Homophobia has been rapidly increasing in the Russian Federation. Homosexuals fall a prey to violent attacks from politicians, representatives of Orthodox church and members of extremist groups. On May 27th, the International Day for the Struggle against Homophobia, skinheads again disrupted a peaceful gay-action. Deputies have prepared a bill establishing criminal responsibility for ‘propaganda’ of homosexuality. (04-JUN-06)

Text: HRH/ Moscow, Yanina Savenko. Sources:  www.Gazeta.ru, www.News.ru, www.Polit.ru, www.gay.ru. Photos: www.rostovinfo.ruwww.allrussia.ru .

On May 27th on the International Day for the Struggle against Homophobia, homosexuals planned to organize a procession of sexual minorities against homophobia, fascism and xenophobia in the capital. The Human Rights Watch organization, The Moscow Helsinki Group, The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and some other human rights organizations supported the initiative. Nevertheless, on May 26th the Tverskoy Court outlawed carrying out the gay-parade in Moscow. Earlier the Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov and the heads of fundamental religions had strong objections to the public action of sexual minorities.

Homophobes attacked the gays’ peaceful action
Instead of planned procession organizers decided to lay a wreath on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and then to hold a protest rally against the ban of carrying out a gay-parade. A crowd of hundreds gathered on the spot of the policemen detain gaysaction – foreign citizens and journalists made up a large part of the crowd, the majority represented a group of young skinheads, active fighters for “morals and moral principles”, and also a group of Orthodox grannies with kerchiefs and icons. Members of the action constituted the extreme minority. Someone gave a signal and neo-Nazis pounced on the protestors, snatched their flowers and started a brawl. At the same time neo-Nazis began to throw smoke blocks at passers-by and policemen. Traffic on Tverskaya Street was blocked. 120 people were detained. However, police detained first of all gays, lesbians and journalists, giving skinheads an easy chance to leave, screaming homophobic slogans out: “Death to homosexuals!”, “Moscow isn’t Sodom!” and others.  Representatives of the Main Department of Internal Affairs said that the detained skinheads would be given preventive talks and after that they would be released, while an administrative report concerning organizers of the action would be drawn up.

Open appeal to wreck gays’ activities
Neo-Nazis launched a series of violent attacks against homosexuals a month ago during the First International Gay-Festival which took place in Moscow. Organizations, openly hostile towards homosexuals, posted a schedule of all gay-activities in Moscow on their websites and called their supporters (apologists) to hinder the carrying out of the Festival. On May 26th dozens of young radical men made an attempt to disrupt a lecture about homosexuals, which was being held in the Library of Foreign Languages.  Enraged skinheads burst into the big lecture-room of the library, shouting nationalistic slogans. They hurled insults at the audience and then began to throw eggs at homosexuals. They even sprayed a gas can in the room. Policemen detained the delinquents. However, there was no official condemnation of the skinheads’ actions.

Inactivity of authorities
According to the review of the State USA Department, concerning the situation with human rights and freedom in the world, homosexuals in the Russian Federation are subject to discrimination on all levels of society. Employers often refuse to accept homosexuals for employment, and having found out their sexual orientation they discharge them. In educational institutions there are cases of expulsion of post-graduate gay students after their scientific adviser and/or department have learned about their sexual orientation. Moreover, in some institutes a ban is put on dissertation research concerning the study of homosexuality. Sometimes doctors in clinics refuse medical aid to homosexuals “in virtue of intolerance and prejudice of society towards this marginal high risk group”. There have been threats of carnage, blackmail and beatings among other criminal activity directed at homosexuals. Nevertheless, authorities often don’t investigate and prosecute unlawful actions against gays.

Authorities act on basis of public-opinion poll and not according to the law
On May 27th when in more than 50 countries the Second International Day for Orthodox against gaysthe Struggle against Homophobia was celebrated, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch published a list of so-called ‘hall of shame’, which included five public men actively spreading prejudice towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals in their countries. Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov won the forth place in the list. In this year alone Human Rights Watch sent two letters of indignation to Luzhkov because of his intention to ban the first gay-parade in Moscow. “Mayor Luzhkov mustn’t allow homophobic violence and discrimination to violate fundamental rights and freedom”, said the Director of the Human Rights Watch “Rights of Sexual Minorities” program. In spite of this, spokesman for the Moscow Mayor’s Office, Sergey Tsoy, told journalists that the government of Moscow didn’t even examine a question about authorization of a gay-parade. According to Tsoy, “the decision to refuse initiators of the gay-parade was made taking into account historical tradition and the point of view of overwhelming majority of Moscovites and inhabitants of Russia”.   

Deputies against sexual minorities´ propaganda
A group of Russian deputies prepared a bill “On submission of supplements into Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, establishing criminal responsibility for propagation of homosexuality”, which will soon be under consideration in the State Duma (Russian Parliament). According to this document, in the 25th Article of the Code “Crimes against the population´s health and public morals” there will be a new article 242.1. According to these deputies, such a crime implies “propagation of homosexuality, which is contained in a public speech, public screening or in mass media, including public expression of homosexual mode of life and homosexual orientation”. In the supplemental note submitted along with the proposal, the deputies state their respect to the homosexual community. However, they believe that society, and children first and foremost, must be protected from homosexual propaganda, which is now widespread. If the bill is approved, citizens of the Russian Federation, convicted of homosexual propagation, will be deprived of their rights to occupy selected posts and to practice certain activities for the period from two to five years. It is the teachers, educators, representatives of mass media, the military and the employees of correctional facilities who will be suspended from duty first.

Human right activists support homosexuals
Human rights activists, in their part, consider that it’s not gays who are dangerous for the society but rather the appearance of this bill. “Initiation of this bill violates the rights of sexual minorities and freedom of speech, i.e., literally forbids spreading of information”, said representative of the Moscow Helsinki Group Tatiana Lokshina. Besides, according to Lokshina, the bill is contrary to all principles of tolerance, which the President has been talking so much about recently. General Secretary of the European Council Terry Davis spoke out against the last violent actions of skinheads against gays and lesbians in Moscow in a statement: “I strongly condemn the recent violent incidents against gays and lesbians in Moscow, and I call on the authorities to investigate these attacks, prosecute the people responsible for them, and prevent any such violence in the future. This is particularly important in view of the series of events currently being organized by the Russian gay and lesbian community to raise awareness about the difficult situation in which they live. They are entitled to call for full and unequivocal respect for their basic rights and freedoms. The violent homophobic protests in recent weeks were neither isolated nor spontaneous. They have taken place against the background of a sustained campaign against the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. It is regrettable that several people, who should normally be the first to speak out against such blatant injustice, have decided instead to endorse and actively support homophobic ideas.”