The situation for LGBT people living in Russia seems to have gone from bad to worse in the last few weeks. Putin’s government has drafted anti-LGBT legislation that makes talking about LGBT issues in public illegal (deemed ‘propaganda’) apparently because doing so promotes ‘non-traditional relationships’ which is dangerous to minors. As a result, a few days ago a Canadian childrens’ author received threats from Russia branding him a paedophile because he wrote a children’s book about a prince who falls in love with another boy. Recent law changes follow previous homophobic amendments to adoption laws which have prevented the adoption of Russian children by same-sex foreign couples.
At the same time (and possibly as a consequence of changes in legislation), there have been a spate of increasingly brutal attacks against the LGBT community living in Russia which are now all over the international press. Videos have shown young LGBT men being humiliated, beaten and tortured. In some of the photos being circulated online young men are being forced to drink urine or are having it thrown over them by a nationalist group calling themselves Kamensk-Uralsky. They state that their aim is to cure the young men of their homosexuality. There have also been reports of LGBT youths that have been shot after being lured online with the promise of romantic liasons and yesterday the Pink News claimed that Russian social media sites are posting videos of a young man who was kidnapped, tortured and killed. The laws aren’t affecting only Russian’s living in the country either, last week a visiting Dutch researcher was interrogated by police for hours before being fined simply for conducting research in the experience of LGBT people in Murmansk, in the north of the country. His crime – ‘gay propaganda’.
Homophobia and sexual risk
Although the reasons for the sudden rash of homophobic legislation in Russia seem unclear, they are already having negative consequences on the lives of young gays, lesbians and trans people living there. Many are scared to leave their houses and others have stopped using online sites and apps for fear of the consequences. Whilst levels of homophobia in the UK are, thankfully, not comparable to those currently experienced in Russia, discrimination is still part of day-to-day life for many of those who identify as LGBT. A recent survey published by the BBC showed that 5-7% of those questioned said that they thought homophonic assault and harassment was ‘very widespread’. Homophobia still has an impact on the way many LGBT people live their lives in the UK today and even has an impact on sexual behaviour. Whilst they may seem like completely separate issues, actually there is a link between homophobia and risks taken sexually. Bullying can cause a low sense of self esteem, which, in turn, can cause individuals to have a low sense of self worth and take risks, such as through having unprotected sex or mixing hardcore drugs and sex. The importance of considering the relationship between homophobia and sexual behaviour is a key part of the programmes offered through the GMI Partnership. The counselling and mentoring programmes explore the wider, emotional factors that influence sexual decision making and notions of risk including discrimination, identity, relationships and self-esteem. Our one-to-one programmes allow such connections to be discussed in a safe and confidential environment with trained staff and volunteers who are non-judgmental and here to support gay and bisexual men have the safer sex they want to be having, even if they don’t know what changes to make to achieve this. For more information on the free programmes the GMI Partnership offers please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your views of the current situation in Russia? Have you ever thought about the links between homophobia and sexual behaviour?
The views in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the GMI Partnership.