Russia has been leading the news today, but for all the wrong reasons. Not only were the members of punk band Pussy Riot jailed for two years for performing an anti-Putin song, but Moscow has also banned gay pride parades for the next 100 years.
Yes, you read that right- no public show of gay pride until at least 2112.
One of Russia’s best-known gay rights campaigners and founder of Moscow Gay Pride, Nikolay Alexeyev, had fought the Moscow City Court to overturn the ban on gay pride marches. However the court upheld the ban, saying that gay parades would risk causing public disorder and that most Muscovites do not support such an event.
While Alexeyev plans to bring this case to the European Court of Human Rights, this is not the first anti-homosexual incident in Russia. Recently, two men were arrested sentenced for displaying a sign saying “Being gay is normal” on a public street near a playschool. Alexeyev is also currently paying fines for “disseminating homosexual propaganda”- he was protesting St Petersburg’s anti-gay law outside a city government building.
The anti-gay law which he was protesting has been adopted in four Russian cities so far, and criminalizes “public action aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors”. This makes gay pride marches and non-violent protests illegal.
Homosexuality was decriminalized 20 years ago in Russia, but officials and many citizens seem to want it swept under the rug anyway. In a poll undertaken in 2010, 38% of Russians questioned saw homosexuality as a “bad habit”, while 36% saw it as a “sickness”. The former mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov frequently compared homosexuality to Satanism. And President Putin is strongly against same-sex marriage.
Gay rights are being violated all over the world- whether it’s outlawing gay marriage in most US states or in our own country, to killing people in Uganda because of their orientation. But it is shocking that in St Petersburg, Russia’s most European and liberal city, any public showing of support for the gay community could see you facing a substantial fine.
Not only is the anti-gay law a violation of gay rights, but is a violation of freedom of speech. Obviously, this is a huge problem area in Russia- see the girls of Pussy Riot, who simply opposed Putin in song. The band mentioned Putin’s hatred for the gay community in the protest with the lyric “Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains”. It seems that in Russia, while it may look modern and forward-thinking, society is actually going backwards in terms of ideals and treatment of human rights.
Protests are taking place around the world against the imprisonment of Pussy Riot for “hooliganism”. The word must be spread about Russia and Putin’s treatment of the gay community, and must invoke the same sort of anger- or else they’ll get away with even more violations of human rights.