LGBT rights in Russia

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Russian Federation (orthographic projection) - Crimea disputed.svg
StatusDecriminalised in 1917; re-criminalised in 1933; legal since 1993[1]
Age of consent stands at 16 since 2003. Legalization ignored in Chehnya. Vigilante executions, torture, and abduction allowed.
Gender identityLegal gender change since 1997[note 1]
MilitaryNon-official policy "Don't ask, don't tell" since 2003[2][3]
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo Recognition of same-sex unions in Russia
AdoptionNo legal restrictions to adopt by a single person.[note 2]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private was decriminalized in 1993,[1] homosexuality is disapproved of by most Russians, and same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. There are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in Russia. Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender following sex reassignment surgery, however, there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression and recent laws could discriminate against transgender residents. Homosexuality has been declassified as a mental illness since 1999 and although gays and lesbians are legally allowed to serve openly in the military, there is a de facto "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Russia has been viewed as being socially conservative regarding homosexuality, with recent polls indicating that a majority of Russians are against the acceptance of homosexuality and have shown support for laws discriminating against homosexuals. About 40% support either isolation or mandatory commitment for them, while 5% support execution.[4] Despite receiving international criticism for the recent increase in social discrimination, crimes, and violence against homosexuals, larger cities such as Moscow[5] and Saint Petersburg[6] have been said to have a thriving LGBT community. However, there has been a historic resistance to gay pride parades by local governments; despite being fined by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 for interpreting it as discrimination, the city of Moscow denied 100 individual requests for permission to hold Moscow Pride through 2012, citing a risk of violence against participants.

Since 2006, numerous regions in Russia have enacted varying laws restricting the distribution of materials promoting LGBT relationships to minors; in June 2013, a federal law criminalizing the distribution of materials among minors in support of non-traditional sexual relationships, was enacted as an amendment to an existing child protection law.[7] The law has resulted in the numerous arrests of Russian LGBT citizens publicly opposing the law and there has reportedly been a surge of anti-gay protests, violence, and even hate crimes, many of whom use the law as justification.[citation needed] It has received international criticism from human rights lit observers, LGBT activists, and media outlets and has been viewed as de facto means of criminalizing LGBT culture.[8] Russian historian and human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva has called it "a step toward the Middle Ages."[8] In January 2016, the State Duma rejected a proposal by the Communist Party to punish people who publicly express their homosexuality with fines and arrests.[9]

In a report issued on April 13, 2017, a panel of five expert advisors to the United Nations Human Rights CouncilVitit Muntarbhorn, Sètondji Roland Adjovi; Agnès Callamard; Nils Melzer; and David Kaye—condemned the wave of torture and killings of gay men in Chechnya.[10][11]


Current situation[edit]

  • The age of consent currently stands at 16 since 2003, regardless of sexual orientation.
  • Transsexual and transgender people can change their legal gender after corresponding medical procedures since 1997.[note 1]
  • Homosexuality was officially removed from the Russian list of mental illnesses in 1999 (after the endorsement of ICD-10).
  • As far as adoptions of children: Single persons living within Russia, regardless of their sexual orientation, can adopt children. Russian children can be adopted by a single homosexual who lives in a foreign country provided that country does not recognize same-sex marriage.[12] A couple can adopt children together, as a couple, only if they are a married heterosexual couple. For more information about the daily reality of same-sex couples with children in Russia, read this article.

