By Geoff Dexter
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2389

LGBT activists in Russia vow to defy Putin’s homophobic lies and laws

This article is over 10 years, 4 months old
Issue 2389
LGBT people on an opposition rally in Moscow in 2012
LGBT people on an opposition rally in Moscow in 2012 (Pic: Sergey Kukota)

The Russian government has provoked and legitimised a wave of homophobia in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

President Vladimir Putin pushed a law that prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual practices”.

This echoes Tory Margaret Thatcher’s infamous Section 28 rule that said councils had to present homosexuality as “a pretended family relationship”.

Putin viciously linked homosexuality with paedophilia in a press conference last month saying, “Just leave kids alone, please”.

In 2012, Gay Pride marches were banned in Moscow for the following 100 years. 

Campaigners report increasing violence and brutality against LGBT people.

The hostile environment stoked up across society has created fear and triggered violence towards young LGBT people.

A recent documentary, Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia, showed how vigilantes hunt down gay teenagers. 

They film their beatings, and pour urine “holy water” on them to “cleanse” them.They place the film online to humiliate their victims.

Putin’s homophobic policies are having a devastating effect on a whole generation and the wider LGBT community.

The BBC asked Sochi’s mayor Anatoly Pakhomov about gay people. He responded, “We do not have them in our city”.


The climate of hate in Russia has led many LGBT campaigns across the world to call for a boycott of the Olympics. But many activists in Russia haven’t supported this.

Calling on the likes of David Cameron and other Western governments to stand up to homophobia plays into some of Putin’s propaganda. 

LGBT activists have been accused of being agents of Western liberalism or of being “anti-Russian”.

There’s a danger this can push an oppressed minority to be patriotic as a condition of fighting for LGBT rights. It opens LGBT people up to further attack.

Some Russian LGBT activists have called on people to use the Olympics to highlight LGBT rights.

There may be limited opportunity to do so given its commercial stitch up—and the fact that the allocated protest zone is 11 miles away. 

Nonetheless, over 50 athletes, past and present, have signed a letter calling on the Russian authorities to reconsider its anti-gay law.

Every celebratory same-sex kiss, every protest that defies the 40,000 troops and every badge will be a beacon of hope to those fighting back.

But in the end activists in Russia, and their ability to champion their struggle alongside the struggle of workers, will ultimately determine their future.


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