Russian court bans ‘LGBT movement’ as “extremist”

Home*Cover Story*International

Russian court bans ‘LGBT movement’ as “extremist”

Russia’s Supreme Court has declared what it calls “the international LGBT public movement” an extremist organisation and banned its activities across the country.

The ruling was prompted by a motion from the justice ministry, even though no such organisation exists as a legal entity.

The hearing was held behind closed doors, but reporters were allowed in to hear the court’s decision. Nobody from “the defendant’s side” had been present, the court said.

Russia’s constitution was changed three years ago to make it clear that marriage means a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex unions are not recognised there.

Ahead of the ruling, Sergei Troshin, a municipal deputy in St Petersburg who came out as gay last year, said: “I think this will mean that anyone whom the state considers an LGBT activist could receive a long prison sentence for ‘participating in an extremist organisation’.

“For the organiser of such a group, the prison term will be even longer.

“This is real repression. There is panic in Russia’s LGBT community. People are emigrating urgently. The actual word we’re using is evacuation. We’re having to evacuate from our own country. It’s terrible.”

In recent years Russia’s LGBT community has come under increasing pressure from the authorities. In 2013, a law was adopted prohibiting “the propaganda [amongst minors] of non-traditional sexual relations”.

Last year, those restrictions were extended to all age groups in Russia. References to LGBT people have been deleted from books, films, adverts and TV shows. Earlier this month, one Russian TV channel discoloured a rainbow in a South Korean pop video, to avoid being accused of violating the “gay propaganda” law.

At the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, Vitaly Milonov, a famously homophobic MP from the ruling party, United Russia, said the ban on LGBT groups was “not about sexual minorities or the private life of individuals”.

“It’s more about the political agenda proclaimed by this LGBT international movement,” he told me.

“They have their own tasks, their own goals. They act as a political force, a political structure and the goals of this structure contravene the Russian Constitution.”