Anti-Gay Bill Takes Russia Back to Middle Ages
Published: February 13, 2013 (Issue # 1746)
OnáJan. 25, theáState Duma passed aábill onáthe first reading that prohibits homosexual propaganda aimed atáchildren. This obscurantist legislation is part ofáa broader attack that Russiaĺs political andáideological reactionary forces have waged against dissenters since President Vladimir Putin returned toáthe Kremlin last May.
Working closely with theáRussian Orthodox Church, theáPutin regime is deliberately playing toáthe primitive stereotypes, ignorance andáhatred ofáthe conservative majority, actively bearing down onáall forms ofádissent andánontraditional behavior, focusing their efforts onáresidents ofáMoscow, St. Petersburg andáother large cities. Theáattack onáhomosexuals is only aásmall battle ináthe larger war against theáôcreative class,ö theáopposition andáother dissenters who gave theáKremlin such aábad scare during theámass protest rallies last year.
This war has been extended over theápast year toátargetáliberals, contemporary artists, atheists, political cartoonists, bloggers andávolunteers. It also includes legislation restricting Internet freedoms andáother laws aimed atáôblasphemersö andáthose who ôslanderö politicians andáthe state. Ináshort, theáKremlin is methodically persecuting theámost active, creative andáfree-thinking members ofásociety. Like all authoritarian regimes, theáKremlin is trying toácreate aácountry ofáloyal andáinert conformists who are driven byáherd instincts.
Theáauthorities are creating anáincreasingly unbearable atmosphere foráthe most active andáfreedom-loving Russians, one that is filled with hate, intimidation andápersecution. As aáresult, theábrain drain ofáRussiaĺs most talented professionals is increasing atáan alarming pace, which makes theáambitious innovation andámodernization initiatives such as theáSkolkovo technology park aáuseless endeavor. Up toá100,000 Russians leave theácountry every year, with about 2 million Russians now living permanently abroad. Meanwhile, polls consistently show that theánumber ofáRussians thinking seriously ofáemigrating increases with every passing year under Putin. Theámain reason is that they see no future foráthemselves living, working or raising aáfamily ináa Russia that is decaying because ofásystemic lawlessness, corruption, stagnation andáautocracy.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made aáFreudian slip when he joked atáthe recent World Economic Forum atáDavos that if Google co-founder Sergei Brin had not left his native Soviet Union ináthe late 1970s, he would probably have been arrested ináRussia today. But this is no laughing matter forámany Russians. Theáchances ofábeing arrested ináRussia are higher than ever. There have been cases ofápeople being thrown inájail arbitrarily foráopposition activities, participation inápeaceful demonstrations, critical comments made onáblogs, ôblasphemousö songs or cartoons andáôlibelousö newspaper articles. Over theápast year, theáInvestigative Committee has become theámost important repressive institution ináthe country.
Ináan effort toásuppress active, free-thinking Russians andámobilize theáconservative majority around theáKremlin, theáPutin regime relies oná old, Soviet repressive instruments with one important new addition: TheáRussian Orthodox Church. TheáKremlin ideologues have aánew strategy: combine theástagnation ofáformer Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev with theá ultra-conservative ideology ofáthe Orthodox Church. Theátactic ofáinciting homophobia, taken directly fromáthe Soviet playbook, is now actively supported byáthe Orthodox Church.
Homosexuality was aácriminal offense ináthe Soviet Union fromá1934 until 1993, andáthousands ofápeople with aánontraditional sexual orientation served terms ináSoviet prisons andápunitive psychiatric institutions. Ináthe early 1990s, that law was repealed because it violated European conventions that Russia had signed onáprotecting human rights. Now Soviet thinking andálegislation are gradually seeping back intoáRussian society. TheáKremlin canĺt ban homosexualityáŚ not yet, atáleastáŚ but it can introduce repressive measures against gays byápackaging theábill as aában against ôhomosexual propaganda aimed atáadolescents.ö This is not aálaudable drive ôto protect childrenö as proponents ofáthe bill contend. It is aáthinly veiled display ofáhomophobia.
As inámost cases with Russiaĺs repressive laws, theálegislation is loosely worded toágive theáauthorities maximum latitude toáapply it arbitrarily. Theábill does not define ôhomosexual propaganda,ö which will give theápolice andácourts free rein toáinterpret theálegislation as they please if it becomes law. Foráexample, two homosexuals holding hands onáthe street where aáminor is present could be enough toáarrest those who are ôspreading homosexual propaganda.ö It effectively declares that all homosexuals, byádefinition, are dangerous freaks andáinferior toáheterosexuals. Many ofáthe supporters ofáthis bill view homosexuality as aáperversion andáan illness. They believe that homosexuals should be either subjected toámandatory psychiatric treatment or be isolated fromásociety.
This anti-gay legislation not only contradicts international norms ofátolerance andáprotection ofáminority rights, but it also directly contradicts established, decades-old medical andápsychological understandings about theánature ofáhuman sexuality. With their obscurant views ofáhomosexuality, Russian lawmakers andátheir supporters are very much stuck ináthe Middle Ages.
Notably, theáhomophobic initiative byáRussian authorities has been condemned byáformer U.S. Secretary ofáState Hillary Clinton; German Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Westerwelle; Catherine Ashton, theáEuropean Unionĺs High Representative foráForeign Affairs; British Foreign Minister William Hague; andáthe Council ofáEurope. They all consider Russiaĺs new anti-gay legislation aáviolation ofáhuman rightsáŚ ináparticular, aáviolation ofáthe Charter ofáFundamental Rights ofáthe European Union.