Showing posts with label Russians Anti Gay Laws. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russians Anti Gay Laws. Show all posts

December 5, 2016

The Human Cost of Bringing LGBT Rights to the Forefront



 A Small gay Protest in Moscow was quickly extinguished a few years ago


Aleksandr Sidorov is on a quest to get Russians to engage in a discussion about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the country’s most homophobic cities.

His quest has taken him to Siberia and the Far East, then last week to Dagestan in the North Caucasus. There, in a region where homophobia is rampant, he paid a heavy price for his mission – he was beaten up by a group of men in Makhachkala, the local capital.

A video of the attack shows one of masked men who had repeatedly kicked Sidorov as he lay on the pavement, standing over him menacingly as an official approaches. After the attackers fled, Sidorov went to the police, but they refused to register his complaint. Defeated, he left the station. The police then called him to say “a hunt for you has been declared,” picked him up and had him spend the night at the station in the interest of his security. Sidorov has since left Dagestan.

On November 30, Sidorov filmed himself walking around neighbourhoods of Makhachkala with a poster that read “To hate gays is an anti-science delusion.” In Sidorov’s vlog posted to his Youtube channel ‘SiberianGuyRu,’ three young men approach Sidorov. One of them asks, “Are you gay or what? Yes or no? Come on, move away.” He then repeatedly calls Sidorov a “fag”. Sidorov responds by encouraging them to read up on the subject of homosexuality. In another clip posted to Sidorov’s vlog, a driver reverses his car to photograph the activist. Sidorov explains in the vlog that many passersby photographed him and then posted these photos on social media.

The next day, on December 1, the group of thugs attacked the vlogger. “When I was walking alone [in Makhachkala] without my banner, an individual in a mask approached me with a few more people. They beat me up,” Sidorov explained. He posted a photo with his cheek visibly swollen. He also suffered multiple bruises.

Dagestan’s police authorities told the press they had received no complaints from Sidorov about the attack.

HRW regularly reports on attacks on LGBT people and those seeking to defend LGBT rights in Russia. The attacks have been on the rise since Russia adopted a discriminatory “gay propaganda” ban in 2013. Russian authorities consistently fail to investigate or prosecute these cases as hate crimes and with very few exceptions, the attacks remain unpunished. It is imperative that the government does its LGBT citizens justice and finally puts an end to discrimination and homophobic attacks.

Claudia WagnerAlfa Fellow, Europe and Central Asia Division

April 21, 2016

The Origins of Homophobia and Gay Myths in Russia




                                                                             







                                                                                                                                                                                                
                                                                    











Most Rus­sians want gays liq­ui­dated or os­tra­cized. That’s ac­cord­ing to a re­cent poll that showed hard­en­ing at­ti­tudes to­wards all mi­nori­ties in Rus­sia, but es­pe­cially to­wards the coun­try’s LGBT com­mu­nity. Be­hind Rus­si­a’s blos­som­ing ha­tred for gays are sev­eral pow­er­ful myths that make up the Krem­lin’s nar­ra­tive of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a West­ern con­spir­acy aimed at de­stroy­ing Russ­ian tra­di­tions. Over the last four years these myths have emerged as major pro­pa­ganda themes for me­dia in Rus­sia and be­yond. Coda set out to iden­tify four of the most pow­er­ful myths and to un­der­stand how they were spun into fuel for ho­mo­pho­bia.

MYTH 1: Pedophile parties are now in power in Europe.

In Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is of­ten equated with pe­dophilia. Con­cepts of “tol­er­ance” or “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” carry deeply neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions. In Sep­tem­ber 2013 dur­ing his an­nual speech at the Val­dai Club, a tele­vised gath­er­ing of a se­lect group of Rus­sia ex­perts, Putin talked about “the ex­cesses of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” which, he said “reach the point where there are se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions on the reg­is­tra­tion of par­ties that have pro­pa­ganda of pe­dophilia as their ob­jec­tive.” The Russ­ian pres­i­dent was ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to a le­gal case around a Dutch foun­da­tion called Mar­tijn, which was es­tab­lished in 1982 to pro­mote the le­gal­iza­tion of con­sen­sual sex be­tween adults and chil­dren. The group had three of­fi­cial mem­bers, who tried and failed to reg­is­ter as a po­lit­i­cal party, and the group was even­tu­ally banned by the Nether­lands Supreme Court. But none of that was re­ported in Rus­sia. A week af­ter the Val­dai Club speech, Putin’spress sec­re­tary Dmitry Peskov said the in­for­ma­tion about a pe­dophile party in Eu­rope “had been ver­i­fied in the most thor­ough method, in­clud­ing by our For­eign Min­istry,” and the head­line “Pe­dophile par­ties are ac­tive in Eu­rope” be­came part of the Russ­ian me­dia nar­ra­tive.

