Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated speech
- RIA Novosti, a Russian news and information agency, terminated the employment of its political commentator, Nikolai Troitsky, because of homophobic posts he made on his personal blog. The agency said that its journalists needed to remain civilised and not show extremism and his posts violated the ethical code which Novosti workers needed to abide by. The posts included innuendos about the “bombing of faggots” and “cleaning of the earth” that would result from the “death of these perverted dogs.”
- Permission was granted for a 3,000 strong rally to take place in Moscow May 28 “against sexual perversion and in support of the imprisonment of homosexuals.”
Bias motivated violence
- The application to hold a rally and march on May 28 on “the history and attitudes towards homosexuality in science and literature” was refused by Moscow’s City Hall on the grounds that it might damage children and thereby breaching international obligations on the rights of the child. In the run up to the day a number of people, including offi cials from the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious and social organisations, had incited violence against participants of the event and online preparation for attack had occurred. On the day various participants were attacked by groups of young people who had freely gathered in the presence of the police, and others were attacked, detained and ill-treated by the police. A number of participants were injured and one was hospitalised.
- In June, in St. Petersburg, after the authorities refused to issue a permit for the Slavic Pride Parade, 14 young people gathered with rainbow flags and placards in the centre of St. Petersburg to raise public awareness about the violations of the human rights of the LGBT community in the country. Shortly after the demonstrators were attacked by a group of individuals believed to belong to the People’s Council which advocates for ‘traditional values’ and actively suppresses the LGBT community. The police eventually intervened, arresting the LGBT demonstrators, who were charged with participation in the rally and disobeying the police. They were held in police custody overnight.
- In September, the police closed a case against a Russian Orthodox activist who beat a female reporter at an LGBT rally in Moscow. The attack was recorded on camera, and the victim said she had suffered an ear injury with a loss of hearing. In spite of this, the police closed the case on the basis of a police commissioned medical examination undertaken three months after the attack, which found no evidence that she had suff ered “harm to her health.”
- In December, a gay human rights defender was attacked during a march against the election results in Novosibirsk. He had spread out a rainbow flag, and a few minutes later was assaulted, knocked down and beaten. He was rescued by the Deputy Chief of the District Police, but the attackers were not detained and no police investigation was initiated. The Russian LGBT Network and Gender and Law sent several letters to the General Prosecutor’s Office and Police Departments asking for the investigation. These requests had not been answered by the end of 2011.
Equality and non-discrimination
In May, the Russian LGBT Network submitted an shadow report on LGBT issues to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights following which the Committee requested Russia to gather “information concerning the extent of the practice of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in particular in employment, health care, and education.”
Freedom of assembly
- In February, the Mayor of Moscow stated that “gay parades” were inadmissible and that he doubted any such Parade would be held in the capital, as it was “unnecessary” and he was “not in favour of it”. The refusal for the Pride Parade was one in a line of refusals which the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In Alekseyev v. Russia (Application nos. 4916/07, 25924/08, and 14599/09) the Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 11(freedom of assembly and association); Article 13 (right to an eff ective remedy); and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination). LGBT human rights defenders nonetheless gathered on the day and tried to hold a series of pickets in defence of human rights and against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- In March, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, declared illegal the 2010 ban imposed by Tyumen City Hall on a rally of the Tyumen Branch of the Russian LGBT Network and local LGBT organisation Rainbow House. At the time, human rights defenders intended to tie a ribbon on a ‘tree of tolerance’ in downtown Tyumen, thus expressing their concerns about discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The police had warned that anyone coming to the tree in violation of the ban would be arrested.
- In April, in St. Petersburg, more than 50 members of the LGBT organisation Coming Out joined the international youth event, the Day of Silence, to protest against the silencing of discrimination, humiliation and violence faced by LGBT people and their allies. The event was staged in phases: (i) Day of Silence posters were put on university bulletin boards; (ii) then information leaflets were faxed to the city administration, the courts, the Prosecutor’s Office, Deans’ Offices of universities and the city’s main mass media; and (iii) fi nally a flash mob was held with over 50 people, mouths taped shut with red tape, walking along the Nevsky Prospect (the main boulevard in St. Petersburg), and handing out over 1000 leaflets. Public reaction was generally positive and a minor run-in with the police was quickly resolved.
- In May, the fi rst offi cially sanctioned mass action of the LGBT community took place in St. Petersburg. 150 human rights defenders and supporters of the LGBT community, including parents of gays and lesbians and members of human rights civil society, celebrated IDAHO under the slogans Different people – same values, We are against violence, Born to be ourselves. Three hundred balloons were released to symbolise the organisers’ wish for a diverse world without violence or discrimination. Attempts by opponents to disrupt the event were thwarted by the police. IDAHO in Russia has also been celebrated by a rainbow flash mob in different cities. In 2011, the Russian LGBT Network once again supported the initiative and gave people instructions on how to organise and document a local flash mob.
