rights, this has become all the more apparent in recent years as the Vladimir Putin-led country has brought a series of discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws into effect.
The most notorious of these is the 2013 law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ in which Russia’s citizens are not allowed hold public LGBT events, promote gay rights or talk about LGBT identities with children, as the country deems these to be an attempt at spreading ‘LGBTness’ to the population.
Signed into law just this year is a piece of legislation that seeks to decrease “mortality caused by traffic accidents”. But despite its well-meaning description, the law is actually a thinly veiled excuse for more LGBT discrimination.
The law uses the World Health Organisation’s list of “mental and behavioural disorders”, which bafflingly includes transgenderism, gambling addictions, and voyeurism, to state who can and cannot drive.
There is obviously no proof that being trans has an effect on your ability to drive whatsoever and the law will be impossible to enforce as so few people are officially listed as trans* (they specifically avoid doing so to avoid anti-trans discrimination) but the fact that it exists is enough to tell Russia’s trans population that they are not welcome and they do not belong.
While it’s distressing enough that so many LGBT citizens of Russia are being denied their rights so blatantly, the government sponsored anti-LGBT opinions are spilling out into public consciousness. There are no official stats on it, but those within Russia say that they have seen a serious increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes as well as LGBT suicides since these laws came into effect and this viewpoint became so promoted.
For example, one Neo-Nazi group is notorious in Russia for identifying gay teenagers and proceeding to beat them up. Al Jazeera notes that the group’s leader Maxim “Tesak” Martsinkevich was arrested and imprisoned for five years for “inciting hatred” but the fact that his followers are still active throughout the country and little is being done to stop them is a reflection of how little those in power care.
So what is being done about Russia’s egregious human rights offenses? Things appeared to bubble up and gain some real traction in early 2014 when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
There were threats to boycott the event and LGBT athletes and visitors were also extremely concerned about attending but with so much money at stake and affirmations from Russia that LGBT people in the city for the Olympics would be left alone, little was done and many people turned a blind eye choosing to just enjoy the Winter-y sports instead.
There is also little other countries can do to stop Russia as the EU (European Union) is already imposing sanctions on the country due to its actions in the Ukraine (where Russia has reportedly been supporting separatist rebels). Russia’s economy is in the doldrums but the support for Putin and his party is at such a high that it’s unlikely that the country’s money woes will oust him and his anti-LGBT policies too.
According to reports from November, 2014, the Russian LGBT community may have found an ally in German chancellor Angela Merkel as after Putin told her that the West’s promotion of LGBT rights has led to a “decay of values”, she realised that Europe and America should abandon working things out with Russia altogether.
A source also revealed that “the chancellor has come to believe that Putin is driven by an ultra-conservative mindset that is shared by his inner circle and is based on a belief that Russia’s values are superior and irreconcilable to those of the West”.
It’s said that she would like the EU to become a united front against Russia and although we can’t verify how true that is without a statement from the Chancellor herself, Germany is one of Russia’s most important (and most wealthy) allies and so rumblings from its leader could very well change the tide in the LGBT community’s favour.