When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay “propaganda” in June last year, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state. Homophobia becoming legislation means it’s now not only accepted in Russia but actively encouraged, which has led to a depressing rise in homophobic attacks and murders.
The main aim of the law, which essentially bans any public display of homosexuality, is to prevent minors from getting the impression that being gay is normal. Which means that, if you’re young and gay in Putin’s Russia, you’re ostracized and cut off from any kind of legal support network. While Russian anti-gay legislation has been working its way through the country since 2006, recent international awareness from the New York Times, CNN, Vice Media, has been most prevalent the past year; when a bill that stigmatized Russia’s gay community and bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children was overwhelmingly approved by the lower house of parliament, 436-0.
There have been only a few prosecutions, but the law has begun to bite in other ways. In Arkhangelsk, it has been used to refuse authorization of street demonstrations. The country has always sought to define itself against the West. Now the Kremlin and the nationalist far right are finding common ground in their view of homosexuality as a sign of encroaching decadence in a globalized era.
Despite comparisons to Nazi Germany and the antebellum South, Putin insists, “This is not about imposing any kind of sanctions against homosexuality, the law does not in any way infringe on the rights of sexual minorities. They are full-fledged members of our society and are not being discriminated against in any way.” Unfortunately, the language of the Bill is so vaguely worded that it encouraged corruption and extortion (fines for “homosexual propaganda” are backbreaking) and made selective enforcement inevitable.
Mr. Putin: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. The continual encroachment on civil liberty groups, despite the repeal of the 1993 Soviet law stating gay sex was a crime, has forced the LGBT community below the ‘standard’ of second-class citizenship. The head of the parliamentary committee on the family pledged to create a mechanism for removing children from same-sex families. The distorted moral compass and religious values of the far right have no place in parliamentary proceedings. To oversimply: a Orwellian nightmare for the gay community, a sickly sad aspiration for the Russian government to bully and petrify a nation into submission and a black cloud of infringement on the simplest of liberties and freedoms.