- In October, an official of the Novosibirsk City Hall refused to grant a permit for a street action aimed at disseminating information about “natural types of sexuality.” The refusal was explained on a number of grounds including provisions relating to morality, ethics, and the possible reaction of the city’s population.
Freedom of association
- In April, the European Court of Human Rights opened the communication stage of the complaint made by Tyumen LGBT organisation Rainbow House against Russia for refusing to register the organisation, and for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In September, responding to the Court’s questions, Russia defended the denial of registration on a number of grounds including those that the organisation’s “propaganda of untraditional sexual orientations” might undermine the safety of Russia, its government, its sovereignty and territorial integrity and its population, as well as provoking social and religious hatred and threatening the institutions of marriage and the stability of the family.
- The first Russian LGBT Sport Federation was registered in September, in St. Petersburg, by the General Office of Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. It aims to organise sports events and projects for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and sports among the LGBT community and others who accept the organisation’s goals. Registration will allow the organisation to advocate for the rights of LGBT sports people under the Russian legal system.
- Four LGBT organisations were refused registration in Moscow.
Freedom of expression
- In Russia, freedom of speech of dissenting voices to official position, and minorities in general is significantly curtailed. In 2011, the situation continued to deteriorate, and LGBT human rights defenders and community have experienced a surge of repression, including through legislative initiatives banning the so called “propaganda of homosexuality.”
- In September, Arkhangelsk adopted a law banning events which “promoted homosexuality,” supporters claiming this was needed to end what they claim to be “promotion of homosexuality” to children which is supposedly damaging for their health and morals. Supporters also considered that the “promotion of homosexuality” would lead to the development of homosexuality in children and a threat to Russia’s birth rate. It is nearly identical to a law passed in 2006 in Ryazan, and under which two human rights defenders were detained and fi ned for carrying around placards saying Homosexuality is normal and I’m proud of my homosexuality. Ask me about it. The Constitutional Court found that the ban did not violate the Constitution because it prohibited “[...] activities toward the purposeful and unregulated dissemination of information that could pose harm to health and moral and spiritual development, like forming distorted ideas about social equivalence between traditional and non- raditional marriage - among those who do not have the benefi t of age to evaluate this kind of information independently.” The human rights defenders have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights but the reasoning of the Constitutional Court has informed the strategy and drafting of subsequent legislation.
- A woman was arrested in Ryazan for “propaganda of homosexuality to minors.” She challenged the arrest and the Human Rights Committee of the UN decided in November that it would hear the case against Russia during the Committee’s July 2012 session in Geneva.
- In November, St. Petersburg legislators voted on the first reading of a bill to ban all “public actions directed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors.” The law would ban “propaganda for sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors” and would lead to fines of up to 3000 roubles for individuals, 5000 roubles for officials and 50,000 roubles for legal entities. It could have the eff ect of outlawing most LGBT activity, including that relating to the promotion of human rights and encouragement of tolerance. By the end of 2011 the bill had successfully passed its first reading but still did not contain a definition of what amounts to “propaganda.” It raised criticism and concern from international and national human rights organisations and was also condemned by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. It will continue its Legislative Assembly passage in 2012.
- In December, the Russian Commission for Human Rights posted a statement to its website stating it knew nothing about the bill and was therefore not able to comment on it, it also did not consider the complaints filed against the law to be correctly constituted complaints as they did not contain specific cases of violations but suggestions that some might be committed in future; finally the Commission claimed that because the wording in the complaints it had received was identical, it amounted to a collective appeal – possibly to paralyse the working of the Commission, and therefore the Commission would only reply directly to the author of the first letter.
Human rights defenders
- In February, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival launched a three-minute video: Coming Out: Your Step towards Equality! in which Russian gay and lesbian people talk openly about their coming out and how relatives and friends came to terms with their child’s, sibling’s or colleague’s sexuality. It covers the various phases of coming out and emphasises the positive feelings that result even if it is initially diffi cult. It was produced as a means of helping gay and lesbian people to come out as well as facilitating acceptance by those around them, thus avoiding what the project coordinator called “[…] a vicious circle living in constant fear of possible disclosure” which makes people vulnerable to intimidation.
- The Week against Homophobia took place towards the end of March, across a range of cities, and included demonstrations, discussions, training sessions and exhibitions with a view to conveying the message of the week which was Love is stronger than hatred. Legal gender recongition In spring, in Novosibirsk, a post- perative transsexual applied for a change of identity papers, producing the necessary medical certifi cates on diagnosis and surgeries, but the Civil Registry Office refused to grant the application. Prior to the application, the Novosibirsk Regional Civil Registry Offi ce had stated that they did change transsexuals’ documentation if applicants submitted medical certifi cates relating to surgery. The applicant changed the documentation using court procedures instead.