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Gay man who live-streamed Cuba anti-government protest faces 8-year prison sentence

Yoan de la Cruz broadcast July 11 demonstration on Facebook



Yoan de la Cruz (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

A gay man who live-streamed an anti-government protest faces an 8-year prison sentence.

Yoan de la Cruz on July 11 used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in Artemisa province that is just west of Havana.

The San Antonio de los Baños protest was the first of dozens of anti-government demonstrations against mounting food shortages, the government’s response to the pandemic, a worsening economic crisis and human rights abuses that took place across Cuba on July 11.

De La Cruz is one of hundreds of protest participants who were arrested. Others include Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, on Monday reported the country’s attorney general is seeking an 8-year prison sentence for De La Cruz. 14ymedio also notes Cuban authorities continue to hold De La Cruz “somewhat incommunicado” in a prison in Mayabeque province, which is east of Havana.

It is unclear when his trial will take place.

“The Cuban government is again intimidating Cubans to keep them from peacefully expressing themselves,” tweeted Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols on Thursday. “After initially sentencing many July 11 protestors to months of detention and fines, they now seek additional jail time for some of the 500+ detainees to 6-12 years.”

The tweet does not specifically mention De La Cruz.

Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a gay man who was once a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, is now a vocal critic of his country’s government and publicly supports De La Cruz. Adán on Thursday described the proposed sentence as “excessive and unjust.”

“The only thing about Yoan that I know is the charge of which they have accused him is contempt, and they are asking for eight years,” he told the Blade. “I don’t understand what live-streaming something has to do with contempt.”



Transgender people seek government job consideration in India’s Maharashtra state

Court petition filed on Nov. 29



Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ancient texts in India have recorded the history and cultural importance of transgender people, but the community is still marginalized and vulnerable in the country. Although the government offers many vulnerable castes a specific number of slots for education and government jobs, trans people still have no such benefit and continue to face discrimination across the nation. 

Three trans people from Maharashtra state on Nov. 29 filed an application to the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal seeking slots for trans people in government jobs and a “third gender” option in online job applications. Two applicants had applied for police officer posts, while the other had applied for a revenue officer post — both of which are government jobs in India.

While hearing the application, the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, a court that has all the powers of the High Court, said it cannot direct the state government to give slots for trans people in public employment and education. The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal did say, however, that the state government should take more steps towards inclusivity for the community in mainstream society.

Maharashtra’s government told the tribunal it would not be possible to provide slots to trans people in government jobs or education. 

The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal in a 26-page order directed the state government to give applicants the necessary points to qualify for the job if the applicant has secured 50 percent of the total marks for the concerned post. The tribunal also directed the government to provide age relaxation to trans applicants if they earned 45 points.

In India, every government job seeker goes through an examination to qualify for the job. Government job examinations are one of the toughest in India because there are millions of applications for a few positions, resulting in the need to secure higher marks to get a position.

More than one million applicants applied for 18,331 police officer positions in 2022. The government, however, provides slots to backward class applicants and gives points relaxation in examinations. Trans people in India are most marginalized and vulnerable with no slots in education or employment.

Retired Justice Mridula Bhatkar, who chairs the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal and member Medha Gadgil in the ruling said the fact that not a single trans person who has come out received a job in the government sector speaks volumes.

“The transgender people are humans and are citizens of our great country who are waiting for their inclusion in the mainstream,” said the tribunal. “We have historical, mythological and cultural instances of eunuchs and their participation in political, social or cultural fields.”

The tribunal also said trans people are in the minority. 

Although the majority forms the government, the majority cannot suppress the rights of marginalized sections of society. The tribunal further added the situation in which the trans community finds itself is worse than what women faced in the past while demanding equality.

The tribunal highlighted the mere acknowledgment of the separate identity of trans people was not enough, but they also need to be given opportunities in government jobs.

“The State of Maharashtra has been very progressive in its thought and culture,” said the tribunal. “Therefore, it is desirable on the part of the government to take necessary measures to enable these transgender applicants to get jobs in the government sector.”

The tribunal mentioned Indian Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination based on sex under articles 15 and 16.

“To get into public employment is a handicapped race for transgenders,” said the tribunal. “Though they are not physically disabled and are able-bodied persons, their activities, actions, growth are paralyzed due to the negative approach of society, family in all schools, colleges in all places at all levels.”