It also spread be­yond Rus­si­a’s bor­ders, and not only through the me­dia. In a 2015 in­ter­view with the BBC, an Or­tho­dox priest in Geor­gia, Fa­ther Io­tame, said the West posed a dan­ger be­cause of the “pe­dophile par­ties tak­ing over Eu­rope.” He said that he first heard of the Eu­ro­pean pe­dophile par­ties dur­ing what he de­scribed as a re­li­gious “boot camp” or­ga­nized by fel­low Or­tho­dox priests vis­it­ing from Rus­sia. The work­shops, he said, fo­cused on re­sis­tance to the “wave of filth” of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and pe­dophilia com­ing from the West.

MYTH 2: –°hildren in Europe are encouraged to masturbate from age four.

In 2014, Rus­si­a’s main Chan­nel 1 re­ported that in some sex-ed pro­grams school­child­ren in Berlin are en­cour­aged to play pan­tomime de­pict­ing or­gasms, pornog­ra­phy and sado­masochism.
Sex ed­u­ca­tion in Eu­rope’s schools is, in fact, one of the fa­vorite sub­jects of Russ­ian state-con­trolled tele­vi­sion sta­tions and one of the most re­peated “facts” is that chil­dren in Eu­rope are forced to mas­tur­bate from age four.
The source is a 68-page doc­u­ment pro­vid­ing sex ed­u­ca­tion guide­lines pub­lished by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2010 that men­tioned early child­hood mas­tur­ba­tion sev­eral times along with a va­ri­ety of other nor­mal psy­cho­sex­ual phe­nom­ena that teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als should be pre­pared to deal with and ap­pro­pri­ately re­act to.

Early child­hood mas­tur­ba­tion, the guide­lines ex­plain, is dif­fer­ent from adult mas­tur­ba­tion and in­cludes any­thing from gen­i­tal touch­ing to suck­ing a thumb.

“Par­ents in Lithua­nia are con­vinced EU par­lia­ment mem­bers are try­ing to per­vert their chil­dren” reads the head­line on the state-owned chan­nel TV Cen­ter. The host even awk­wardly mum­bles an apol­ogy be­fore pro­nounc­ing out the word “mas­tur­ba­tion”. The myth quickly spread be­yond Rus­sia and “the news” of “forced mas­tur­ba­tion” fo­mented pub­lic out­rage in Geor­gia, Ar­me­nia, and through­out the Baltic states. The myth per­sists in these coun­tries and is of­ten cited as an ar­gu­ment against in­te­gra­tion into Euro-At­lantic po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity struc­tures.

MYTH 3: Gays are responsible for Europe’s demographic crisis.

Rus­si­a’s de­mo­graphic sta­tis­tics are dis­mal: the com­bi­na­tion of low fer­til­ity and high mor­tal­ity rates and em­i­gra­tion means the Russ­ian pop­u­la­tion is shrink­ing fast. Putin’s so­lu­tion? Rus­sia, he said in 2014, should “cleanse” it­self of ho­mo­sex­u­als.

In Rus­sia ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is of­ten por­trayed as the ul­ti­mate cru­sade against fam­ily, a “re­jec­tion of chil­dren” as one jour­nal­ist stated on Russ­ian tele­vi­sion and there­fore in­com­pat­i­ble with Rus­si­a’s fu­ture sur­vival. To il­lus­trate just how bad ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is for birth rates, Russ­ian tele­vi­sion reg­u­larly points to Eu­rope. “Eu­ro­peans are dy­ing out...and gay mar­riages don’t pro­duce chil­dren,” said Putin in the same 2014 ad­dress. Pop­u­lar Russ­ian blog­ger Dmitry Belyaev has writ­ten that Eu­ro­pean val­ues like “lib­eral democ­racy” are de­stroy­ing “Fam­ily and Tra­di­tion.” Eu­rope, he wrote in a 2012 post, has re­placed God with tol­er­ance and as a re­sult “chose a path to the grave.”

Myth 4: Rainbows subliminally advertise homosexuality to children.

Putin’s 2011 anti-gay pro­pa­ganda law did­n’t ban ho­mo­sex­ual acts. It banned pro­pa­ganda of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to mi­nors, which legally isex­actly as vague as it sounds. With­out a clear de­f­i­n­i­tion of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, some­thing as in­nocu­ous as rain­bow lo­gos on chil­dren’s lan­guage books or the Park In­n’s multi-col­ored logo can po­ten­tially be con­sid­ered gay pro­pa­ganda and put com­pa­nies at risk of be­ing shut down and fined. While “rain­bows sub­lim­i­nally mass ad­ver­tise ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to kids” may sound ridicu­lous, the mul­ti­ple news sto­ries about sep­a­rate move­ments to ban rain­bows in pub­lic places il­lus­trate how many Rus­sians con­sider ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to be a con­spir­acy: an in­fec­tious idea that can be spread by pro­pa­ganda rather than a hu­man rights is­sue or le­git­i­mate bi­o­log­i­cal norm.