  • Russian Constitution guarantees the right of peaceful association.[13] Nevertheless, organs of authority in Russia refuse to register LGBT organizations.[14][15][16][16][17][18]

Anti-gay sentiment in Russia: Public opinion in Russia tends to be hostile toward homosexuality and the level of intolerance has been rising.[19] A 2013 survey found that 74% of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society (up from 60% in 2002), compared to 16% who said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.[20] In a 2007 survey, 68% of Russians said homosexuality is always wrong (54%) or almost always wrong (14%).[21] In a 2005 poll, 44% of Russians were in favor of making homosexual acts between consenting adults a criminal act;[22] at the same time, 43% of Russians supported a legal ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[22] In 2013, 16% of Russians surveyed said that gay people should be isolated from society, 22% said they should be forced to undergo treatment, and 5% said homosexuals should be "liquidated".[4] In Russian psychiatry, Soviet mentality about homosexuality has endured into the present day.[23] For instance, in spite of the removal of homosexuality from the nomenclature of mental disorders, 62.5% of 450 surveyed psychiatrists in the Rostov Region view it as an illness, and up to three quarters view it as immoral behavior.[23] The psychiatrists sustain the objections to pride parades and the use of veiled schemes to lay off openly lesbian and gay persons from schools, child care centers, and other public institutions.[23] A Russian motorcycle club called the Night Wolves, which is closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and which suggests "Death to faggots" as an alternate name for itself,[24] organized a large Anti-Maidan rally in February 2015 at which a popular slogan was "We don't need Western ideology and gay parades!"[25]

Restrictive legislation in Russia: In 2013, Russia amended its federal law on the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development.[note 3] This punished the promotion of 'non-traditional sexual relations' to minors with fines and administrative sanctions. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information and Mass Media issued guidelines explaining that this can include the positive portrayal or approval of people with 'non-traditional sexual relations' – namely LGBT people.[26] Among other repercussions, the law led to the closure of the Children 404 website – the only public source of counselling and support for LGBT children in the country.[27]

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern that, although intended to protect children, the law 'encourages the stigmatization of and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, including children, and children from LGBTI families'. The Committee recommended that the law should be repealed.[28][27]

Same-sex marriage: Neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions of same-sex couples are allowed in Russia. In July 2013, Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which approximately 41% of Russians are adherents,[29] said that the idea of same-sex marriage was "a very dangerous sign of the Apocalypse".[30] At a 2011 press conference, the head of the Moscow Registry Office, Irina Muravyova, declared: "Attempts by same-sex couples to marry both in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia are doomed to fail. We live in a civil society, we are guided by the federal law, [and] by the Constitution that clearly says: marriage in Russia is between a man and a woman. Such a marriage [same-sex] cannot be contracted in Russia."[31] The vast majority of the Russian public are also against same-sex marriage.[22][32]

Military service: According to reporting in, in the past some young Russians would claim they were gay as a pretense to avoid military service duty.[33] The Major-General of the Medical Service attempted to change that in 2003 when he announced that under a new statute, homosexuality would not be a justification for exclusion from military service: "The issue of a person's homosexuality is not medical. There is no such diagnosis as homosexuality in medicine. There is no such illness in the classification of [the] World Health Organization. The new statute about military and medical expertise follows international law practice. Therefore the reasons for evaluating the ability to serve for homosexuals are the same: physical and mental health".[33] However, he added that people of non-standard sexual orientation should not reveal their sexual orientation while serving in the army because "other soldiers are not going to like that, they can be beaten".[33] President Vladimir Putin said in a U.S. television interview in 2010 that openly gay men were not excluded from military service in Russia.[34] In 2013, it was reported that the Defense Ministry had issued a guideline on assessment of new recruits' mental health that recommends recruits be asked about their sexual history and be examined for certain types of tattoos, especially genital or buttocks tattoos, that would allegedly indicate a homosexual orientation.[34][35]

LGBT activists in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1 May 2017

Visibility of LGBT organizations & services: There is a visible LGBT community network, mostly in major cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg, including nightclubs and political organizations.[citation needed]

