Connect with us


Russian journalist says domestic politics behind anti-gay crackdown

Putin trying to retain grip on power



Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade
Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters gathered outside of the Russian Embassy on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

A veteran Russian journalist said the Kremlin’s LGBT rights crackdown stems from President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to maintain his grip on power.

Masha Lipman, who was previously the deputy editor of the Russian weeklies Ezhenedelny Zhurnal (“Weekly Journal” in English) and Itogi, said during a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Northwest D.C. on Nov. 15 that then-President Dmitry Medvedev’s September 2011 suggestion that Putin, who was then prime minister, succeed him sparked criticism within the country. Putin faced “direct discontent from the people” later that year over allegations of fraud during parliamentary elections.

Tens of thousands of people in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities protested the contested vote.

“Putin realizes he needs to respond to that,” said Lipman, who edits the Pro et Contra journal the Carnegie Moscow Center publishes.

Russian voters in March 2012 elected Putin for a third term as president. Medvedev became prime minister.

Putin soon began to harass and repress his critics and propose measures that Lipman said were designed to send a message to the country that those who challenged him are “bad Russians, unpatriotic” and “immoral.” She added Putin also sought to define his critics as “undermining our traditional values.”

“He has to define what good Russians stand for because his adversaries, his enemies are modernized,” she said. “Of course good Russians are defined as conservative. It is political conservatism, but increasingly social conservatism as well.”

Lipman said the Kremlin in the middle of 2012 began to focus more on sex, faith, culture, art and school curriculum.

A law that requires groups that receive funding from outside the country to register as “foreign agents” took effect at the end of 2012.

Putin in June signed a broadly worded statute banning gay propaganda to minors that mirrors similar laws that had taken effect in St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk and other Russian regions. A second law that prohibits same-sex couples and any couple from a country in which gays and lesbians can legally from adopting Russian children took effect in July.

“Of course the anti-gay legislation comes as a natural element because it is the epitome of social conservatism,” said Lipman.

The Duma passed the anti-gay propaganda ban unanimously, while polls indicate nearly 90 percent of Russians support the law.

“This campaign, this shift to social conservatism, has worked well for Putin consolidating a conservative majority,” said Lipman.

Russian LGBT rights advocates with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in previous months shared similar observations.

Polina Andrianova of Coming Out, a St. Petersburg-based advocacy group, said during an August interview she feels the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown is part of a “much wider campaign” for the Kremlin to showcase its opposition to Europe and the United States.

“Gay people, non-Christian orthodox people, all of them are viewed as kind of dangerous to the traditional values of Russia,” Andrianova told the Blade. “So they’re viewed as non-Russian and [have] imported values from the West.”

Oleg Klyuenkov of the Arkhangelsk-based LGBT advocacy group Rakurs (“Perspective” in Russian) told the Blade earlier this month during his trip to D.C. that “interest groups” within the Russian government have “persuaded” Putin to sign the gay propaganda law and other measures.

“The government is simply trying to distract the public’s attention from our societal problems, our economic problems,” Kluyenkov told the Blade.

Lipman said it is not surprising that some Russian LGBT rights advocates seek to publicly downplay Putin’s role in the country’s LGBT rights crackdown.

“The gay community is very weak as is, enduring basically little or no sympathy from the Russian people,” she said. “Challenging Putin in and of itself is not a safe thing to do.”

The Kremlin’s LGBT rights record continues to overshadow final preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and 46 other members of Congress concluded in a Nov. 21 letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach that Russia’s LGBT rights crackdown violates the Olympic charter. The Florida Republican and more than three dozen other lawmakers last month asked U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun to explain how he plans to ensure the safety of American athletes who compete in the Sochi games.

The Moscow Times reported Putin on Nov. 20 spoke out against discrimination toward “people of non-traditional sexual orientations.” He said last month during a Sochi press conference with Bach that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination during the games.

The IOC has repeatedly said it has received assurances from the Kremlin that gays and lesbians would be welcome to attend the Sochi games, even though Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and other officials have said authorities plan to enforce the propaganda law. The Associated Press on Nov. 18 reported that Mutko told a Russian newspaper that lawmakers should have waited until after the Olympics to pass the controversial statute.

“When the Olympic committee asks for clarifications [on] just how this legislation will be enforced during the Olympics, the government is forced to respond,” said Lipman.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Harsh anti-LGBTQ bill introduced in Ghana

Measure would criminalize LGBTQ identity, allyship



Ghana flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

A bill that would criminalize LGBTQ identity and allyship in Ghana was officially introduced in the country’s Parliament on Monday.

The “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” went to the Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee after its first reading.

Eight conservative lawmakers who are from the opposition and ruling parties sponsored the bill. Thomson Reuters Foundation News reports Samuel Nartey George, a member of the National Democratic Congress party, is the lead sponsor. 

The bill, if passed, would outlaw LGBTQ identity and subject anyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community or as an ally with up to 10 years in prison. 

A draft of the bill that was leaked online last week listed some of the punishable offenses that include “gross indecency,” which is defined as “the public show of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex.” This act, labeled a misdemeanor, can result in “a term of imprisonment no less than six months and not more than one year.”

