Rights group releases video of Russia anti-gay attacks ahead of Sochi
The treatment of Russia‘s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is once again in the spotlight as the Olympic Games‘ opening ceremony draws closer.
Human Rights Watch released a compilation of videos posted on social media in Russia, depicting the harassment, humiliation and abuse of LGBT individuals and activists, including footage of a man reportedly being forced to “rape himself with [a] bottle.”
The London-based organization states the videos were “filmed and disseminated by the perpetrators” of the attacks.
“There is a total failure on the part of the Russian law enforcement authorities to take active measures to prosecute hate crimes against LGBT people,” Human Rights Watch Russia Researcher Tanya Cooper said in the video.
She said the Human Rights Watch has documented “a large number of vicious attacks and aggressive harassment” of queer individuals in Russia.
“It’s happening in the context of the homophobic legislation that bans propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors,” she said.
The Russian government has received international condemnation for the propaganda law, passed in the Russian Duma in June.
Amid calls for a boycott of the Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said previously that gay people visiting Sochi for the Olympics — set to get underway on Friday — would not be discriminated against, but they must “leave the children in peace,” The Associated Press reported last month.
He also told the BBC his country needed to “cleanse” itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.
Opponents of the law say it equates to forbidding homosexuality, which is not illegal in Russia, because it prohibits the promotion of LGBT rights.
Human Rights Watch and other rights groups believe that law is being used a way to justify violence against LGBT individuals.
The organization highlights the action of an anti-gay group that calls itself “Occupy Pedophilia.”
Cooper said the “vigilante group” uses the law as a “pretext” for its attacks on gay people, which are captured on video and shared on Russian online forums to further degrade the victims.
“People think that an LGBT person is not a human being, but simply a toy they can play with,” Russian LGBT rights activist Gleb Latnik told the rights group. “If such a person is walking on the street, they think, ‘Why not punch him?’”
Latnik alleged authorities were indifferent when he went to file a complaint after he was beaten up.
“The officers at the station just said, ‘That’s all right, you’re gay so it’s normal that you were attacked,’” he said.
But state-run Russia Today reported Tuesday the negative international response to the propaganda law may actually have a “negative effect” on the country’s LGBT community.
The news organization quoted Sochi gay bar owner Andrey Tanychev saying “it negatively affects gay Russian people, because society blames them for spoiling the Olympics.”
Russia Today also reported Tanychecv said Russia’s gay community has “largely been unaffected by the new legislation.”
But the footage Human Rights Watch shared on Tuesday tells a much different story, showing men having their heads shaved, painted, being chased down and beaten.
One segment shows a man being thrown to the ground before his assailants stomp on his head, calling him “a piece of trash.”
Russian LGBT Network Chairman Igor Kochetkov told the rights group the attacks on LGBT people follow a “neo-Nazi ideology.”
“It’s important to understand who we are dealing with,” he said. “These are fascists who have chosen the easiest prey, which are gay people. And they don’t even have to hide it anymore.”
The International Olympic Committee has also come under scrutiny for failing to adequately address the issue. Even though the Olympic charter states “any form of discrimination” is “incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement,” the charter doesn’t specifically include sexual orientation as it does race, religion and gender.
Committee President Thomas Boch said Monday he is “open for discussion” surrounding the issue.
But he has warned Olympic athletes that they are barred from political gestures while on medal podiums or in other official venues; they are free to make political statements at news conferences, The Associated Press reported last week.
Boch said Monday in Sochi Russian officials won’t enforce the anti-propaganda law against athletes who address LGBT rights in press conferences and interviews.