We’re Not Putin Up with It: Russia’s Anti-LGBT Agenda

In California, many LGBT couples have now jubilantly exchanged vows since Prop 8 was finally overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Over in Russia, though, Putin is attempting to eradicate every right for LGBTs across the nation.

On June 30. Putin signed a bill banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” On July 3 Putin signed another bill that prevents LGBT couples and anyone from a pro-marriage-equality country from adopting a Russian baby. It is suspected that Putin will also sign an edict giving police in Russia the authority to remove children from parents thought to be LGBT. Whether you believe Putin is jumping on the bandwagon of conservative support, or harnessing anti-American sentiments over Snowden’s asylum, one thing is clear: Human rights are suffering and the LGBT community in Russia is paying the price.

Numerous LGBT rights protests in Russia have turned violent due to clashes between protesters for and against the bills. Many LGBT individuals have been attacked, both during protests and as they go about their daily lives. On Sunday, the propaganda law was enacted against four Dutch tourists who had traveled to Russia in order to film a documentary about LGBT rights. They were fined and detained for questioning for interviewing a 17-year-old boy, which was deemed to be “spreading information about non-traditional sexual relations.” They are forbidden to return to Russia for three years.

The application of the law against foreigners has sparked worry that openly out LGBT foreign athletes and spectators could be in legal jeopardy or physical danger during the 2014 Winter Olympics that are to be held in Sochi, Russia. Some are even calling for a boycott of the Winter Games.

Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova has said that this is not the case, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) received a statement today reassuring foreigners that athletes and spectators will be exempt from Russia’s anti-LGBT laws during the Games. Of course this provides little solace for Russian LGBT citizens, who continue to struggle every day for their rights and their lives.

Nonetheless, a boycott of the Olympics would also be a shame, as it has the potential to create a political platform for a West-vs.-Russia agenda—which ultimately detracts from what is at stake here: civil liberties and human rights. There are other ways to protest Putin’s anti-LGBT laws. Celebrities such as Tilda Swinton have spoken out against Russia’s discriminatory laws, and many people around the globe are taking up the protest by boycotting Russian vodka, particularly Stolichnaya, with the Twitter hashtag #dumprussianvodka. Yesterday, Stolichnaya owners SPI (which has no ties to the government) published a letter to protesters expressing their support for LGBT rights.

What kind of other actions or boycotts do you think would be effective?

Photo of LGBT protest in Moscow on June 12 by Flickr user Evgeniy Isaev under license from Creative Commons 2.0 



Natasha Turner is a freelance journalist and editor based in London and a former Ms. editorial intern.