A new wave of questioning has been brought up in the past few years in Russia regarding Anti-gay laws that were introduced by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
What is the Original Law?
In the Russian Federation Constitution, Chapter 2 Article 19 states “The State shall guarantee the equality of rights and freedoms of man and citizen, regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, origin…” meaning that everyone should have the same rights under the Russian Federation law. But, we know in recent years that is not the case. Article 19 then proceeds to state, “All forms of limitations of human rights on social, racial, national, linguistic, or religious grounds shall be banned.”
In recent years, the laws Vladimir Putin brought in directly conflict with what the constitution outlines for the freedoms of Russian citizens. This has led to a huge issue of not only where should Russians citizens stand on the topic, but also how does the LGBT community express themselves within Russia.
What is the New Law?
Putin introduced a new law that outlaws propaganda and teaching nontraditional forms of sexual relations to minors. Basically, this law makes it so Russians cannot teach or inform their children about the possibilities of being LGBT, or give them access to any resources if they felt they were apart of that community.
According to PolicyMic, the ban has directly violated the citizens constitutional rights and has extended to Russians getting heavy fines for gay pride parades and forming gay rights groups. Also, they reported that attacks against gays or “suspect gays” are becoming very commonplace in Russia.
So, not only is it becoming extremely difficult to be a member of the LGBT community in Russia because of the new law, but there is also a new wave of social criticism for being in that community. A lot of Russians view being gay as something that is wrong and should not happen. As we see in the United States, this is the complete opposite view.
In 2015, The Moscow Times reported that Russians views towards gays was significantly worse than a decade ago. The percent of Russians who are against same-sex marriages was 80% in 2015 compared to 59% in 2005.
The poll conducted in The Moscow Times article also revealed that 20% of Russians think that gay people are dangerous and should be “isolated from society.”
That is a huge percentage of the Russian population that have very strong negative views towards the LGBT community. This is something that the new law has expedited in the minds of Russian citizens. Putin set an example for the Russian people by outlawing gay marriages and propaganda towards resources about the LGBT community.
Even Russians that have no views towards people’s sexual preferences, still admitted that they would not socialize with gays. The poll also showed that there was a 1% decrease in the percentage of people who think being gay is a medical or social disease from 36% in 2004 to 35% in 2015.
There is not much positive change for the LGBT community in Russia. Not only was there a strong stigma before the introduction of Putin’s new law in 2013, but that stigma has increased since the law was approved and has spread to negative social implications of Russian life as well.
The Media in Relation to LGBT Rights
Based on my research of LGBT topics in Russia, the media mainly does not cover this topic unless it can be somewhat linked to a crime or if laws were changed (such as when Putin changed the law in 2013.)
The general media coverage of the gay community is explaining situations that involve their community and those who give their opinions about the community. No media organizations talk about the resources available for the gay community. Also, they do not interview or get the perspective point of view of any LGBT person. I believe this to be for two reasons: 1) The LGBT person identified would be at risk for harm by other Russian citizens because of their disapproval and potentially at financial risk from the government or even incarceration and 2) the media organization can also face hefty fines and criminal charges for allowing the dissemination of information about the LGBT community because minors have the potential of consuming that media organization.
So, there is a lot at risk for the organizations that do chose to cover this information. There is also a split between what organizations are willing to cover it. For example, The Moscow Times is an independent organization from the influence of the Kremlin, so they are more willing to write articles about this subject. The state-owned organizations eliminate this information all together unless it is about a change in the law, then they will report the facts.
Even though more independent organizations report on this topic, it is mainly a sum of events. There is no personal interjection from any LGBT member in any article. Most media organizations stray away from that not only because of the potential danger associated with it, but also because there is a huge negative stigma that overshadows the gay community.
Why is This Important?
April 14th, 2016: The Moscow Times reported on a local famous theater critic. This was not any normal story because this renown critic and highly respected in Russia was murdered. Dmitry Tsilikin was known for always being on time and very well-connected, so when he missed his deadlines and would not answer his phone people knew something was wrong. Tsilikin had stated that if he ever missed a deadline it would probably be because he was dead. Tsilikin was found murdered in his apartment and the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. The Moscow Times made a connection that this happened most likely because he was gay.
Tsilikin kept his private life very private, so it was a shock to most when they found out the news. Investigators did find a 21-year old university student to be at fault. The young student had been in contact with Tsilikin from an online chat room.
This story is featured because it is really important in regards to the events that have been happening in Russia. Putin’s new law was passed in 2013, and now three years later we see the stigma in Russia still runs very deep.
Tsilikin was a respected figure in the media circuit in Russia. The death was meant to be a statement to the LGBT community and the murderer stated that he was a “cleaner” by killing Tsilikin.
If the felon is convicted, it is very likely that the killing will not be ruled a homophobic killing. This goes to show that even in a brutal homicide case of a well-known figure, the stigma of gay people is so strong that Tsilikin’s case will not be brought to full justice.
May 13th, 2016: Eurovision, Europe’s infamous singing competition, had a cross-dressed winner from Austria in 2014. According to The Moscow Times, Eurovision had a huge gay audience that expressed disapproval and booed the Russian contestant at the competition. However, the new Russian candidate for presidency Sergei Lazarev, had mad notions that he does support the gay movement. So, in upcoming years if Russia elects Lazarev, Russians can expect some sort of change on the LGBT community front.
I think The Moscow Times did a good job of explaining the past Eurovision competitions and why it was important for the gay community. Also, it did shed light on LGBT issues on which prompted a better response from on of the Russian candidates. They explained the problem without taking a side– which they should have had the 2014 winner interviewed, but that would most likely never happen.
April 20th, 2016: According to The Guardian, there is one gay nightclub left standing in Samara which is one of Russia’s most homophobic cities. This club has very high security, and there is no telltale signs that a nightclub exists at that venue– no groups of smokers, no audible music from outside, or spotlights coming from the club. This long-time homophobic area is known for its criminal injustice in gay crimes. For this reason, the club is half empty on Saturday nights and the same people go every time. The article further goes into how Russian citizens are feeling like they are second-class citizens for being gay.
I liked this article a lot because it informed the readers on the nightlife of the LGBT community in Russia and it also gave some personal views from citizens in the gay community. The Guardian did not stray away from opposing viewpoints and really captured the feeling and the disrespect that gay Russian citizens feel on a daily basis.