On November 30, 2023, Russia’s Supreme Court enacted a law designating the “international LGBT movement” as an extremist organization, leading to its prohibition. The new ban was approved in response to Russia’s Ministry of Justice lawsuit claiming that the “international LGBT movements” activities showed signs of “extremism” and incited “social and religious discord.”
Ban on “gay propaganda”
Providing context, the Russian LGBT community has faced intense government scrutiny and pressure since 2013. Indeed, that year the Russian government implemented a law banning “gay propaganda” among minors. In 2022, they passed another ban on “propaganda of sexual relations and pedophilia” among all ages.
In the aftermath of the ban, individuals and organizations resisting compliance with the law incurred fines. TV channels, libraries, and bookstores were compelled to expunge references to same-sex relationships from their content and shelves.
What does this new ban entail?
According to the independent news outlet Meduza, which interviewed legal experts, individuals within the LGBT community openly expressing their sexual identity may now be labeled as extremists for their “participation in the activities of an extremist organization.” This implies that engaging in any form of public LGBTQ+ activism could potentially fall under this restrictive categorization.
Additionally, if a person positions themselves as a member of the LGBT community, the authorities may start gathering information about their activism by monitoring their social media platforms. Then, if the activism qualifies with the “ international LGBT movement”, the LGBT community members could be fined for their activism.
Experts say that any kind of activism supporting the LGBT community in public could be seen as an extremist action. This includes opinion pieces towards the support of minorities’ rights, as well as showing LGBT symbols or wearing them could also qualify.
Max Olenichev, a human rights activist, who works with the LGBT community states that “the lawsuit (and resulting ruling) will make it much harder for groups to provide legal and psychological support to LGBTQ+ people.” He adds that the new legislation creates an atmosphere of fear and violence among the community members.
How has the ban already affected LGBT community?
Although the new law has just come into effect on January 10, 2024, the LGBT community has already been affected by it. A day after the ban was passed, the Russian police raided some of Moscow’s nightclubs that were hosting events for the LGBT community.
According to the telegram channel “Ostorozhno Moskva”, the police came to the nightclubs under the pretext of checking for drugs. However, they started photographing people’s passports without permission and arresting them. Furthermore, Central Station, one of the oldest and most renowned gay nightclubs in St. Petersburg, has also declared its closure in response to the new legislation.
What is the aim of this ban?
In an interview with the BBC, Vitaly Milonov, a Russian politician and Duma deputy, stated that the ban on the LGBT community was “not about sexual minorities or the private lives of individuals.” He added that “it’s more about the political agenda proclaimed by this LGBT international movement” by comparing the LGBT community to a political force, whose “political structure” contravenes the Russian Constitution.
The current Russian government’s ideology of protecting “traditional family values” has been embraced under Putin. The authorities see the LGBT community as something related to the West which is driven against Russia. A large number of laws have been passed to protect “traditional family values”
However, experts say that this is related to Russia’s upcoming presidential election in March 2024. The government is distracting people’s attention from such major issues as the Ukraine war, by implementing new laws.
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