Homosexuality is being recriminalised in Russia. Homophobic laws are already in place in Arkhangelsk, Kostroma and Ryazan, and St. Petersburg joined these cities last week by passing an anti-homosexual ‘propaganda’ bill, meaning that any non-heterosexual couple caught in a public display of affection can be fined up to $170 – all under the umbrella of needing to protect minors from being influenced by such sights. Canada has been the first international government to cause a stir over this, by advising gay travelers on its website to avoid displaying affection in public, ‘as homosexuals can be targets of violence’. This warning is not explicitly related to the new law, either, but acknowledges a more general social disapproval, noting Russia’s reputation for violent homophobia. It isn’t just a backwards step for freedom of expression, but also for St. Petersburg’s tourism industry, the National Post drily notes: ‘The loss is Russia’s [...] because gay travellers tend to spend twice as much as straight travellers while on vacation.’
Madonna has just promised to use her upcoming appearance in St. Petersburg for a concert in August to promote gay rights in the city: ‘I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity,’ she said.
It is particularly upsetting that this new law has been passed the same week that the Dalny police station in Kazan has come under close scrutiny for torture practices after horrific details emerged about the rape of detainee Sergei Nazarov, who died from internal injuries as a result of his attack. The psychological correlation between Russia’s outlawing of homosexual acts and the violent underground disfiguration of those acts in rape (which is appearing as a more prevalent practice in the police system than previously thought) is disturbing: the implication being that, when natural human impulses are denigrated and dismissed as wrong, unnatural or dangerous, those impulses have to be repressed. But repression, instead of destroying the impulse, only pressurises it, until it is driven to seek expression through violent, covert methods. The most sickening irony, of course, being that the very acts that the law seeks to hide are the ones being carried out, albeit sadistically and violently, by its own officers.
See today’s Kazan Herald for a summary of official responses to the Nazarov case, which tries to see some kind of hope for the future, at very least in relation to the speed with which the officers involved have been dealt with and the fact that Nazarov’s death was not covered up as it likely would have been in recent years.