Photographer: Cris Toala Olivares
The Russian government adopted an Anti-Gay Propaganda Law on the 9th of June, 2013. This caused enormous outrage in the LGBT-community. Even a boycott of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was up for discussion.
It was with deepening concern that we at PlanetRomeo witnessed these events. Here in our office in Amsterdam it’s not easy to see what exactly is going on, but we do have the means to give our Russian Romeos a voice to the rest of the world. That’s why we crafted a short survey in which we asked our Russian Romeos about their current situation, their living conditions and their views on this. Who else can give us better insight than the gay community IN Russia, right?
The response exceeded our expectations: within 2 weeks we received 1,526 completed surveys. We hope the results will give you some insight in how the Russian gay community really feels.
ARE YOU OUT?
First of all, we wanted to know how ‘out’ our Russian Romeos actually are about their sexuality:
“ANTI GAY PROPAGANDA LAW”
On June 9th, 2013, changes were made in law #135 regarding “…The protection of children from information harmful to their health and development…” in particular the inclusion of a supplementary item 6.21 “…Promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors…”.
Of course we asked our participants to give their opinion on this.
A slight majority of 53% doesn’t support this law at all. In addition, 34% think this law should be revised. It’s not surprising that only 8% support the law as it is.
A lot of comments were made about the fact that the law doesn’t distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia:
Now in mass-media and on TV there is a lot of incorrect information, namely substitution of concepts: homosexuality is characterized as pedophilia, the fight against homosexuality is explained as a fight against pedophilia, but they are absolutely different things. Anonymous
Many of our users have another remarkable view on this: the law might just serve as a distraction from other problems Russia is currently facing:
I want to say that the discussion about gays in Russia is caused by the desire of authorities to hide real problems like corruption, poverty, differences in salaries, and absence of justice. Anonymous
A lot of our Russian users told us that they want to leave their country as a result of the implementation of these laws.
Unfortunately, due to the new Russian laws I started to think about emigration… I have spent many years on education and career building and if I’m leaving my country I’m not sure about my future at all… But, being free is much more important I think. Leonid, Moscow
We asked them to give their view on the overall situation in Russia:
Every day mass-media mentions that LGBT-people destroy our society and traditions. We can’t feel free anymore. Dima, Sochi
People try to kill your personality and refuse to accept you for who you are, just because of stupid backward stereotypes and narrow mindedness. Alex, Moscow
We also wanted to know if these laws caused any change in their daily life compared to two years ago. Here’s what they answered:
- Almost 60% say these laws create an anti-gay atmosphere that affects them personally;
- 30% say that these laws put them at legal risk;
- 15% say these laws affect them directly as a gay person;
- Almost 10% are affected by this law in their daily life;
- Roughly 16% are not affected personally;
- 22% feel these laws have no effect on them compared to 2 years ago.
- (respondents could choose multiple answers)
- source: PlanetRomeo
The situation for gays in Russia worsens every day. After acceptance of the anti-LGBT law people were up in arms against gays and often attacks began to happen. I was discharged once from office because I’m gay. I have to hide my sexual orientation from friends and family. A few years ago I was attacked and beaten by a group of guys. Now on governmental TV channels many TV shows say that gays are sick people and they need to be treated, or killed at once. I’m afraid to live in Russia… Anonymous
Another user expressed a different view on this topic:
I’m a Russian living in Berlin. I would like to say that European people do not really understand the situation in Russia, because the culture and values are so different. Obviously, the situation with gay rights and acceptance of gay people in Russia is getting worse and worse. I’m quite sure, that after the Olympic Games, the situation will be even more disgusting. But please mind that the situation inside Russia is not so bad as it is presented and understood by other Europeans. Mark, Berlin
We received horrible news about anti-gay violence and abuse. Therefore, we wanted to find out to what extent our Russian users experienced acts of anti-gay discrimination, violence or abuse, and asked:
Have you been the victim of any of the following?
Although the results speak for themselves, we also have to note that a total of 34% have never been the victim of any form of anti-gay violence.
THE SOCHI WINTER OLYMPICS
What effects do these current laws have on the Winter Olympics? A lot of human rights and LGBT pressure groups have urged their governments to boycott the Games, but opinions on this remain very divided.
Does a boycott really help in achieving specific objectives? Should sport and politics be separated?
Political action has nothing to do with the Olympic Games; this is sport! With the same principles we could also boycott the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Rustam, Moscow
What did our Russian Romeos say when we asked them:
Some people have decided to boycott the Winter Olympics at Sochi. Do you support a boycott?
WHAT CAN THE REST OF THE WORLD DO?
Other then a possible boycott of the Olympic Winter Games, we asked ourselves what could be done do to improve the current anti-gay climate in Russia. We’re quite sure we’re not alone in wanting to create a gay-friendly environment all over the world. So we asked our respondents how we could contribute to help the Russian gay community, and this is what they said:
There’s a lot of appreciation for all supportive actions from the worldwide LGBT-community, but some of the participants gave an advice in addition to this question. According to them, we need to consider the cultural differences between Russia and the rest of the world. In addition to cultural differences, our respondents mention the lack of education. There’s still a lot of ignorance regarding homosexuality:
In Russia it’s necessary to educate everyone about the fact that being gay is normal. 90% of the population see it as an illness… Vladimir, Moscow
Include gay themes in all popular TV shows, so young people learn to understand and deal with homosexual acquaintances, friends, and family members and maybe even figure out that they are gay themselves. The current generation cannot be helped, unfortunately.Anonymous
Pressure from foreign countries just makes the situation worse, because our society is aggressive to gays and to any outside influence. So, any change can only happen by itself in future generations inside Russia. Anonymous
People, please, don’t push it! Not from the outside, not from the inside. We had a good tendency towards tolerance; our society didn’t ask for gay prides. It worked against gay activists and other people. Sometimes, it’s good to keep in mind that even in politics laws of nature apply: the harder you push it, the harder it resists. Alexander, Tomsk
President Putin says
Gay people faced no discrimination at work or in society in Russia. The new law did not harm anybody. Vladimir Putin
That’s what President Vladimir Putin states in an interview with BBC one. Quite remarkable, because these survey results prove him wrong.
On the other hand, the Russian Orthodox Church announced they want to have a referendum in order to make homosexuality illegal, and therefore punishable again. This is very alarming because the last thing the LGBT-community needs is a set back. We’ll definitely keep an eye on how this develops.
We hope for the best for our Russian LGBT family and we thank them for all of their input.
We would appreciate it if you would share these survey results with others.
Marc van Zijp
Care Manager PlanetRomeo