Anti-LGBT Violence Continues to Spread Throughout Russian Regions
While parts of the globe are experiencing an increase of tolerance for LGBTQ people, and homophobia begins to dissipate, hatred and violence continue to ravage the territories that had once made up the Soviet Union. In recent months, regions of Russia have been rapidly adopting "propaganda of homosexuality" laws, legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people, which seems to be leading to growing violence.
The author of the so-called "propaganda of homosexuality" legislation, Vitaly Milonov, is the United Russia city parliament deputy, and an Orthodox activist. The centuries-old domineering Eastern Orthodox Christian denomination reigns the regions today, including Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, where LGBTQ rights are severely suffering. Heralding a seemingly unwavering "traditional" belief system, one based on "personal experiences of truth," Orthodoxy, for all intents and purpose, appears to be creating a second "Great Schism" -- one that abandons global human rights continuity.
In fact, earlier this month Amnesty International released an in-depth report called, "Nothing to be Proud of: Discrimination Against LGBTQI People in Ukraine," denouncing the Ukrainian government for failing to follow international and European human rights law:
"Ukraine is failing to protect the basic rights of LGBTI people such as the right to be free from discrimination, the right to security of the person and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression," the report reads. "Ukraine has an international obligation to uphold the principle of non-discrimination and ensure that all individuals, including LGBTI people, are treated equally irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity in both law and fact."
The report also makes reference to last year's first-ever scheduled pride march in Kiev, Ukraine, which was cancelled following threats of violence when 2,000 anti-gay protesters showed up. Regardless, violence ensued May 20, 2012. Svytoslav Sheremet, the pride march organizer and president of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, was brutally attacked by seven men, some wearing surgical masks, after he announced the cancellation to the press.
"We may not have had a march, but only two of us were attacked, and we were able to start a lot of conversations in homes, with families and in the press. Politicians, educators and parents had to have the discussions that are so important and what will ultimately advance the cause," Sheremet told QSaltLake, a Utah LGBTQ newsmagazine in 2012, while visiting queer-rights groups in the United States, as part of a U.S. Department of State program to examine LGBT advocacy in America.
"Surprisingly, things have become far worse in Ukraine in the past decade because homosexuality isn't so hidden," Sheremet continued. "People want to come out and be open about who they are. Before, everyone was fine just keeping it all underground in a few gay bars, but as soon as people started to ask for equal protection, there was immediate backlash."
Despite the failed attempt at a pride march last year, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch are urging Kiev authorities to allow this year’s march planned for May 25, 2013 -- despite the recent chaos that erupted May 17 in Tbilisi, Georgia, the capital city of the former Soviet state.
Though the Georgian government did give the green light on a gay-rights event to honor of International Day Against Homophobia, thousands of protesters gathered in the street, many of them members of the Orthodox Church, disrupting the event.
The tragic death of Vladislav Tornovoy, 23, on May 9 in Russia, and the subsequent ban of yet another pride event in the region, symbolized a formidable insurgence of hatred and violence against LGBTQ people in those areas. Tornovoy was brutally murdered and mutilated in Volgograd, just outside Moscow, for being gay -- a mere six months following the beating death of Armen Ovcharuk, a young gay man who was killed while walking home from a gay nightclub in Kiev.
On May 17, commemorating the deaths of Tornovoy and Ovcharuk, and other victims of homophobic hate crimes, 150 LGBTQ people and their supporters rallied in St. Petersburg, Russia, making it the largest public LGBTQ demonstration in the city to date. The event was scheduled to last an hour, but police broke it up after only 10 minutes when approximately 100 protesters began throwing smoke pellets and small stones at the demonstrators.
Following the 2006 and 2007 bans on pride parades in Moscow, the European Court of Human Rights found in 2008 that the previous bans violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association. Despite the ruling, Moscow continues to deny approval of a pride parade each year.
In 2011, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, denounced Moscow’s refusal to abide by the European Court’s decision, saying, "The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in two judgments against unlawful restrictions or bans running counter to the exercise of freedom of assembly by LGBT persons in the context of the organization of Pride parades.
"Peaceful demonstrations cannot be banned simply because of hostile attitudes to the demonstrators or to the causes they advocate," Hammarberg continued. "The State also has a duty to protect the participants in peaceful demonstrations including when they hold unpopular views or belong to minorities."
A decision made by the Moscow City Court last June, however, bans gay pride parades in the city for the next 100 years.