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Up to ten years in prison: Homosexuality is now illegal in Russia

Up to ten years in prison: Homosexuality is now illegal in Russia
The Russian LGBT movement has been suppressed for years, and now it has been banned by a court ruling.
Image: APA/AFP/OLGA MALTSEVA

The LGBT movement in Russia has been on the defensive for years, but now it has been banned entirely. Many activists are packing their bags, but some want to move on. Even if they face prison.

All LGBT people would not be able to leave Russia. “So we will stay and try to help create a safe environment for those who are still here,” says activist Anatolij from the Yekaterinburg aid organization Ressurzny Zentr dlja LGBT. He couldn’t yet say how this would be accomplished. “Because now anyone who takes public action can end up in prison.”

Russia’s LGBT groups are facing the underground. On Thursday, after a four-hour hearing, the Supreme Court in Moscow banned the “international social movement LGBT” as extremist. Russians who have anything to do with the banned movement in the future face prison sentences of up to ten years as organizers, propagandists or participants in an extremist organization. The court made a short trial, closed to the public, and without representatives of the accused side. Because an “international LGBT social movement” does not exist as an organization. But the judge unmovedly followed the Justice Ministry’s version that it worked on Russian territory and sparked social and religious hatred.

Arbitrary persecution

There are no known patriotic LGBT groups that preach hatred against the Russian Orthodox Church, for example. But the scene expects that in the future the state authorities will attribute all possible LGBT activists to the nebulous “international” movement and then punish them according to the extremism paragraph. Russia’s last liberals fear that even completely apolitical people could now be subjected to arbitrary persecution. “You come out,” posts TV presenter Xenia Sobchak, “and end up in the mine.”

Many activists packed their things and left before the judge’s verdict, says Jaroslaw Rasputin, a journalist for the gay portal Parni PLJUS, who moved to Georgia last year after “LGBT propaganda” was criminalized in Russia. According to the news portal Agenstwo, the number of LGBT Russians wanting to leave the country has increased five to six times in the past few weeks. According to Rasputin, all LGBT media are now in exile. “Now we are faced with the problem that anyone in Russia who speaks to us risks extremism proceedings.”

In Russia, music channels are already hiding rainbows from hit videos; in 2023, the censorship authority Roskomnadzor has imposed 47 fines on cinemas and streaming portals because they showed “LGBT content”. But some contact portals for gays and lesbians in Russia have also closed, and relevant bars and clubs fear for their future. And Rasputin doubts whether homosexuals or transsexuals who were beaten up by right-wing extremists would still dare to report the crime in the future.

The fate of the opposition

The Russian LGBT scene has been on the defensive for a long time; the last attempt to organize a gay pride event in Moscow lasted only a few minutes in 2011; in Chechnya, homosexuals are systematically hunted, tortured and often murdered by the security forces. The EU is mocked as “Gayropa” in the state media because of its tolerance towards LGBT people. Russia’s LGBT groups appear to be facing a similar fate to that of the democratic opposition: destruction and exodus. “I expect that 80 to 90 percent of the activists will leave Russia, the rest will stop their activities,” says Rasputin.

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Source: Nachrichten

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