Activists in Ghana and across the world have sought to raise awareness of the bill on social media with the hashtags #KillTheBill and #GhanaIsEnoughForUsAll. A petition that urges Ghanaian lawmakers to oppose the measure has been created.

Critics say the measure would violate human rights and would make LGBTQ people more vulnerable to persecution and violence. The Coalition of Muslim Groups in Ghana and other religious organizations have welcomed the bill, with Thomson Reuters reporting they say it is needed to “prevent the dilution of cultural values and beliefs in Ghanaian society.”

Naa Seidu Fuseini Pelpuo, the overlord of the Waala Traditional Area, and other traditional leaders have condemned the LGBTQ+ community as “unnatural and [perverted].” Pelpuo has also banned activities between LGBTQ individuals in the Waala Traditional Area and warned of “firm and swift” punishment if found engaging in “such acts,” according to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

The bill’s introduction comes after the May arrest of 21 activists and paralegals who attended a conference on how to advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Continue Reading


Hundreds participate in first-ever Cayman Islands Pride parade

Territory’s governor, premier among marchers



Upwards of 600 people attended the first-ever Pride parade in the Cayman Islands on July 31, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation)

Upwards of 600 people participated in the first-ever Pride parade in the Cayman Islands that took place on Saturday.

Caymanian Gov. Martyn Roper, Premier Wayne Panton and opposition MP Barbara Conolly are among those who participated in the parade that the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, a local advocacy group, organized.

Caymanian authorities required that all participants were vaccinated against COVID-19. Noel Cayasso-Smith, founder and president of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, on Monday told the Washington Blade on Monday during a WhatsApp interview that his group did not allow alcohol in the parade and “discouraged” public displays of affections “in order to maintain a respectful event.”

“This is the first time in history the Cayman Islands has ever been able to put on a Pride,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I’m excited because we had no protesters. We had no negativity throughout the entire parade.”

Cayasso-Smith said he and members of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation decided to organize the parade, in part, because the pandemic has drastically reduced travel to and from the Cayman Islands. Cayasso-Smith noted hotels, condominium associations, restaurants, bars and local businesses all supported the event.

“Pride month came in and you know for every year I got really tired of seeing our Cayman people leaving to go to Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Canada to enjoy themselves for Pride,” he said, while noting the travel restrictions that remain in place because of the pandemic. “We thought it would be great to have our Pride here since we’re in our own little bubble.”

The Cayman Islands is a British territory that is located in the western Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba.

The Caymanian government in 1998 refused to allow a gay cruise ship with 900 passengers to dock. Religious officials in the British territories pressured authorities to prohibit an Atlantic Events vessel from visiting the territory.

Cayasso-Smith, who was born in the Cayman Islands, told the Blade that “growing up here has been very difficult for me as a gay person.” Cayasso-Smith lived in the U.K. for 13 years until he returned to the Cayman Islands to help his family rebuild their home after Hurricane Ivan devastated the British territory in 2004.

“I decided to stay because I thought, you know, I should be able to live in my country as a free gay man where there’s no laws restricting me from being who I am,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I feel that as a gay man contributing to the island I should have the right to live free.”

Caymanian Grand Court Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in 2019 struck down the territory’s same-sex marriage ban. The Caymanian Court of Appeal a few months later overturned the ruling.

The territory’s Civil Partnership Law took effect last September.

Continue Reading


LULAC Lambda announces 2021 scholarship awards

Castro, Javier Rodriguez win $1,000 honors



Brian Castro and Victor Javier Rodriguez are this year’s LULAC award winners.

The D.C.-based LGBTQ Latinx organization LULAC Lambda has announced it has selected two D.C. residents bound for graduate studies in foreign affairs and higher education to receive its 2021 annual scholarship award.

“For a fourth year in a row, LULAC Lambda will provide scholarships to outstanding scholars who come from our LGBTQ+ Latinx community,” said Erik Rodriquez, the LULAC Lambda president, in a statement released by the group. “Our scholarship program will help these scholars achieve their academic goals and reduce their student debt,” Rodriquez said.

The statement says one of the two scholarship awards, for $1,000, will go to Brian Castro, who will begin studies for a master’s degree in the fall of 2021 at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

“The generous scholarship provided by LULAC Lambda will complement my studies by going directly into my tuition costs,” Castro said in the statement. “Though I have been a resident of Washington, D.C., working full-time at a leading public health consulting firm, I am grateful to have received the support from an organization that is also committed to social justice,” he said.

The other scholarship, for $1,300, will go to Victor Javier Rodriguez for his doctoral work in education at Florida State University. The LULAC Lambda statement says Javier Rodriquez’s academic interest lies in “exploring the relationship between school communities and districts’ implementation of anti-racist practice and student success.”

In his own words, Javier Rodriquez said, “A long-term career goal of mine is to affect change at the federal level through the United States Department of Education, in which I would work to address our nation’s education crisis by advocating for equitable policies and practices that improve the outcome for all our students, especially those who are most vulnerable.”

LULAC Lambda says it was founded in October 2014 “to mobilize and strengthen the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities of Washington, D.C. through community and civic engagement.” It is one of 1,000 chapters across the country affiliated with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s largest and oldest Latinx volunteer-based civil rights organization, the group’s statement says.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts