Russia legacy of homophobia continues to put the LGBT community in grave danger, from the country’s “gay propaganda” ban to the current homosexual purge in Chechnya under president Kadyrov.
But it isn’t just the government working to demonize LGBT Russians: A Pew Research survey found that 72% of Russians believe homosexuality is morally unacceptable—more so that adultery or gambling.
One of the reasons is that Russians are regularly fed damaging propaganda about the LGBT community. Here are 7 examples:
Rainbows can turn kids gay.Getty Images
Russia’s anti-gay law has led to frequent attempts to ban rainbows from appearing on kids’ toys and books, with claims that they subliminally market the “homosexual lifestyle.” A milk company was once sued for featuring a rainbow over a cow field on its logo.
“We have hanging all over St. Petersburg the face of Peter the First and a bright rainbow,” declared lawmaker Elena Babich in a 2011 op-ed. “Why the rainbow, when it’s the global symbol of the gays? But here, all around the city—from the kindergarten ’Rainbow’ to the pharmacy ’Rainbow.’ All rejoice. Soon we will be rejoicing to the point of extinction.”
Homosexuality is a threat to Russia’s population growth.
As Babich’s comment alludes, Russian homophobes also blame gays for the country’s dwindling population. (Actually, you can thank high mortality rate, large waves of emigration and a low birth rate.)
Ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Vladimir Putin said that, to deal with its population crisis, Russia should “cleanse” itself of gays. “Europeans are dying out… and gay marriages don’t produce children,” he espoused the following year.
Homosexuality is the same as pedophilia.ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images
Although we sometimes hear this canard from the American right, Vladimir Putin has raised it to the level of state-sponsored propaganda. In 2014, he sparked international outcry by saying that LGBT people at the Sochi Olympics would be safe as they “leave children alone.”
In a 2013 speech, Putin also claimed that pedophiles were rising to political power throughout Europe. His beliefwas apparently based on a 1982 case in which three people who wanted to legalize sex between adults and children tried to register as legal party in the Netherlands. They were rejected—and then banned by the Dutch Supreme Court—but Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted proof of this so-called pedophile party “had been verified in the most thorough method, including by our Foreign Ministry.”
The fake news circulated in Russian media for years, and was even spread internationally by traveling Russian Orthodox priests.
Gay sex is the same as rape.DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images
Homosexuality was illegal for much of Russia’s history, but systematic raping of male prisoners wasn’t uncommon. The idea that a man would consent to having sex with another man is alien to many Russians. “For a long period of time Russian men and Russian women who were kept in prisons were subjugated and sexually assaulted to keep them complacent,” Tatiana Mikhailova, a Russian Studies professor at the University of Colorado told Live Science.
Men who were raped were called “roosters,” Mikhailova she says is still one of the “most painful words” you can call a man in Russia.
LGBT people are dangerous criminals.Arne Hodalic/Corbis via Getty Images
After Stalin took power, the secret police regularly portrayed homosexuals as spies and traitors, not unlike the American “lavender scare” of the 1950s in America. But instead of just the loss of a job, in the Soviet Union, homosexuality was frequently punished with hard labor in the gulag.
Stalin’s anti-sodomy law wasn’t repealed until 1993, so the link in people’s minds between criminality and homosexuality persists.
Transgender people are mentally ill.Getty Images
In 2015, the Russian government passed a law that banned transgender and gender-nonconforming people from driving cars. The regulations referred to trans people ( along with pedophiles, sadomasochists, exhibitionists, and “fetishists.”) as having a “sexual disorder” that rendered them to operate a vehicle.
That same law listed physical and mental impairments considered impediments to driving, including partial blindness and paralysis.
It’s your fault if you have HIV.William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
Russia’s HIV rate is the highest in Europe, and one of the highest in the world. Heterosexual sex will soon beat intravenous drug use as the main means of infection. Putin has taken a firm stance against all things deemed Western, including programs dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention and reduction, and the Russian Orthodox Church opposes comprehensive sex education and contraception. Russian law also bars HIV-positive adults from becoming the legal guardian of a child.
Health activist Elena Plotnikova of told the New York Times, “The basic attitude of the government is: You made a bad decision and we are not going to help you.”
Anna Sarang, the head of the the only nongovernmental organization distributing clean needles to drug addicts in Moscow, told Aljazeera that Putin’s administration “is directly sabotaging HIV prevention by not allocating its own funds and blocking the work of international donors and Russian NGOs.”
Safer-sex kits with condoms have to be labeled “foreign agents” or else distributors risk arrest. On January 1 of this year, Russia launched a national registry of people with HIV, which some fear will be used to discriminate against, or even isolate, those who test positive.
h/t: Coda Story