June and July have hosted many fantastic events across the United States in celebration and support of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus) community. As these events draw to a close, it remains important to keep human rights on the forefront of policy discussions. While many people promote and accept the LGBTQ+ community, oppression and discrimination represent significant challenges.
Russian law hosts some of the strongest discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness until 1999 and gay rights forums were banned in Moscow until 2006. This past year at the Women’s March in Moscow, young people displaying rainbow flags were arrested due to “promoting” the LGBTQ+ community. Russia’s current view on LGBTQ+ issues has caused the government to continuously ban Moscow Pride since its original launch date in May 2006. Additionally, it remains illegal to distribute any LGBTQ+ related materials to minors.
In 2014, Russia passed an Anti-Gay Propaganda Bill that prevented LGBTQ+ children from accessing support groups and information by a 436-0 vote. This bill attempted to sever access to support resources for LGBTQ+ teenagers, including Children-404 and Gayrussia.ru. Children-404 helps by creating online forums for LGBTQ+ teenagers. They publish real, anonymous letters from Russian who share their lives, interactions, and experiences. Gayrussia.ru strives to assist the Russian LGBTQ+ community via initiating events and marches to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ population. Gayrussia.ru has attempted to organize Moscow Pride marches, however this has been outlawed and deemed punishable via physical torture by the Russian government.
Gayrussia.ru’s motto, “Gay Equality, No Compromise,” perfectly shows their message and mission. These organizations are two of the many that demand change. They need help. Only the people of the world can bring about change. This issue cannot go unchecked and needs to be fixed NOW. If you aren’t convinced, go to Children-404’s website and read a few of their letters:
“Parents, when did you disavow your child? Why did you betray your determination to be there for them, to protect and support? Who are you to your child now, when you found out he’s different: a chastener, a ruthless judge, a detached boring preacher? You promised to love your child ALWAYS, WHATEVER HAPPENS, probably BEFORE HE WAS EVEN BORN, so why did you break your promise? Why do you demand from your child to be responsible for something you cannot change without causing harm? Are you sure you can change the sexuality of your grown-up children? Are you sure your life priorities are placed in the right order?”Anonymous Letter, January 16, 2015, Children 404
World humanitarian rights are typically championed by the United Nations. Currently, the United Nations allows member countries to individually ratify its edicts, including the one concerning LGBTQ+ rights. This contributes to the sluggish passage of humanitarian rights in many countries. Additionally, many countries avoid passing certain edicts due to concerns regarding accountability for previous actions. Once a country passes a law or definition agreed upon by the United Nations, they are bound to acknowledge and respond accordingly. That action may require reparations, a formal apology, or sometimes more drastic measures as was the case when Germany formally accepted the UN’s definition of genocide after the Holocaust.
Russia is not alone. Just today, President Trump announced plans to ban transgender individuals from serving in the United States military. I am not proud that human rights are not always a first priority in many countries throughout the world. However, I’m hopeful that equity and equality will prevail when human rights are made the priority and love becomes the ultimate agenda.
This blog is authored by Sarah Lobo, high school student, human rights advocate, and HealthCetera intern. Sarah and her friend, Parker Russ, have created a video depicting the challenges of Russian LGBTQ+ youth.