The rampant governmental discrimination against the gender and sexuality minorities (GSMs) in Russia, did not happen “all of a sudden” or “over night.”
In Russia, male homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1993, but there have never been laws protecting against discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, same sex marriages and civil unions are not recognized, and leading up to the current discriminatory crisis, many local legislatures have passed laws prohibiting dissemination of information about GSMs.
Then last year something very deliberate and disgusting happened, Moscow’s top court upheld a ban on gay pride marches in the Russian capital for the next 100 years. Worse than taking away or withholding the vocabulary necessary for a Russian within the GSM to understand themselves and/or their community, Moscow has made it illegal for Russians to meet in the country’s capital and host an event celebrating their culture and their identities; a blatant attack that is a tragic first step to denying these people their right to exist.
Starting in 2006, ten different regions in Russia have enacted a ban on “gay propaganda.” In nine of those regions, the law includes administrative sanctions and/or fines.
Two months ago, Russia, at a federal level, went one step further by unanimously passing a law banning “gay propaganda.” This law makes it illegal to say that straight and gay relationships are equal. Furthermore, it makes the distribution of materials on GSM rights illegal.
And, coming from a place of authority and power, the Russian government gave this decree the meat of its power when they decided to fine individuals and media groups found guilty of breaking the law, as well as including special fines for foreigners.
While Greece is rounding up “undesirables” in what they’re calling Operation Zeus, which started as a crackdown on ‘irregular immigration’ and distorted into internment of migrants, sex workers and Trans*people, in America the GSM community is attempting to change the culture that discriminates, bullies, ignores and rejects it from pre-school to assisted living, and Russians are facing a federal government who is abusing its power in an attempt to silence and ignore, if not erase, the existence of its GSM community.
Meanwhile, GSM Russians are isolated from any kind of internal support, and cannot count on corporations to boycott an event like the Olympics because the Olympics is a powerful time for corporations to advertise and endorse athletes. Nor can they count on the United States for support; President Obama is quoted as having said, “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in a way that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” yet his statement has not been backed by any actions of support or solidatrity of GSM Russians. While British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Mr. Putin, but again, tangible results have yet to be seen.
Some were hopeful when Germany announced rainbow-colored Olympic uniforms, but Germany has issued a statement saying that their uniform decision isn’t a gay rights protest.
And so, while this Russian community cannot count on corporations or international bodies to provide support, perhaps they can trust in one another. Hopefully the GSM community in Russia can trust in the global GSM community. We can stand in solidarity with this Russian community. We can petition Vladimir Putin, encourage embassies around the world to grant asylum to anyone who is a GSM and is fleeing Russia, we can boycott the corporations sponsoring this Olympics, especially next time they want to sponsor our Pride parades, we can protest outside of Russian embassies.
The GSM community in Russia deserves not only our solidarity, but its own space. It deserves our signatures and our sweat, but it also deserves not to be silenced and repressed.