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Russia's 'Gay Propaganda' Law One Year On

Published: June 30, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • Gay activists being arrested on Mars Field in 2013.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

In the year that has passed since Russia adopted a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors," the country's LGBT community has witnessed the erosion of its rights and freedoms, human rights activists said.

Since President Vladimir Putin approved the so-called "gay propaganda" law on June 29, 2013, only four individuals have been fined for violating it, according to Tanya Lokshina, program director and senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Russia. But, Lokshina added, the rarity of the law's formal enforcement inadequately reflects its broader consequences for Russia's LGBT community.

"Only a few people were fined throughout the year and this might not seem to be much of a problem," Lokshina said. "But the fines are not what this law is about. This law is not only contrary to Russia's international obligations but has also contributed to anti-gay violence and to creating a hostile environment for LGBT people in the country. It has contributed to stigmatizing LGBT individuals as unnatural, perverse and as acceptable targets."

Putin has distanced himself from the issue of LGBT rights in the country. In January, he said that he was "not prejudiced in any way" and that he even had gay friends. He has also said publicly that gays face no discrimination in Russia.

Since the adoption of the country's "gay propaganda" law, Human Rights Watch has observed an increase in violent attacks carried out against LGBT people in Russia.

U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Campaign reported that at least two men were killed because of their sexual orientation in Russia in the summer of 2013 alone and that others had been assaulted, pelted with eggs and blinded in air gun attacks in the past year.

The level of homophobia in the country had "greatly worsened" since the adoption of the law, Elena Volkova, an LGBT rights activist, told The St. Petersburg Times.

"The law has not only made things worse for the LGBT community, it has also coincided with an increase in the number of attacks against gays real attacks with real deaths," she said. "It is clear this law was conceived to foment homophobia in Russian society."

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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