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Gays Targeted for Ongoing Rapes, Assaults in Russia

by Kilian Melloy
Saturday Sep 14, 2013
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Sexual assault targeting gays (or individuals perceived as gay) continue in Russia, with police claiming ignorance even as graphic videos circulate online.

A Sept. 13 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty article reported that, in the wake of reports that gays in Russia are suffering attacks at the hands of vigilantes (and, it is alleged, officials in the case of a Russian GLBT rights activist), a video of a young man being forced to "confess" to being gay before he’s raped by thugs with a bottle has popped up on sites around Russia.

Such videos and photos have become almost commonplace in Russia since lawmakers in that country passed a law that criminalize the "promotion" of homosexuality. The law is broad enough to encompass not only public statements by the press and businesses in support of GLBT equality, but gestures made by gay people themselves, such as couples holding hands in public.

Reports from Russia in recent months have detailed group attacks on gays and trans individuals, some taking place in front of police who did nothing to intervene. Meantime, other nations in the region have made moves to adopt similar anti-gay laws of their own.

Predictably, the situation for gays in Russia has only grown more difficult and dangerous with each passing month since the Duma approved the anti-gay law in June. In some respects, the worsening situation resembles a systematic, incremental attempt to strip gays of rights and even human dignity; one official, Mikhail Degtyaryov, recently pushed for gays in Russia to be rejected as blood donors, and touted the idea of government-sponsored programs to "cure" gays. ""Many want to return to a normal life, to become heterosexual like 95 to 99 percent of our citizens," Degtyaryov claimed.

The idea that homosexuality is optional, and that gays can "choose" heterosexuality, has been soundly rejected by the mental health establishment, and contradicts all scientific understanding of why some individuals are innately attracted others of the same gender. Nonetheless, it is a core tenet of anti-gay religious doctrine.

In another recent turn of events, reported last month that anti-gay fliers were posted at an apartment building in the Russian city Rostov-on-Don that warned residents of a homosexual in their midst. The flier came on the heels of a government advisory instructing Russian citizens to be watchful for any neighbors that might be engaging in "homosexual propaganda." The flier conjured notions of a lurking figure that was only waiting for an opportunity to sexually assault innocents.

"There is one step from being homosexual to starting homosexual propaganda and molesting decent people," the flier claimed, referencing the long-championed belief in anti-gay circles that homosexuals constitute a danger to heterosexuals, especially children, because they are inveterate sexual criminals.

The Windy City Media article also reported that the Russian government has targeted a high-profile Russian defender of GLBT rights, Nicolai Alexeyev. Following a complaint brought against him by a Russian politician, authorities tossed Alexeyev’s apartment and confiscated his computer. Alexeyev has reportedly gone into hiding.

With the law in place, officials ratcheting up homophobic sentiment, and vicious anti-gay assaults taking place unpunished in public, the stage is set for further atrocities. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported that the video of the young man’s assault took the form of a series of clips. In the clips, the young man is threatened with a gun and intimidated into removing his own clothing and inserting a bottle into his own rectum. Others then evidently shove the bottle deeper into his body using a bat. The victim’s discarded clothing is set on fire.

The report notes that in the video clops, the victim sobs throughout his ordeal.

A man who claimed to be one of the attackers told Radio Free Europe that he and the others -- who, like the victim, were ethnically Uzbeki, a minority group in Russia -- assaulted the victim in order to gain respect for people of their ethnicity. He also implied that the assault was a means of compelling the victim to become heterosexual, and hinted that there was an element of religious judgment to the ordeal.

"We made him sit on a bottle so that he repents for his sins and comes to reason," the purported attacker said, going on to add, "We did this to protect the dignity of Uzbeks. We live and work here, we are in contact with people of different nationalities. There will be no respect for us otherwise."

The situation in Russia has followed a path reminiscent of that in Uganda, where anti-gay violence spiked sharply following the introduction of a bill to provide the death penalty for some forms of gay sexual activity. That bill was itself introduced following an anti-gay rally in Uganda organized and attended by three American evangelicals, whose homophobic rhetoric included claims that gays routinely and systematically set out to seduce young people. The evangelicals also claimed that gays intend to destroy family life.

Recent news reports have indicated that one of those American evangelicals, Scott Lively, has also worked for anti-gay legislation in Russia, working for the introduction and passage of a "no homo promo" law very much like the one that Russian lawmakers did, in fact, approve.

In a number of African nations, including South Africa, lesbians and women perceived as being lesbians are routinely subjected to sexual assault by men, sometimes their own male relatives, in order to "correct" their sexual orientation.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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