While representing the petitioners, Kranti LC, a lawyer, said that the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Bihar have provided reservations to trans people. The tribunal, however, noted it understands the state has reached the limit of vertical slot of 62 percent, but ordered the law can reach equality and harmony through social engineering.

“The courts are for justice and cannot ignore any societal problem when placed before it,” said the tribunal. “Under such circumstances, though courts are not the lawmakers while interpreting the law, a legally permissible solution is to be applied to meet the ends of justice.”

According to the Indian Supreme Court’s 1992 Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India ruling, nine judges upheld the 50 percent ceiling on slots and denied slots in promotion in government jobs. This means no government agencies or institutions can give slots more than 50 percent of total job openings. Maharashtra state already crossed the limit.

“It is very unfortunate, because transgender people are one of the most vulnerable people in India, and of the most marginalized population in our country,” said Kalki Subramaniam, a trans rights activist and founder of Sahodari Foundation, an organization that works for trans Indians. “For the horizontal reservation, we need to get the support of our government. We need to sensitize our members of Parliament. I think, all political parties do support (the) transgender community, and do understand the plight of the community and difficulties we face.”

Kalki told the Washington Blade the community needs to work hard. She said the community needs to start campaigning for horizontal slots. She said the community needs to MPs to get the necessary support for it.

While talking to the Blade, Rani Patel, an activist and founder of Aarohan, a nonprofit organization that works with trans Indians, said that it is right that the trans community needs to have reservations in jobs and education so that they can be mainstreamed in the society.

“I have been working with the transgender community for last 11 years in Delhi. We had worked very hard for the scraping of section 377,” said Patel. “All the equality and rights given by the Supreme Court of India is of no use until and unless they are not provided with reservation, because there is a stigma in the society against the transgender people, the community feel rejected and detached from the society.”

Patel told the Blade that only a few trans children are getting an education in the country. She said most of the trans people in India need to be skilled in whichever field for which they have an interest. Patel further said that while getting skills, the government should provide slots to trans people, otherwise giving skills will be of no use.

Patel and Aarohan were instrumental in drafting the Delhi government’s trans bill.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion.

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Ugandan Constitutional Court to consider challenge to Anti-Homosexuality Act

Hearing is slated to begin on Dec. 11



(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Activists in Uganda are optimistic the queer community will get justice from the Constitutional Court hearing on a petition that challenges the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Some of the groups that spoke to the Washington Blade before the hearing begins on Dec. 11 termed the law that President Yoweri Museveni signed in May as “discriminatory, unconstitutional and a violation of fundamental human rights.”  

Uganda Minority Shelters Consortium, a local NGO which supports and advocates for the rights of LGBTQ victims of violence and homelessness, noted the Anti-Homosexuality Act has created a “climate of fear and persecution” for queer Ugandans.

UMSC Coordinator John Grace said this situation has led to a spike in homophobic violence, discrimination and the LGBTQ community’s inability to access healthcare and other basic services due to fear.  

“We believe the court should nullify this discriminatory law and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society for all Ugandans,” Grace said in support of the four consolidated petitions that several LGBTQ activists filed.

The plaintiffs include Uganda’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa Kintu Nyango, Makerere University Law professors Sylvia Tamale and Busingye Kabumba, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, West Budama Northeast MP Fox Odoi and several advocacy groups. 

Odoi is Museveni’s former legal advisor.

Petitioners in a pre-hearing conference on Tuesday argue the Anti-Homosexuality Act violates Article 92 of Uganda’s constitution, which bars Parliament from enacting a law that goes against a decision by the country’s Judiciary. This position is in response to the Constitutional Court’s 2014 ruling that nullified a similar anti-homosexuality law.  

The plaintiffs also argue the Anti-Homosexuality Act was hurriedly passed within six days instead of 45 days as Parliament’s rules requires and that it was enacted without meaningful public consultation. 

“This hearing is crucial for LGBTQ+ Ugandans as it provides a platform to expose the law’s flaws and its detrimental impact on their lives, amplifies their voices to encourage dialogue about equality, tolerance and acceptance, and it instils hope and empowers the queer individuals to fight for their rights and dignity,” Grace stated.    

His remarks come a day after the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp defended the Biden-Harris administration’s decision to impose sanctions against some Ugandan officials and announced plans to remove Kampala from Washington’s duty-free trade program for sub-Saharan African countries over the anti-LGBTQ law. 

