Human rights organizations are protesting Thursday’s decision by the Russian Supreme Court to label the “international LGBT movement” as extremist. They point out that no such entity exists and warn against raids against individuals who are inconvenient to the Russian state.
Already in the previous days, it became clear that their fears were not odd. Less than 48 hours after the verdict, Russian police carried out large-scale raids on Moscow’s gay clubs.
Among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans people and other queer people in Russia, fears about the future are growing. The local LGBTQ+ activist Maria Nizova confirmed this to Seznam Zprávám in an interview. He figures he’ll have to watch his every move now or he’ll quickly end up in jail.
“I realized that any careless act of mine could backfire badly. Even teachers at the university can identify me for having a rainbow flag pinned to my backpack,” said the Russian, who was beaten several times in the past for kissing a girl on the street. Now he hopes to save money quickly and finally leave Russia after completing his studies.
How do you view Thursday’s decision of the Russian Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court’s decision is appalling, outrageous and simply against human rights. Until the last moment, I hoped that the president would cancel the law and say that it is too inhumane, that it is not even right in our country. But that didn’t happen. I don’t know how our lives will turn out in the near future, it’s very scary.
On the situation of LGBTQ+ people in Russia:
- In 2013, the Kremlin passed the first law restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ people, known as the “homosexual propaganda” law, which bans any public promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” between minors.
- In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed by President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule for two more terms also included a provision banning same-sex marriage.
- After sending troops to Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin intensified its campaign against Western “slumps”. In the same year, a law was passed banning the propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” between adults, which also effectively banned any public support for LGBTQ+ people.
- Another law passed in 2022 banned official gender reassignment as well as “medical procedures aimed at changing a person’s sex”.
To what extent do you think the new measures will affect everyday LGBTQ life?+ people?
The life of queer people in Russia will change a lot. Literally a few years ago, it seemed that the country was developing, and sooner or later the government would not be equal, but would start treating us with more respect. It looked like the LGBT propaganda law was going to disappear one day. Unfortunately, it only got worse.
Of course, there won’t be any fewer queer people in this country because of this law. We will all be even more quiet. They have finally silenced us and denied us the right to exist.
Are you worried that the Supreme Court decision will result in more arrests and prosecutions?
It’s very scary to imagine how many female activists you know you will run into now. How many wonderful young people end up in the police and then in prison. We were not protected until now and could not avoid being detained by the police, but now they have us in their hands.
Are people trying to protest the tightening of the rules?
As far as I know, there are no protests planned in my city. Everyone is too scared. We are all very scared and it is very difficult for us to remain silent. Now we can very easily end up in jail even if we don’t do anything illegal.
If the authorities find any mention of LGBT or rainbow emoticons or LGBT flags in some forgotten posts on our social networks, they will consider it a manifestation of extremism.
More on the decision of the Russian Supreme Court:
Russia’s Supreme Court granted the Justice Ministry’s request to ban the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization.”
What Russia means by the “LGBT movement” is not exactly clear. Apparently, it is supposed to be initiatives for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and other queer people.
Are you afraid of what effects Thursday’s decision may have on your life?
Of course it affects my life a lot. Even though I lived in a quite peaceful bubble full of positive people until Thursday, it is very difficult for me to talk about anything without, for example, closing my Instagram profile.
I tried to get my social media accounts in order by hiding my facebook and instagram account. I realized that any careless act of mine could backfire badly. Even teachers at university can mistake me for wearing a rainbow flag on my backpack.
I don’t know what would happen if I met someone who was against me and found out about my sexuality. It is very easy to make a case. As careful as I can be, something could always happen that would land me in jail.
Are you thinking about leaving Russia?
Unfortunately, I will not be able to leave the country anytime soon. Last year I was supposed to finish studying English and Spanish at university, but I took a year off due to work. So I won’t be able to move from here for at least another two years.
And it’s not like I’ll be able to go anywhere immediately in those two years. I have to think about it carefully and save enough money, and I don’t know when I will be able to do that. I really hope that right after graduation I will be able to make a deal with a foreign company to get out of the country.
An earlier interview with a Russian LGBT activist:
List News spoke with Russian LGBT activist Maria Nizova almost exactly a year ago, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an amendment to the law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships.”
At the time, she spoke, for example, about the fact that she was afraid that the most vocal Russian activists for the rights of sexual minorities would get into trouble because of the new law. And Russian society will become angrier and more fragmented due to the tightening of the ban on the so-called promotion of homosexuality.
Do you think further tightening of the rules will lead to a mass exodus of LGBTQ+ people from Russia?
In the last two years, many of them have left the country, and now, of course, another wave of emigrants is expected. I don’t know what strength is needed to escape now. Everyone is parched and exhausted from the war situation, simply tired.
How does ordinary Russian society react to the decision of the Supreme Court?
I don’t think the masses care about him. As if nothing has changed for them. But, of course, progressives are absolutely horrified and trying to give us support.