In 2013, a small re­gion in Rus­si­a’s Far East along Chi­na’s bor­der came un­der pres­sure to change its flag. The re­gion called the Jew­ish Au­tonomous Oblast uses a flag that is white with seven stripes in the cen­ter, all dif­fer­ent shades of the rain­bow. The lo­cal gov­ern­ment de­bated whether the flag vi­o­lated the fed­eral anti-gay law. One man was quoted in a news story ar­gu­ing that since the flag has a rain­bow stretch­ing across a white back­ground it ac­tu­ally sym­bol­izes ho­mo­sex­u­als sur­ren­der­ing. How­ever, just in case, the re­gional gov­ern­ment de­cided that the flag could be only used with spe­cial per­mis­sion and rain­bows dis­ap­peared from build­ings and bus stops across the re­gion.
But me­dia cov­er­age of a rain­bow con­spir­acy con­tin­ued. On the state-owned chan­nel Rus­sia-1, Saint Pe­ters­burg law­maker Elena Babich spoke out against the “ag­gres­sive gay” in­va­sion via rain­bows. “Mas­sive pro­pa­ganda and protests — they are si­mul­ta­ne­ous and every­where,” Babich warns. The broad­cast shows her vis­it­ing a book­store, pick­ing up chil­dren’s books, and ask­ing the cam­era, “Why is a rain­bow nec­es­sary here?”

Un­sus­pect­ing com­pa­nies can find them­selves at risk. In 2012 an activist from Norodni Sa­bor, an or­ga­ni­za­tion set up to protect fam­ily val­ues, brought a case to the at­tor­ney general over cartoons of the Jolly Milk­man (“Vesely Molochnik”) dairy com­pany. Dis­counted car­tons of milk fea­tured a Jolly Milk­man char­ac­ter car­ry­ing pails of milk, his brown cow to the left and a new ad­di­tion: a rain­bow stretch­ing above the fields be­hind the pair.

In a more re­cent case, Vi­taly Milonov, a St. Pe­ters­burg law­maker and one of the most vo­cal sup­port­ers of the anti-pro­pa­ganda law, de­manded that the Gen­eral Pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice ban from Russ­ian ter­ri­tory an Amer­i­can sports brand’s sum­mer col­lec­tion fea­tur­ing rain­bowsneak­ers and T-shirts. The brand, Milonov argued in June 2015, was im­pos­ing a pro-gay ide­ol­ogy, de­priv­ing Russ­ian peo­ple of their own ideas of what is ac­cept­able and what is de­viant.

Coda Story Site

                                                                           


February 20, 2016

New Law in Russia if Approved Coming Out Gay will cost 15 Days in Jail



                                                                           



Moscow: Russia's parliament on Friday debated a controversial homophobic bill to fine and jail people for up to 15 days for coming out in public as gay.
Lawmakers expressed support while rejecting the bill in its current wording as not legally valid.
The bill proposed by two Communist MPs calls for a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($65) for "public expression of non-traditional sexual relationships."
It calls for a harsher punishment of up 15 days in police cells for being openly gay in educational institutions or in those related to the arts and youth.
Gay and LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev holds a flare as he rides a quad-bike during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in central Moscow in a file photo. AFP
Gay and LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev holds a flare as he rides a quad-bike during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in central Moscow in a file photo. AFP
The authors of the bill said in an accompanying note it was necessary because a law banning "propaganda" of gay relationships to minors signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2013, and internationally condemned, was "not effective enough."
One of them, Communist MP Ivan Nikitchuk told parliament he had “received hundreds of messages of support for the bill," waving a folder of letters and telegrams.

He condemned the "aggressive propaganda of Western culture and non-traditional values," and called homosexuality "a huge threat for society, a deadly threat."
The bill doesn't define what non-traditional sexual relationships are, but Nikitchuk told MPs they are "between adult men" while "traditional" relationships are between a man and a woman.
Nikitchuk, the 71-year-old deputy head of the parliament's natural resources committee, said last year the bill would only apply to gay men.
Lawmaker Viktor Shudegov of A Just Russia party spoke in support of the bill, adding he wanted a ban on gay people working in professions such as teaching.
"Let the West rot," he said in angry rhetoric.
"They will destroy themselves from within and we will survive, we must survive, so I back this bill."
The MPs debated the bill despite it's being already rejected by the committee on constitutional law because it is not possible to introduce punishments for actions not legally defined as an offence.
As homosexuality is not illegal in Russia this made it technically impossible to pass the bill and it was rejected unanimously.
But that may not be the end of it.
A representative of the constitutional law committee, Rustam Ishmukhametov of ruling United Russia party voiced support for the bill and the possibiity of a new version.
"As a lawmaker I also share this concern. I agree that possibly it would be worth further discussion of this bill, maybe to submit it in a reworked version," he said in parliament, quoted by TASS state news agency.
AFP

January 19, 2016

A Russian Parliament Committee Rejects New Anti Gay law



                                                                       
Russian police push a gay-rights activist away from the scene of a gay-pride event to prevent clashes with
 antigay protesters in St. Petersburg in June 2013.



