Russian LGBT Network: Anti-gay laws have increased homophobic violence in Russia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Activists in Russia say the controversial anti-gay “propaganda” laws passed in June have led to an increase in homophobic violence, with those responsible for the attacks no longer fearing legal reprisals.

President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

The Russian LGBT Network said the legislation has validated right wing groups who use social media to “ambush” gay people, by luring them into meetings and then assaulting them on camera.

Igor Kochetkov, the head of the network, said the harassment of gay people was now being organised through collectives such as ‘Occupy Gerontophilia’ and ‘Occupy Paedophilia’, who claim to be trying to “reform homosexuals”.

Occupy Paedophilia, which focuses on adults, had uploaded hundreds of videos and garnered hundreds of thousands views on social media sites.

Occupy Gerontophilia, which focuses on teenagers, had also uploaded dozens of videos to the social network VKontakte before its page, which had 170,000 subscribers, was shut down for invading the privacy of minors.

Mr Kochetkov said: “The latest laws against so-called gay propaganda, first in the regions and then on the federal level, have essentially legalised violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws.

“With this legislation, the government said that, yes, gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group.

“It is an action to terrorise the entire LGBT community.”

He also added most homophobic violence was not reported to the police.

A recent study by his organisation found that out of the 20 attacks that had been reported recently, only four were investigated and one resulted in a court case.

Last month, spoke to a PhD student originally from Moscow and now living in the UK on the challenges facing Russia’s LGBT community.

Anna Grigoryeva said that the main effect of the legislation so far in Russia had been the sanctioning by the state of “public organised homophobia and transphobia.”

She added: “There are lots of far-right groups; lots of Orthodox Christian activists who will show up at LGBT events and harass people and attack people quite violently – and that’s been pretty much sanctioned by the state.”

“The police won’t arrest them for it.”

The Russian anti-gay laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.

In July, the Russian LGBT network urged its opposition to a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – because they say participation is an important way of highlighting injustice.

In an online statement, they said: “Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia! Stand in solidarity with people in Russia.”

The Russian Interior Ministry confirmed last month that the legislation will remain in force during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

A petition gathering over 150,000 signatures, has also called for the 2014 games to be relocated to Vancouver.