Anti-Gay Vigilante Groups Come Under Scrutiny
Published: August 21, 2013 (Issue # 1774)
MOSCOW — The video begins with the camera pointed down at a paved path in a snow-covered park, the cameraman walking unsteadily forward. A rap song plays in the background with a telling refrain: “Beat up the gays! Beat up the gays!”
Soon, the action kicks in: A boy runs up behind another boy on the path and grabs his arms, pinning them behind his back. A third boy tells the victim, who was walking beside a man in a skull cap, to take off his hood. The stunned teenager is put into a chokehold.
“What were you doing just now?” barks 16-year-old Filipp Razinsky as the camera zooms in on the victim’s face.
“Going for a walk.”
“With who? How old is this guy?”
Passers-by approach to see what’s going on, and the rhetoric quickly escalates. “Why did you come here?” the victim is asked, and: “Do your parents know you’re here?” Then: “Do you know what the Bible says to do with gays?”
The answer, Razinsky says, is “to stone them,” while others from behind the camera shout “to burn them.”
The scene is from one of more than a dozen videos that have brought Internet fame to a group of teenage vigilantes called Occupy Gerontophilia, whose stated goal is to “reform” gay teens who allegedly offer their bodies to older men for money by bullying and shaming them on camera. The group’s name offers a taste of the juvenile humor often employed in the videos — “gerontophilia” refers to a sexual preference for the elderly.
Bullying of LGBT teenagers is a worldwide phenomenon, with studies having shown gay teens to be at higher risk of suicide and depression due to mistreatment. But activists warn that the problem has been made worse in Russia by recently passed laws banning pro-gay “propaganda” among minors, saying the legislation implicitly gives a green light to vigilantes for such activities.
At least one official has drawn attention to the potential harm being done by the Occupy Gerontophilia group. Federation Council Senator Konstantin Dobrynin appealed to Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika over the matter earlier this month, saying a probe should be opened to determine whether the group’s leader and members could be held criminally liable for “coercion to perform acts of a sexual nature.” The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Social networking site Vkontakte has also been responsive to the increasing public outcry over the group’s activities, blocking its official page. And the group’s branch in Lipetsk recently attracted the attention of police, who last Thursday announced that they were looking into a video of a 17-year-old being taunted after agreeing to meet with a 22-year-old man.
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