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No Help for Russian Gays from the Authorities

Thursday Sep 20, 2018
Police officers detain gay rights activists as they gathered near the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament chamber, in Moscow, Russia, on June 11, 2013.
Police officers detain gay rights activists as they gathered near the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament chamber, in Moscow, Russia, on June 11, 2013.  (Source:Associated Press)

Russian police in the Sverdlovsk region reportedly have this response to gays being harassed and threatened online: So what?

That's according to an article posted at Meduza, which reports that when an LGBTQ activist and lawyer named Anna Plyusnina went to the authorities to report virulent online hate speech targeting LGBTQs.

Russian laws around hate speech are severe, but they seem to have been used selectively; Meduza reports that a woman posting an explicit joke was charged with a crime because her post was taken as hate speech against men in general.

But LGBTQs do not constitute "a group of people," according to Russian authorities who declined to intervene.

Plyusnina says she didn't want anyone to be charged; she simply wanted the anti-gay comments to be taken down. But given Russia's recent history when it comes to sexual minorities, that seems unlikely. In 2013 laws were passed that forbid any expression of support or approval for gays, with same-sex displays of affection being criminalized.

More recently, reports of a pogrom targeting LGBTQs have emerged from Chechnya. The government has consistently denied reports of gays being rounded up, detained, and tortured - despite a wave of sexual minorities fleeing the country and seeking asylum in other countries.

Earlier this year, when 25-year-old pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev went missing and rumors swirled that he had been abducted by state police and killed in detention, Chechen Republic president Ramzan Kadyrov offered the theory that Bakaev was likely murdered by his own brothers for being gay. Not that Kadyrov was denouncing the practice of honor killings; UK newspaper The Independent reported that the Chechen leader publicly condones the practice.

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