Human Rights Watch: Russia is Ignoring Anti-Gay Attacks

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday December 16, 2014

The group Human Rights Watch says that Russian authorities are ignoring anti-gay rhetoric and violence with silence, or even participating in this hate speech.

In a December 15 BBC article, a Russian LGBT group said they documented more than 300 homophobic attacks just last year -- more than 10 times as many than before the country's 2013 law banning "gay propaganda."

One activist in St. Petersburg said that the new law sent a signal to homophobes that gays were second-class citizens, and opened the door to discriminate and harm them.

And it's not just hooligans who are in on these anti-gay attacks. Elected officials also freely say they don't like gays and their 'lifestyle,' with the law's author, politician Vitaly Milonov, telling the BBC that he found homosexual acts, "uncomfortable."

Supporters point to Russian's conservative, traditional values as grounds for their discriminatory actions, and blame homosexuality as a "perverted Western import."

Few people have been prosecuted under the new law, even in cases where there is video evidence taken by the attackers of their violence and harassment.

"Russian law enforcement agencies have the tools to prosecute homophobic violence, but they lack the will to do so," said Tanya Cooper, a Russian researchers at Human Rights Watch.

Hate speech and violence is also justified by these attackers under the auspices of 'keeping the children safe' from a corrupting gay influence.

"I want to protect my kids and my family from this dirt going from the homosexuals," said Milonov. "They can do whatever they want in their homes, in the special garbage places called 'gay nightclubs,' they can kill themselves with their viruses as fast as possible, but they're not going to do it on the streets because it's not polite and it's uncomfortable for the people."

Also listed as impolite and uncomfortable: getting your head bashed in because of your sexual orientation.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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