Ugandan Parliament Speaker Anitah Among, who is targeted in the U.S. visa travel ban, on Wednesday disclosed the White House has targeted more than 300 MPs who supported the Anti-Homosexuality Act. (U.S. government policy is not to target officials over legislative activity.) Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced the additional sanctions. 

Among and the other MPs hit back at the U.S. and vowed to protect the anti-LGBTQ law “with our blood, sweat and souls,” while cautioning Ugandans opposed to it should “leave our country and go to live in the United Kingdom or the United States.”  

Popp, while engaging with Ugandans virtually via X Spaces ahead of the Human Rights Day commemorations on Dec. 10 that will take place under the “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All” banner, said the U.S. “wants good things for Uganda as friends” through a sustained partnership.

“We have invested over 60 years of work, time, effort and resources as a partner of the Ugandan people,” said Popp. “We spend about one billion dollars annually in areas like health, education, and food security to improve livelihoods to try and build a more prosperous, freer and secure future for Ugandans which is good for the country, the region, the U.S. and the world.” 

Popp noted, however, this economic progress cannot succeed without respect for human rights because there is a direct correlation between economic prosperity and societies that are more open and have greater respect for human and civil rights. Popp conceded no country in the world is perfect — including the U.S. — and the Biden-Harris administration is only helping Kampala to identify areas in which Ugandan institutions can improve as they relate to punishing people who violates citizens’ human rights.

“Working on these issues as Ugandans and working collectively with us as partners is better for long-term goals and positive development in the country,” he said. “If this is done, Uganda collectively will move forward and the U.S. will be the first to applaud it.” 

Let’s Walk Uganda, another Ugandan advocacy group that openly LGBTQ people lead, is also challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The organization told the Blade the case is a litmus test to the Judiciary’s core mandate of protecting the “weak” in the society.

“We are challenging the act for violating the entire Bill of Rights and other key provisions of the constitution and its spirit generally,” Martin Musiime, the group’s legal manager, said. “The Ugandan constitution is against the backdrop of tyranny, oppression and abuse of power against those without power or the marginalized.” 

Musiime expressed optimism that the petition has strong, convincing grounds for the court to “annul the apartheid law” while also confirming that they are ready to appeal should the court rule against the complainants. 

“These efforts are moving hand in hand with political and diplomatic engagements including piling pressure for sanctions,” Musiime said. “We are convinced the sanctions are working and we see efforts by the government to lessen on the severity of the law.”

Doctor Henry Mwebesa, the director general of Uganda’s Health Services, in August issued a circular to all health workers that directed them not to deny services to anyone visiting hospitals; not to discriminate or stigmatize them based on sexual orientation and to protect their privacy, confidentiality and safety.

Let’s Walk Uganda and UMSC maintain, however, this directive doesn’t guarantee queer people enough protection until the punitive and discriminatory provisions in the Anti-Homosexuality Act, such as reporting a suspected gay person to authorities, are removed and the entire law is repealed.

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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Russian Supreme Court declared global LGBTQ rights movement ‘extremist’



(Los Angeles Blade graphic)


For the first time in Nepal, the marriage of a same-sex couple has been registered in the Himalayan nation between Ram Bahadur Gurung (Maya) and Surendra Pandey. (Pahichan Media screenshot)

The marriage between Maya Ram Bahadur Gurung and Surendra Pandey this past week in the Nepalese capital city of Kathmandu is being hailed by the country’s LGBTQ rights activists. Gurung, a transgender woman and Pandey, who is gay, was registered by the local municipality ward office four months after the Himalayan nation’s highest court legalized same-sex marriages in an interim order. 

Sunil Babu Pant, the former executive director/CEO and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, first LGBTQ rights organization in Nepal, who has also served in the country’s parliament was present for the civil ceremony telling the Associated Press: “After 23 years of struggle, we got this historic achievement, and finally, Maya and Surendra got their marriage registered at the local administration office.”

In a later interview with Naya Prakashan news Pant noted. “A wedding in Nepal today can become the signpost in South Asia for a more equal tomorrow.”