A Russian parliament committee has rejected a bill that would have allowed fines or jail time for public displays of affection or sexuality by anyone who is not heterosexual.  Rights groups welcomed the move, but also called for the repeal of a 2013 “gay propaganda” law that has encouraged discrimination.  

The law rejected Monday was proposed by Communist Party members of the legislature.  Had it passed, gay people could have been fined between $50 and $65 for public displays of affection. If that “expression of non-traditional sexual relations” was on “territories or in institutions, providing education, culture or youth services,” they faced jail time of up to 15 days.

Human Rights Watch decried the bill as homophobic, while “penalizing people for expressing their identity, a crucial part of anyone’s existence.”

It was a rare win for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people in Russia.

“We're glad the committee is resolved to reject this homophobic bill,” said Human Rights Watch’s Russia Program Director in Moscow Tanya Lokshina in an e-mailed response.  “However, the parliament has yet to repeal the 'gay propaganda' bill which has done tremendous damage to Russia's LGBT people."

The 2013 so-called "gay propaganda law" outlaws the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors," a vague description that received much international criticism. 

Lokshina says it also has led to increased numbers of attacks on the LGBT community in Russia, “The level of hostility, the level of intolerance with regard to LGBT people have increased very severely in the aftermath of that ‘gay propaganda’ law.”

Sandra, a trans women living in Moscow, tells VOA that since the law was passed, she was beaten in broad daylight and threatened with razors.  Her girlfriend called police, who arrived promptly but were reluctant to detain her attackers.  "There were no charges at all.  I was told that ‘they were fighting with people like you.  You are a shame to us.  Don't disgrace us.”

The LGBT community has few people to publicly speak for them in government.  Despite the second class treatment, President Vladimir Putin defended the "gay propaganda law," saying it does not ban homosexuality.  The head of Russia’s state media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya, Dmitry Kiselyov, said in 2012 the hearts of dead gays should be burned or buried, instead of donated, calling them "unfit to live."  

Activists say the government uses LGBT people as scapegoats to distract the public from Russia’s real problems by mobilizing so-called Russian traditional values against allegedly foreign ones.

“Likewise, they are presenting LGBT people as alien to Russia, and to Russia’s traditional values,” says Lokshina.  “And, to a certain extent, this strategy has been very keen to divert public attention from economic woes.”

Despite the oppressive atmosphere, some LGBT activists refuse to stay silent.  Vladimir Komov, a Teachers’ Union Head, and engineer Dmitry Svetly are a gay couple living in Moscow.  

“It's become a lot harder to hold public events, and fewer people come to them because they are worried about possible arrests," says Komov.  “On the other hand, it may have played a positive role, given a push.” 

He continues, “It's forced a lot of people in LGBT community to get out and do something.  It's created a type of name for the LGBT community in Russia because it's activated a fight and initiative from the community.”

"We're openly gay,” says Komov.  "We're not hiding in fear,” says Svetly.  "It's our defense mechanism,” adds Komov.  “For us, being open is a weapon,” concludes Svetly.

January 18, 2016

New Round of Cracking Down of Gays in Russia



                                                                       
 Putin with Patriarch Kirill  










Further attempts to outlaw homosexuality in Russia have emerged this week. Two developments indicate that the country's attempts to roll back rights for LGBT people show no sign of abating.

Firstly, it's been reported that the preservation of "traditional moral values" will be included in a list of "Russian National interests." According to a state spokesperson, it's an attempt to improve national security: "The strategy proclaims the same strategic national priorities of all government agencies in the field of national security."

Secondly, Human Rights Watch reports next week will see another anti-gay law debated in the Russian Parliament. President Putin has claimed it is safe to be gay in Russia and public acts of affection won't be banned. However, HRW says, "the new bill proposes to do just that: send people to jail for kissing, holding hands, or simply for public behavior that authorities consider non-gender-conforming. Such legislation would further escalate the rabid homophobia and transphobia in Russia, putting LGBT Russians at further risk of violence and discrimination."

Human Rights Watch goes on, "It is hard to exaggerate the sinister absurdity and abusive intent of this bill."

These measures do appear to have a level of support from the Russian Orthodox Church, which is seen as being very close to Putin's regime. In response to recognition of same sex relationships, the Orthodox Patriarch is quoted as saying, "This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction."

