Homophobia On The Rise In Russia

On the 17th of May 2015 we celebrated another International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. On the one hand, in many European countries the situation of LQBTQIA community improves, on the other in some it doesn’t or, like in Russia, it gets dramatically worse. A Russian activist Anasiasia Sheveleva tells us about the situation in her country.

Ecosprinter : What was the effect of the law ‘banning distribution of materials promoting LGBT relationships among minors’, introduced in Russia in 2013?

Anasiasia Sheveleva: The biggest effect of the law was empowering of homophobic ideas in the society. The discussion around it actualized the topic of the LGBT rights and LGBT rights protection and state TV has answered in series of various TV shows and news pieces – almost all extremely homophobic. Since the discussion around the law started, the level of homophobic violence has dramatically increased – including murders (like brutal murder of Vlad Tornovoy on the 9th of May 2013, murderers claimed they have killed him “because he said he was a fag”), attacks on the LGBT organizations (the most recent happened in Murmansk on the 13th of April 2015), movements like occupy paedophilia and occupy gerontophilia (they attacked homosexual grown-ups and teenagers, tortured and humiliated them and then uploaded videos of this process on YouTube). The basic frequency and intensity of homophobic hate-speech have also increased.

E: Are suicides caused by the discrimination and rejection a widespread phenomenon among LGBT community in Russia?

AS: In Russia there is no statistic on suicides caused by homophobia. Also many suicides are marked as “accidents” rather than suicides. But in the group “Children 404” you can read quite a lot of letters about young people thinking of killing themselves because of hate and misunderstanding they meet in their everyday life. One of the recent teenager suicides, reported by news, was committed by a girl from 9th grade, who has jumped from the 9th floor. Her last message was “Sonya, I am sorry, I love you”. In November 2011 the state officials have reported that Russia holds the first place in teenager suicides in Europe.

E: In the context of the new law, how do initiatives in the NGO sector aiming to improve situation of LGBTQIA community work?

AS: NGO in Russia, especially LGBT NGOs are now under pressure of the “foreign agents” law (which obliges every organization that accepts foreign money declare itself as foreign agent) and (in case of the LGBT NGOs) the on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” law, so they ability to act is very limited. But there are such projects as Children 404, which, besides space to speak about their feelings, also provides teenagers with psychological help, or Side-by-Side, which promotes LGBT-themed films and organizes various discussions. St. Petersburg organization “Coming Out” also provides psychological help and legal advice, same as the LGBT Network, that also holds the hot line for LGBT people.

The next question was: what can we do to support LGBTQIA community in Russia? Anastasia couldn’t answer. The situation is so hard that it seems almost hopeless. Nonetheless, we can still show our support by spreading the word and solidarity.

Aleksandra Koleczek

Ecosprinter Editorial Board

FYEG Gender Working Group