Human Rights Watch reported that Gurung, a trans woman who is legally recognized as male, and Pandey, a cisgender gay man, held a Hindu wedding ceremony in 2017. They first attempted to legally register their marriage in June this year at the Kathmandu District Court, following an interim order by Nepal’s Supreme Court instructing authorities to register same-sex marriages while considering a case that argues for marriage equality across the country.

When that court rejected their registration, saying it did not need to recognize a couple that was not one legal male and one legal female, they appealed to the Patan High Court in September.

But the high court judges rejected the appeal, saying that it was the responsibility of the federal government to change the law before the lower authorities could register such marriages, HRW reported.

Nepal’s civil code currently only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court attempted to rectify that by ordering the creation of an interim registry for nontraditional marriages until parliament changes the law. The two lower courts then reversed the logic by claiming that the national law must be changed first.


Johor State Assembly. (Photo courtesy of Bernama, the Malaysian government news agency)

Malaysian LGBTQ rights activists are decrying efforts by the Johor state government to establish a “rehab” center for “people in same-sex relations,” which would use the globally debunked conversion therapy to change sexual orientation.

Malaysian society is predominately Muslim and conservative. Human Rights Watch has noted that the government authorities in the Malay Archipelago are willing to enforce the rigid gender roles by which they compel all Malaysians to abide with few exceptions.

Speaking at the Johor state assembly on Wednesday, the state’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee Chair Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said 400,000 ringgit ($86,000) has been allocated for the rehabilitation center, which was expected to open in July next year the South China Morning Post reported.

“This rehabilitation center is established … for them to get back on the right path,” Fared told the assembly.

Aside from same-sex individuals, Fared proclaimed that the centre would also house “those who are deemed deviant” from the state-prescribed religious Islamic orthodoxy, which includes the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Baha’i among some 42 groups, the state’s religious affairs body has identified as “deviant.”

The Malaysian government relies on the force of law to prohibit expression and conduct that fall outside of a heterosexual, cisgender norm. It is one of only a handful of countries that explicitly makes gender nonconformity a criminal offense. 

Reacting to the rehab news, Justice for Sisters, a trans rights group, told the South China Morning Post that detaining people was a violation of the Malaysian Constitution, which safeguards personal liberty, privacy, dignity, equality and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

“Detaining people on the grounds of changing their SOGIE — sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — amounts to torture without a doubt,” said the group’s spokesperson, Thilaga Sulathireh.

Malaysia also criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct at both the federal and state levels. Its officials frequently insist that the laws criminalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are intended not primarily to punish, but rather to return them to “the right path,” statements echoed this past week by Johor’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman.

Human Rights Watch notes that officials under successive Malaysian governments have typically coded their approach to sexual and gender diversity in a logic of “prevention” and “rehabilitation,” backed by the threat of punishment. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in office between March 2020 and August 2021, described LGBTQ people as a threat to Islam, backed by “foreign influences” and a “disorder” that requires counseling.


Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

Pope Francis this past week further disciplined another American prelate, retired Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has publicly critiqued Francis over the pope’s ongoing efforts for reforming the Catholic Church, especially over issues centered on LGBTQ Catholics and the LGBTQ community.

The Associated Press reported that Francis revoked Burke’s subsidized Vatican apartment and retirement salary, according to sources because he was a source of “disunity” in the church. 

The move is “unprecedented in the Francis era,” Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC.

“Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

Burke, who spends much of his time in the U.S. at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine he founded in his native Wisconsin, has not yet been notified of the pope’s actions according to the AP.

At the end of October, the pope convened a month long conference, known as a Synod of Bishops, followed an unprecedented two-year canvassing of rank-and-file Catholics. During the conference Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a popular spiritual author and editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach, noted that on LGBTQ issues, “There were widely diverging views on the topic,” he said.

In early November, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Eastern Texas was “relieved” of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler by Francis after Strickland’s refusal to resign in a dispute over the church’s LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic practices. Strickland often had echoed Burke’s positions.

Although retired in 2014, Burke had an incredibly anti-LGBTQ public record since, especially in vocalizing his opposition to plans to be inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Burke was once a high-ranking U.S. archbishop and head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican court, but was repeatedly demoted under Francis and then forced to retire.

In March 2020, Burke laid blame on the coronavirus pandemic on the LGBTQ community. As churches were forced to close during the lock-downs ordered by health officials, Burke wrote: 

“Worship is particularly needed now because of ‘how distant our popular culture is from God,’ he wrote, noting abortion and euthanasia, then attacking the LGBTQ equality movement, particularly activism for recognition of trans identity.