Last year, the Orthodox Church abandoned official relations with the Church of Scotland after a vote to allow churches to decide for themselves whether to appoint a minister in a civil partnership.

November 20, 2015

A Teaching Moment for US Embassy to Russian Paper on Phony LGBT Letter


 
ikolai Alexeyev punched at a gay demonstration in Moscow
 
The US embassy in Moscow has given a Russian newspaper a grammar lesson over a fake letter that purports to show that the US pays gay rights activists to smear Russian officials.
The embassy marked more than two dozen mistakes in a copy of the alleged letter that it posted on its Twitter account. “Dear Izvestia, next time you use fake letters, send them to us – we will be happy to help correct the mistakes,” it wrote at the bottom.

 The post was in response to an article in Izvestia on Wednesday that said activists were accusing the Russian officials of homosexuality to “earn grants” from the US State Department. 
The article focused on prominent activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who told Ekho Moskvy radio station in May 2013 that Vladimir Putin’s aide Vyacheslav Volodin, the head of a state-owned bank and a director at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport were gay. 
As proof of the US-backed “campaign to discredit” these officials, Izvestia quoted what the newspaper said was hacked correspondence between Alexeyev and the US State Department. Although it failed to provide a direct link, several quotes come from a letter posted on the CyberGuerilla website earlier this year. 
In the letter, dated 11 May 2015, a rights envoy supposedly thanked Alexeyev for helping to organise a rally against Russian aggression in Ukraine, which drew “negative responses from Russian officials … a clear sign of excellent training and qualification of the protesters”.
“LGBT organisations will get increased financing at the expense of other opposition democratic organisations considering their low efficiency in developing civic society in Russia,” the alleged letter said.
In its red pen-marked version of the letter, the US embassy pointed out mistakes with punctuation, spelling and use of “the”, which is often tricky for Russian speakers. 
“Really?? Gmail??” the embassy wrote next to an email address that the letter instructed Alexeyev to contact for “further financial and organisational issues”.
Russia passed a controversial law in 2013 against what it called gay propaganda. Alexeyev has been frequently detained and beaten during annual attempts to hold a gay pride parade over the past decade.

January 10, 2015

Putin signs New law Banning People with Sexual disorders (transv.,transex.,etc) from Driving


                                                                        


RUSSIA HAS PASSED a controversial law banning transvestites, transsexuals and people with other so-called “disorders” from driving, prompting sharp criticism from rights activists, including a prominent Kremlin advisor.
The legislation, which took effect this week, says its aims at lowering the country’s high death rate from road accidents.
“Disorders”
It prohibits people diagnosed with a range of medical, personality and gender identity disorders from taking the wheel.
Though these include blindness and epilepsy, it also lists transvestites and transsexuals as well as people with sexual fetishes, voyeurs, paedophiles, pathological gamblers and kleptomaniacs
Passed by government decree signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the law follows other legislation viewed as discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.
Since returning to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012, President Vladimir Putin has listed “healthy family” and traditional values as priorities and pushed an increasingly conservative agenda.
This has included a law banning any so-called “propaganda” or display of homosexuality in front of minors, which was decried by rights activists, Western government and stars including Madonna as a crackdown on gays and lesbians.
Russia has also banned adoptions by gay parents.
While Moscow formally decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, homophobia remains socially acceptable and few public figures have come out as gay. Human Rights Watch in December slammed Putin’s government for what it called “inaction” against rising homophobic attacks.
 Backing the law
Those backing the new law include Vitaly Milonov, a regional lawmaker in Saint Petersburg and one of the strongest supporters of the law against gay “propaganda”. He praised it as an “absolutely correct and timely decision,” in comments to the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.
“Those doctors and sex experts who oppose it are themselves basically perverts,” said Milonov, known for past homophobic outbursts.
A member of the rights council that advises the Kremlin, however, publicly challenged the new driving code as a potential breach of human rights.
Yelena Masyuk, a journalist, highlighted the “possible unfairness of removing the right to drive for those suffering from disorders of gender identity and sexual preference,” in a reaction Thursday on the council’s website.
“I don’t understand why, for example, people with fetishes, kleptomaniacs and transsexuals can’t drive a car,” she wrote. “It seems to me that this is a breach of the rights of Russian citizens.”
Russia needs to “study global practice” and “judge whether a ban on people with fetishes, exhibitionists, voyeurs, kleptomaniacs and others from taking the wheel is well-grounded,” she wrote.
It was not immediately clear how the law would be enforced, but Russians must undergo a medical exam to obtain a licence so anyone “diagnosed” by a doctor with any of the listed conditions could presumably be refused.
Critics of the law
The Association of Advocates of Russia for Rights joined the critics with a statement saying the driving code “obviously contradicts international norms and standards.”
By banning driving for “all transgender, bi-gender and asexual people, transvestites, cross-dressers and people who need gender correction (surgery)”, it could apply to many high-profile actors and pop stars popular in Russia, the legal advocacy group said.
This could include popular drag performer Verka Serdyuchka who performed at the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine, it noted.

