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Why does Russia hate gay people so much they want to ban a game with rainbow clothes?

Why does Russia hate gay people so much they want to ban a game with rainbow clothes?
Image by Marco Fieber via Flickr – Protest of gay propaganda law in Russia

Russia is not a good place to be gay, but it often feels like some politicians think more about homosexuality than a gogo boy at a gay bar in Fire Island.

It is the ‘gay propaganda’ law that has given lawmakers a license to go on the attack whether it’s an online LGBT youth group or teachers in schools.

And last week, it was announced Russia might ban video game FIFA 17 due to the introduction of playable rainbow jerseys.

The ‘rainbow kit’, prompted by Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, saw a huge spike in homophobic abuse in Russia and was branded ‘propaganda’ by Russian MPs.

We spoke to Svetlana Zakharova, communications manager at the Russian LGBT Network.

Russian LGBTI activist, Svetlana Zakharova

Russian LGBTI activist, Svetlana Zakharova

Is this kind of reaction common among MPs in Russia?

Unfortunately, in Russia, MPs often actively use anti-LGBT sentiment to give themselves good PR, and usually it works.

Vitaly Milonov, infamous for the propaganda law in Russia, made his political career exclusively by attacking the LGBT community.

Sadly, in Russia, public figures of all kinds often use propaganda law to implement the things they want to.

How often does it happen?

This happens so often that we have almost stopped noticing.

MPs might use it to invade online privacy and check Facebook accounts, or to prohibit musicians that support LGBT rights holding a concert.

This has become a routine that so many of us in Russia are now used to.

Why were the incidences this week different?

For once, it was the MPs reaction to a pro-LGBT campaign that led to it becoming even more visible across the whole of my country.

Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign would have gone unnoticed in Russia otherwise, considering that all mass media is state controlled.

And so, even though most coverage concerned the violation of the propaganda law, it propelled the campaign into the spotlight and made people aware of what it stands for.

Which, for a part of the world where raising any issues for LGBT people is difficult, is a huge win for all of those who support lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality in Russia.

Russian LGBT Network

Russian LGBT Network

And is progress being made?

The situation for LGBT people continues to get worse in Russia, in terms of rights, discrimination and hate crimes.

OSCE recently published its data on hate crimes that had taken place within Russia and 56 of the 203 hate crimes reported were directed at the LGBT community.

That is over 25%.

Media representation does nothing to help this, where on TV we see LGBT people continually portrayed as ‘sick’, pedophiles, perverts or foreign agents.

There is very little we can do to change that situation or challenge it.

What can people do to help support LGBT communities in countries like Russia?

Silence and isolation can be harmful – and so, of course we want people around the globe to talk about the violation of human rights in countries like Russia.

In countries all around the world, even in countries considered progressive for LGBT rights like the UK, the fight still continues for equality.

We all have so much work left to do together.

Continued efforts in all countries can have a domino effect on those moving at a slower pace, like Russia.

It is vital for all of us, in whatever work we do and wherever we do it, to send a signal that anti-LGBT attitudes and actions are unacceptable.


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