no gay way in russia

Posted on May 28, 2007

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More evidence of Russia’s troubling human rights records — over the weekend, peaceful gay rights activists were punched and kicked as they attempted to stage a gay rights march in Moscow.

The police looked the other way as thuggery again reared its ugly head in Russia. Ultra-nationalists and skin-head types showed up, turning violent on the gay rights activists, some from other European capitals, even as television cameras from around the world captured every blow on tape.

To add insult to injury, the activists were arrested or detained while their assailants got away scot-free. Among the activists detained were European Members of Parliament.

All this, even as Russia has decriminalized homosexuality for 14 years.

The law may have changed but it is obviously just lip service.

It didn’t help matters that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov condemned homosexuality as “satanic” as he swore never to allow gay pride parades in Moscow. The country’s Russian Orthodox Church, too, is on his side, giving the Mayor its blessings by supporting the ban. No wonder the ultra-nationalists were emboldened.

It’s shameful that the G8 nations give Russia a seat at the table when it repeatedly refuses to play by the rules of civilized nations which have embraced tolerance and diversity as part of their raison d’etre.

Besides just warring with the US over the climate treaty, the G8 has to make it its priority to condemn unequivocally Russia’s recent action against the gay rights activists and make clear its reprehensible behavior have no place in the grouping in its upcoming summit. The European Union, under Germany’s leadership, had spoken out against Russia’s clampdown on its political activists in a recent summit. It’s only logical that the EU followed up on that and crank up the pressure by speaking up for the gay rights activists and gay rights itself.

Mayors from various European capitals have already condemned the episode, calling it sad and deplorable.

While gay rights activists in Russia had predicted the fracas and many stayed away, they should have turned out in full force, if nothing else, to show that brutality and violence cannot cow them into silence and hiding. It’s unfortunate that foreigners were the ones spearheading the movement and taking blows for it, but Russian activists will have to show more fortitude in bringing across the message to the authorities that they too have rights and can no longer be intimidated.

One of the activists who was attacked, British singer Richard Fairbrass of the band Right Said Fred, expressed it best when he told the BBC: “When it was over I actually felt more sorry for the guy that whacked me than I did for me… How threatened can he be, how insecure is he to be threatened by a bisexual pop singer who’s most famous for singing ‘I’m too sexy’?”

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