Russia: LGBT teachers forced out of schools because of their sexuality

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Two LGBT teachers in Russia were forced out of the schools where they worked because of their sexuality, it has been alleged.

The teachers claim that the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” laws were used to force them out of their respective schools after members of the public and local authorities found out about their sexuality.

Olga Bakhayeva, 24, who taught history and social studies in the city of Magnitogorsk, told the Russian internet magazine Colta.rut that she was forced to resign after three months of homophobic harassment from authorities and law enforcement agencies.

Ms Bakhayeva said that she began receiving threats after she commented on the page of a pro-LGBT group on Russian social networking site Vkontakte.

Ms Bakhayeva was summoned before the local Department of Education, after they received reports of a lesbian working at the school, even though “there had never been any trouble with parents [of pupils]”

The headteacher of her school told her she was no longer allowed to express any political or pro-LGBT views on her social networking pages.

“I hold libertarian views and believe that we need liberal reforms, and I have never concealed the fact. Suddenly I was being told that I must not write anything ‘oppositional,'” Ms Bakhayeva said.

After further complaints from residents of Magnitogorsk that their children were being subjected to “gay propaganda”, and then being told to work as a cleaner for the school, Ms Bakhayeva felt she had no choice but to resign from her post, adding that she “will not work in a school again.”

She revealed that anti-gay groups have continued to abuse her online since her resignation, and that she may have to leave Magnitogorsk in order to find work.

“It was unpleasant, I won’t deny it. Life as an LGBT in Russia is unpleasant,” she said. also reported the case of Alexander Yermoshkin, a 38-year-old former geography teacher from Khabarovsk, who says the headteacher at his school ordered a colleague to take over his classes after anti-gay fascist and religious groups started a petition calling for him to be sacked.

He told the magazine: “By August they had collected 678 signatures and delivered them to the regional Ministry of Education, from where it descended to the Khabarovsk Education Department.

“On 31st August my head teacher… got a phone call from the deputy head of the Education Department, who bluntly said ‘either you sack him or else we’ll be looking into your professional suitability.'”

Mr Yermoshkin says that he will take the case to court if necessary: “I shall, of course, fight for my right to teach, but I don’t know how long I’ll manage to keep fighting.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson said yesterday that despite his concerns about Russia’s anti-gay laws, he did not support ending the twinning arrangement between London and Moscow.

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.