May 10, 2014

Russia Will Allow The First Gay Rights Protest


                                                                              


For the first time since enacting their federal anti-gay laws last summer, officials in Russia have agreed to allow gay rights activists to hold a protest. 

Gay Star News reports that on May 8, city officials gave the okay for gay rights activist Alexander Yermoshkin to gather 100 people to release balloons into the sky on May 17 for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. 

The law bans the dissemination of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" that would "undermine the security of Russian society," especially as regards minors. The legislation is broad enough to effectively ban any public display of LGBT culture. 

Although some activists joined a May 1 protest in St. Petersburg against Russia’s anti-gay laws, the march wasn’t specific to gay rights, but rather coincided with the celebration of May Day. 

"What happened in St Petersburg was very cool, but it is still far from a trend," said Nikolai Alekseev, a LGBTI activist in Russia. "The authorities are continuing to ban the freedom of expression, and courageous people like these ready to face insults and fists are the ones that are making a difference."

Gay Star News reports that all other public events against the discrimination of LGBTs have been banned, including a call to allow the gay community freedom of movement in a single visa, and a tribute to the gay victims of the Nazis during World War II.

February 24, 2014

Once The Games Got Underway The Public Criticism Went Quiet



                                                                  


SOCHI, Russia--Before the Sochi Games, a number of Olympic athletes pointedly spoke out against Russia's controversial gay 'propaganda' laws. The law mandates fines for speaking in defense of gay rights or saying gay relationships are equal to heterosexual ones in front of minors.
Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, for instance, told The Atlantic before Sochi that she planned to "rip on (Russian President Vladimir Putin's) ass" after competing.
Once the Games got underway, the public criticism all but went quiet.
  There were no high-profile proactive statements or blatant symbolic gestures by athletes. A few athletes criticized the law when asked by reporters to weigh in and a Belgian performer who supports gay rights displayed rainbow colors, a symbol of the gay-rights movement, during her performance at the Games.
But the only really noticeable pro-gay act inside Olympic Park came when Italian Vladimir Luxuria, a transgendered gay rights activist, showed up at a women's hockey game in a rainbow skirt after broadcasting that she planned a protest. Police removed her from the park. A day earlier police detained her briefly after she unfurled a "gay is okay" banner outside the park.
So what happened?
"I really have already voiced my opinion and spoken out," said U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner, responding to questions from reporters. Wagner has been outspoken in her criticism of the Russian laws. "My stand against the LGBT legislation here in Russia is really the most that I can do right now," she said. "I'm here to compete first and foremost."
It is an oft-spoken mantra by athletes.
Athletes who have spent a lifetime preparing for the Olympics say using the platform to promote a political or human rights cause distracts from the competition and from other athletes who may not share their views. As far as speaking out at the Games themselves, while competitors are allowed to voice opinions when asked, Olympic charter prohibits political propaganda in any "Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
Russian officials set aside a site where protests would be allowed but it was several miles outside the Olympics and mostly stood empty.
Olympic activism has been a complicated and controversial issue for decades – the most famous incident the black power salute by medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – and this year was no exception.
Brockhoff, speaking to reporters after failing to medal in ladies' boardercross, told reporters she began receiving "hate tweets" after speaking out against Putin. Sochi, she said, was not the right place to take a stand.
"I said before, if I didn't get a medal, nobody is really going to care," she said. Brockhoff said pressure she felt to advocate for gay rights was greater than the pressure she felt to compete. "I want to enjoy the Olympic experience, but after that I will definitely be voicing my opinion."
Tennis great Billie Jean King, who is among the gay athletes President Barack Obamanamed to the U.S. Olympic delegation, said Sunday that she supported athletes' decisions to stay clear of public demonstrations that could get them booted from competition, but disagrees that the Olympics is not a place for politics.
"It is an unbelievable opportunity to exchange ideas and hear each other," she said, standing on a hotel balcony just outside Olympic Park. "Hopefully, out of all these athletes we will have some teachers."
To believe the Olympics can remain entirely separate from politics, she says, amounts to "keeping your head in the sand."
Gay Olympians didn't face the backlash that hit Johnny Weir, gay figure-skater-turned-commentator, when he said he planned to work the Games for NBC but not address gay rights while there. Gay-rights groups criticized his decision; one organization protested outside Columbia University where Weir was speaking.
"There has never been such a coordinated and global presence and view from athletes…speaking out so strongly against discrimination in sport," said Andre Banks, cofounder and executive director of gay-rights group All Out. "It's hard to look at where we're at and where we were a year ago for these games and feel like we didn't have an iconic moment."
Banks said the International Olympic Committee should be more selective in selecting future host cities. "There should be a bar," he said.
IOC Spokesman Mark Adams said it's impractical to weed out potentially controversial countries, otherwise the Olympics would be held "in only two places," he said.
The lack of demonstrations at the Games was a success for organizers eager to keep the spotlight off Russia's antigay laws. Russian officials have denied allegations they've tried to suppress protests.
"Our job at the IOC is to see that Principle 6 is upheld and we believe it has been," Adams said, referring to a section of the Olympic charter that prohibits discrimination -- though not explicitly against gays -- at the Olympics. "We believe that has been fully upheld."
He said the dustup with Luxuria, the Italian activist, is "a good case of why we need to keep the games separate from issues that are not game related."
The biggest statements came from outside Olympic Park.
In an unusually explicit stand, AT&T Inc. came out against the Russia law before the Games, calling it "harmful to a diverse society." A Canadian human-rights group released a witty Olympic-themed commercial supporting gay rights, with the tagline, "The games have always been a little gay. Let's fight to keep them that way." Obama's decision to send King and other gay athletes to the Games and skip the event himself was widely seen as a poke at Putin. White House officials have said Obama's schedule did not permit him to attend the Games.
The highest-profile dissent was focused on broader human rights issues.
A group of uniformed Cossacks attacked members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot with horse whips in the center of Sochi on Wednesday as the group began an anti-Kremlin protest near the Olympic Games in a widely-broadcast scene. Adams, the IOC spokesman, said the following day that the committee was distressed by the event and understood Russian authorities were looking into it.
In a brief appearance before reporters on Sunday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said of the Pussy Riot situation, "there is no excuse for using violence against peaceful protesters."
Gay high-schooler and activist Vladislav Slavsky attended the gathering with King and Burns. Slavsky, of Sochi, said he has been beaten at school and is regularly harassed. He said the Olympics brought much-needed attention to gay rights in Russia and he fears the attention will fade when the Games leave town.
"Journalists will go away from here," he said. "And Putin can do whatever he wants."
—Betsy McKay and Paul Sonne contributed to this article.
Write to Sharon Terlep at sharon.terlep@wsj.com