Gay pride events: There have been notable objections to the organization of gay pride parades[36] in several Russian cities, most prominently Moscow, where authorities have never approved a request to hold a gay pride rally.[37] Former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov supported the city's refusal to authorize the first two editions of Nikolay Alexeyev's Moscow Pride events, calling them as "satanic". The events still went on as planned, in defiance of their lack of authorization.[38][39] In 2010, Russia was fined by the European Court of Human Rights, ruling that, as alleged by Alexeyev, Russian cities were discriminating against gays by refusing to authorize pride parades. Although authorities had claimed allowing pride events to be held would pose a risk of violence, the Court ruled that their decisions "effectively approved of and supported groups who had called for [their] disruption."[40] In August 2012, contravening the previous ruling, the Moscow City Court upheld a ruling blocking requests by the organizers of Moscow Pride for authorization to hold the parade yearly through 2012, citing the possibility of public disorder and a lack of support for such events by residents of Moscow.[41][42][43][44]

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) with Chechnya's parliamentary chairman Magomed Daudov

Anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation, have included forced disappearances — secret abductions, imprisonment, and torture — by authorities targeting persons based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of men, who authorities detained on suspicion of being gay or bisexual, have reportedly died after being held in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.[45][46]

Allegations were initially reported on 1 April 2017 in Novaya Gazeta,[47] a Russian-language opposition newspaper, which reported that since February 2017 over 100 men had allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three had died in an extrajudicial killing. The paper, citing its sources in the Chechen special services, called the wave of detentions a "prophylactic sweep".[47][48] The journalist who first reported on the subject went into hiding.[49][50] There have been calls for reprisals against journalists who report on the situation.[51]

As news spread of Chechen authorities' actions, which have been described as part of a systematic anti-LGBT purge, Russian and international activists scrambled to evacuate survivors of the camps and other vulnerable Chechens but were met with difficulty obtaining visas to conduct them safely beyond Russia.[52]

The reports of the persecution were met with a variety of reactions worldwide. The Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov denied not only the occurrence of any persecution but also the existence of gay men in Chechnya, adding that such people would be killed by their own families.[53][54] Officials in Moscow were sceptical, although in late May the Russian government reportedly agreed to send an investigative team to Chechnya.[55] Numerous national leaders and other public figures in the West condemned Chechnya's actions, and protests were held in Russia and elsewhere. A report released in December 2018 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed claims that persecution of LGBT persons had taken place and was ignored by authorities.[56][57]

On 11 January 2019, it was reported that another 'gay purge' had begun in the country in December 2018, with several gay men and women being detained.[58][59][60][61][62] The Russian LGBT Network believes that around 40 persons were detained and two killed.[63][64]

Public opinion[edit]

Support for same-sex marriage in the Russian Federation (2019 poll)[65]

  Against (87%)
  For (7%)
  Other (6%)

Russia has traditionally been socially conservative on LGBT rights, with 2013 polls indicating a large majority of Russians oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and support for laws restricting the distribution of "propaganda" that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships.[66][67]

In 2019, a survey showed that 47% of Russian respondents agreed that "gays and lesbians should enjoy the same rights as other citizens," while 43 percent disagreed, a rise from 39% in 2013. This marks the highest level of support in 14 years.[68][69]

In 2019, a poll showed that only 2% would show interest and a willingness to communicate if the neighbour was a homosexual couple or a member of a religious sect, the last of the category of people presented.[70]

According to a 2019 poll carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), 7% of Russians agreed that same-sex marriages should be allowed in Russia, while 87% opposed the idea.[65]

Demographics Support for same-sex marriage[65]
Yes No
Total 7% 87%
Male 5% 89%
Female 8% 85%
18–30 12% 82%
31–45 6% 90%
46–60 7% 87%
60 and older 3% 88%
Federal district
Central 9% 84%
– Moscow 11% 80%
North West 10% 84%
South 2% 94%
North Caucasus 4% 90%
Volga 8% 83%
Ural 6% 88%
Siberia 6% 89%
Far East 5% 89%

Employment discrimination[edit]

Anton Krasovsky, an HIV-positive television news anchor at government-run KontrTV, was immediately fired[71][72] from his job in January 2013 when he announced during a live broadcast that he is gay and disgusted by the national anti-gay "propaganda" legislation that had been proposed although had not yet passed.[30][73]

In September 2013, a Khabarovsk teacher and gay rights activist, Alexander Yermoshkin, was fired from his two jobs as school teacher and university researcher.[74] A week earlier, he had been attacked by members of a local neo-nazi group "Shtolz Khabarovsk".[75] A homophobic activist group called "Movement against the propaganda of sexual perversions" had campaigned for his dismissal.[76]

Viewpoints of political parties[edit]

The federal law banning LGBT propaganda among minors was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma; as the bill amended an existing child protection law, it is difficult to know whether or not all of the MPs, and their respective political parties, supported every aspect of the bill or not. A few political parties without members in the Duma have expressed some limited support for LGBT rights.