“‘We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he said. “With ever greater concern, we witness the devastating effect on individuals and families of the so-called ‘gender theory.'” Burke went on to say, “There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins.’”

Burke once compared lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to murderers.


Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks at the Institute for Government in September 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Institute for Government/Liz Truss’ office)

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss is said to be backing a private bill to be introduced into the House of Commons that will ban minor children under the age of 18 from accessing hormone therapy and block the National Health Service and the UK government from recognizing their social transition.

After Truss was one of 20 backbencher MPs to be selected to bring forward a bill, a source reportedly said she chose the legislation because she believes under-18s need to be protected from “making irreversible decisions about their bodies.”

PinkNewsUK pointed out that argument fails to consider the fact that trans under-18s are typically prescribed physically reversible puberty blockers and are only permitted to do so after lengthy medical checks.

Physically reversible puberty blockers are also typically only given to teenagers over the age of 16. It is exceptionally rare for under-16s to be prescribed puberty blockers.

Despite this, Truss is expected to formally present the bill on Wednesday during a House of Commons hearing where its MP backers will also attend, PinkNewsUK also reported.

A spokesperson for the UK government said in a statement: “This government is clear on the fundamental importance of biological sex.”

Drag Race UK star The Vivienne (aka James Lee Williams). (Photo courtesy of Williams’ Facebook page)

A magistrate’s court found a 51-year-old man guilty of a hate crime in an assault on Drag Race UK star The Vivienne this past June at a local McDonald’s. Alan Whitfield told the court that he had struck James Lee Williams, aka The Vivienne, in the face claiming that his actions were not motivated by homophobia but by what he described as “banter.” 

During his testimony, 31-year-old Williams said he was subjected to a “barrage of abuse” from Whitfield after entering the fast food restaurant PinkNewsUK reported.

“He [Whitfield] carried on, then after the fourth ‘look at the state of you’ I said ‘look at the state of you’, I said ‘look at the state of your face’, to which he said ‘I’ve got skin cancer’ and then punched me straight in the face.”

PinkNewsUK reported that the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star, who took home the crown in the first series in 2018, argued that the attack was motivated by homophobia because there were “countless other people” in the McDonald’s at the time.

Whitfield maintained throughout the proceedings that the assault “was nothing to do with him [Williams] being gay,” reiterating that he has LGBTQ members of his family.

After court deliberation, Justice Anthony Canning said that Whitfield’s evidence was “not credible.”

“Having considered this incident from beginning to end, we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the hostility shown by yourself from that outset was motivated and down to the perceived sexuality of the complainant and this was homophobic in nature.”

Whitfield will be sentenced in January.


Saoirse Mackin has been nominated by the Social Democrats to run in Cork City North West’s 2024 election, and she is believed to be the first openly transgender person in history to run for local election in Ireland. (Photo courtesy of Saoirse Mackin)

A 25-year-old second year law student at the University College Cork is set to make history the first openly trans person in history to run for local election in Ireland.

Saoirse Mackin, who co-founded Trans+ Pride Cork in 2022, was nominated by the Social Democrats to run in Cork City North West’s 2024 election. Mackin, who transitioned in 2017, told LGBTQ+ media outlet GCN – Ireland, that if elected, one of her top priorities will be eliminating the excessive healthcare barriers that are in place for trans women in Ireland. 

Mackin also advocates for better cycling infrastructures, as well as affordable housing and improved public services GCN noted.

She said, “If elected, my priority areas will include the provision of more affordable housing, improved public services, universal access to healthcare and the development of quality cycle infrastructure in Cork. I will also campaign for better local amenities, such as upgraded parks, green spaces, playgrounds and sports facilities.”

In addition to being a trans activist, Mackin is also a law student and community organiser who has bravely spoken up against the growing far-right movement in Ireland. She was also named in the Irish Examiner’s 100 Women of 2022 list.


A Russian Supreme Court justice reads its ruling that bans the LGBTQ rights movement, labeling it extremist. (Reuters screenshot)

Russia’s Supreme Court this past week ruled that “the international LGBTQ movement” is “extremist” which, legal experts and human rights advocates say will lead to all LGBTQ groups and organizations in Russia being banned.