February 22, 2014

Canadians Protest Russia’s Anti Gay Laws





When Russia passed its controversial law banning the spread of gay propaganda last summer, it created a wave of anxiety and outrage that spread throughout the world and onto Canadian shores, as revealed in documents obtained by CBC News.

Canadians — with our same-sex marriage laws, our pride parades and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms — condemned the Russian anti-gay laws. In an August 2013 interview, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said it is "an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence."

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More recently, a Canadian institute for diversity created a cheeky video with a message that the Olympics were always a little gay, illustrating that we could have a little fun in standing up for human rights.

But Canadians' protests began much earlier and quieter — in written letters and emails sent to government officials almost as soon as the Russian law was passed.

Documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request reveal a whole swath of correspondence between concerned citizens and Minister of Sport Bal Gosal. They're only a sampling, as the documents contain mostly notes to Gosal and not to representatives from other relevant departments.

Altogether, the government responded to more than 200 emails and letters from the public, according to Foreign Affairs spokesperson Beatrice Fenelon.

The emails revolved around themes of shared humanity and anger against purported hatred and discrimination. 

"I cannot stand quiet about this issue," said one Aug. 7, 2013, email. "I am not gay, however I am a human being."

It attached Stephen Fry's open letter to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, comparing the Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Berlin Games, and the anti-gay laws with Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews. 

The safety of Canadian athletes was also a concern. 

Another email referred to retired hockey star Sarah Vaillancourt, about how it was possible for her to be arrested and detained for two weeks before being sent back to Canada. 

"Rest assured she is not the only LGBT member of the Canadian Olympic Team," the email read.

Passionate pleas to government

Soon after the anti-gay law was passed, Russian officials did tell the International Olympic Committee that it would not discriminate against homosexuals during the Games. 

But many Canadians demanded an Olympic boycott.

"Will the government of Canada stand up for what it says it believes in, human rights and equality. Will the Canadian government stand up for human rights and boycott the 2014 Olympic games in Russia?" asked one of the earliest emails, dated July 9.

"The Olympic spirit is under assault. If Canada will not boycott, it needs to lead the world with a strong substantive message," read another.

Others determined a boycott would deprive Canadian athletes their chance to compete, saying "athletes are being used to promote other political agendas."

One person instead called for the cancellation of purchases from Russia and "other anti-gay countries" which might supply equipment to the 2015 Pan Am Games to be held in Toronto. (Gosal's office referred that person to Ontario Minister of Sport Michael Chan).

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also called on Canada to pressure Russia into rescinding its legislation, as well as comply with international human rights law that requires nations to ensure equal rights for all citizens. 

Or at the very least, to take the opportunity at the Sochi Games "to publicly express support for LGBTQ people."

Not just human rights, but Canadian values

And, mostly, the emails invoked a sense of patriotism, that action on the part of government would not only signal a respect for human rights but reflect instinctive Canadian values. 

"I am a proud Canadian," opened one email. "I love my Edmonton Oilers and having a few cold ones while camping with my friends — just like millions of my countrymen.

"Our athletes aren't just representing our country — they are representing what our country stands for and believes in," it continued. Competing in Russia means athletes are "asked to compete in a place that is contrary to those values."

Another said that as one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, "and as a country that guarantees the rights of its LGBTQ citizens, Canada must stand clearly against the recent homophobic attacks in Russia."

For their efforts, the email writers received responses from Gosal, slightly personalized but largely containing carefully constructed talking points and no promises, according to the documents. 

They acknowledged the "development in Russia is extremely troubling" and that the government raised its concerns directly with Russian authorities. But in addressing demands for official action and a possible boycott, the minister of sport reminded people the Canadian Olympic Committee — a national, private, not-for-profit organization — is the one responsible for all aspects of Canada's involvement. 

As the world's athletes descended on Sochi, slipped inside the Olympic bubble and kicked into competition mode, thoughts of discrimination and human rights abuses largely fell by the wayside. 

But this week, videos surfaced of Russian security officers attacking members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot with whips as they attempted to protest, right in front of the Sochi 2014 sign in the Olympic Village. 

The IOC said it was "very unsettling," but had also said "venues are not the places to have demonstrations." 

Canadians are still left to wonder whether the pen really is mightier than the sword.
By Trinh Theresa Do

February 18, 2014

Arrest of Protesters puts Focus on Russian Suppression of Dissent




Sochi: Russia’s suppression of dissent during the Winter Games is again under the spotlight, after two protesters were arrested in Sochi.
A former Italian MP claims she was arrested at the Olympic site on Sunday while queuing to buy a ticket and brandishing a banner saying “It’s OK to be gay”. On Monday police detained an activist in central Sochi, who was holding a solo protest against a three-year prison sentence given last week to environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko.
On Sunday, Vladimir Luxuria, a prominent gay rights campaigner who was Europe’s first openly transgender MP, reportedly called for help after she was detained by police.
Ms Luxuria later told reporters she was approached by two men in plain clothes in the Olympic village while she held up the banner. She said she was not released until early Monday morning, and was told not to display pro-gay slogans in public.
“I think it is important [to have] the opportunity to talk internationally about these things because otherwise these things happen in Russia and nobody knows, nobody cares,” she said.
Earlier that day she had tweeted a photo of herself at the Olympic village brandishing a rainbow fan and wearing a rainbow skirt, saying in Italian “I’m in Sochi! Regards with the colors of the rainbow, in the face of Putin!” 
Russia’s new law banning gay propaganda has attracted widespread criticism as a breach of human rights and a potential danger to gay Russians and visitors to the country.
However, Sochi 2014 spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina said on Monday that organisers had spoken to police and there was “no record whatsoever” of any arrest.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said the Games should not be used as a platform for demonstrations.
On Monday, police in the town of Sochi arrested an activist who was holding a solo protest.
David Khakim held up a sign saying “Free Yevgeny Vitishko” in a park in the city, next to the Olympic rings. He was protesting against a three-year prison sentence given to the fellow environmental activist.
Vitishko, a 40-year-old geologist, had campaigned against the environmental damage caused by the development of Sochi for the Winter Olympics.
Last Wednesday a court found that he had violated the terms of a three-year suspended sentence, from a 2012 conviction for spray-painting and damaging the fence of a property linked to Krasnodar’s regional governor.
Vitishko and other members of the group Environmental Watch on North Caucasus had been drawing attention to what they said was an illegal fence in a public forest.
Fellow activists said Vitishko has begun a hunger strike in jail.
According to other Environmental Watch activists, police accused Mr Khakim of “unsanctioned picket and lack of patriotism”.
He was asked to leave the park, and when he insisted his protest was within the law, he was taken to Sochi’s central police station and charged with unauthorised picketing, which according to one report carries a fine of about $1000.
Mr Khakim tweeted a photo of police writing up the charge. He also said on Twitter that police had arrested him after telling him his passport was not a sufficient form of identification.
The activists said the court hearing on the charge was held behind closed doors “out of security concerns”.
Originally Russia had said no demonstrations would be allowed near the Olympics. But in January Russian authorities designated a small park in the town of Khosta, more than 10 kilometres away from the Olympic venues, as the "official protest zone" of the Winter Olympics. It is not widely used.

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