The Russian Justice Ministry had lodged an administrative legal claim with the High Court to recognize the International LGBTQ public movement as extremist and ban its activity in Russia. Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko did not specify whether it was seeking the closure of any specific groups or organizations, or if the designation would apply more broadly to the LGBTQ community, causes and individuals.

Speaking with Agence France-Presse, the head of the Sphere human rights group, which advocates for the Russian LGBTQ community, had criticized Chuychenko‘s actions. 

“Russian authorities are once again forgetting that the LGBTQ+ community are human beings,” said Sphere head Dilya Gafurova, who has left Russia.  

Authorities “don’t just want to erase us from the public field: They want to ban us as a social group,” Gafurova told AFP. “It’s a pretty typical move for repressive non-democratic regimes — the persecution of the most vulnerable. We will continue our fight,” he added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement issued from Geneva after the ruling said:

“This decision exposes human rights defenders and anyone standing up for the human rights of LGBT people to being labeled as ‘extremist’ — a term that has serious social and criminal ramifications in Russia,” said Türk. “No one should be jailed for doing human rights work or denied their human rights based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“I call on the Russian authorities to repeal, immediately, laws that place improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or that discriminate against LGBT people. The law must uphold and defend the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The law must never be used to perpetuate inequality and discrimination,” Türk added.

Laws that must be reformed include those prohibiting gender-affirming medical and administrative procedures, and banning so-called “LGBT propaganda,” which made it illegal to discuss LGBT issues in Russia on penalty of substantial fines, Türk said.

The Türk also pointed out the wide use of the “extremist” label is more generally used to prosecute all those perceived as opponents, including politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others.

“LGBTIQ people exist in every country, and a legal ban on the undefined ‘international LGBT movement’ will result in more violence, discrimination, and isolation of LGBTIQ people in Russia, who are already targeted for being who they are,” said Maria Sjödin, executive director of Outright International.

“Russia, which has already restricted access to information about LGBTIQ issues, is yet again violating the human rights of LGBTIQ people by restricting freedoms of association and expression. This is a great concern not just for human rights defenders focused on protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people but for everyone who believes in human rights for all,” Sjödin added.

A Russian police vehicle in Moscow. (Photo courtesy of the Russian government/TASS)

Within 48 hours of the High Court’s ruling, multiple Russian Law enforcement agencies executed a series of raids multiple queer venues in the Russian capital. At one club located on Ulitsa Malaya Yakimanka Street in the center of Moscow, there were approximately 300 people gathered when Russian security forces burst in under the pretext of searching for drugs in the establishment. Several persons were detained. 

“In the middle of the party, they stopped the music and began to enter the halls [the police]. There were also citizens of other countries at the party. At the exit, they photographed passports without permission to do so,” an LGBTQ rights activist who had previously spoken to other media outlets told the Washington Blade in a phone call Sunday.

The raids took place in at least four venues, and were reportedly expected by the clubs management and owners. 

Security forces arrived at an establishment near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and a themed strip club for men near the Polyanka metro station in central Moscow. The administration of the clubs warned visitors about the events in advance, the Moscow Times reported.

According to an eyewitness to the police raid on Mono, a bar also located in the city’s central district on Pokrovsky Boulevard, “there was the usual party, then the owner came out and said that within an hour law enforcement would arrive in connection with the recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Within 20 minutes the dance floor started to empty,” Ostorozhno Novosti, an independent Russian news outlet reported.

The Moscow Times could not independently verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting, and employees from at least two of the clubs believed to have been targeted on Friday denied the reports, which they called “fakes.”

“I wake up … and I’m reading the news, and, of course, it’s hilarious. Where was [this raid] when we had nothing going on?” the manager of the club Mono said in a video posted on social media Saturday. 

The Blade has also been unable to verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting on the Mono bar raid but in a series of phone calls and Telegram chats was able to determine that multiple raids had in fact taken place across central Moscow and that gay clubs and LGBTQ safe spaces were targeted.

In the Baltic city of St. Petersburg, the largest gay club, Central Station, according to independent news outlet Sota, reported the club’s management said that they were denied further rental of the site due to the “new law.”

Additional reporting from Pahichan Media, the South China Morning Post, Human Rights Watch, The BBC, PinkNewsUK, Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, GCN Ireland, the Vatican News and the Associated Press.

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