Yabloko is a member of the Liberal International, and has organized public demonstrations against intolerance under the banner of building a "Russia without pogroms."[77]

The Libertarian Party of Russia, formed in 2007, has objected to the government ban on "gay propaganda" as a violation of people's right to freedom of speech.[78]

In 2016, two openly gay men ran for seats in the Russian duma. While they admit that they probably will not win a seat, they were supported by a liberal coalition. They are also probably the first openly gay candidates to run for seats in the Russian parliament.[79]

The LGBT rights organisation has been monitoring since 2011 homophobic political parties.[80] In the middle of 2013 their list included:[81] United Russia, Communist Party of Russian Federation, Narodnaya Volya, National Bolshevik Party, National Bolshevik Front, Patriots of Russia, Eurasian Youth Union and Fair Russia.

Hate crimes[edit]

Activists in Madrid protest LGBT rights violations in Russia

Unlike in many western nations, LGBT persons in Russia are not protected by specific legal protections. Violent criminal acts carried out against these persons are prosecuted as criminal offenses under Russian law, but the fact that these crimes are motivated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim is not considered an aggravating factor when the court determines the sentence. Among the more vicious crimes that would qualify as hate crimes outside of Russia and are reported in the press would include the following;

  • On 9 May 2013, after Victory Day parades in Volgograd, the body of a 23-year-old man was found tortured and murdered by three males who stated anti-homosexual motivations, even though family and friends state the victim had no behavior inclination.[82]
  • On 29 May 2013, the body of 38-year-old deputy director of Kamchatka airport Oleg Serdyuk (rus: Олег Сердюк) was found in his burned out car, having been beaten and stabbed the previous day.[83] Local authorities said the murder was motivated by homophobia.[84] Three suspects (who were local residents) were tried and sentenced to prison terms of 9 to 12 years.[85]
  • From October 2013 – February 2014, anti-gay attacks targeting the LGBT community in Moscow were reported at Russia's largest gay nightclub Central Station, including gunfire and gas attacks. Several attacks and victim responses were documented in an ABC News Nightline special "Moscow is Burning".[86][87] Several employees subsequently left the country.[88]

Transgender issues[edit]

In Tsarist Russia, young women would sometimes pose as men or act like tomboys. This was often tolerated among the educated middle classes, with the assumption that such behavior was asexual and would stop when the girl married.[89] However, cross-dressing was widely seen as sexually immoral behavior, punishable by God promoted through the Church and later criminalized by the government.[89]

In Soviet Russia, sex reassignment surgeries were first tried during the 1920s[citation needed] but became prohibited until the 1960s. Later they were performed by Prof. Irina Golubeva, an endocrinologist, authorized by psychiatrist Prof. Aron Belkin, who was the strongest Soviet advocate for transgender people until his death in 2003.[89]

On 29 December 2014, Russia passed a road safety law, allowing the government to deny driver's licenses to people with several classes of mental disorders according to ICD-10.[90] Class "F60-69 Disorders of adult personality and behaviour" includes "F64 Transsexualism"[91] Russian and foreign critics perceived the law as a ban on transgender drivers: journalist Yelena Masyuk questioned the relevance of a person's transgender identity in regards to their ability to drive.[92][93] On 14 January 2015, Russia's Health Ministry clarified the law, stating that it would only deny licenses to those with disorders that would impair their ability to drive safely, and explicitly stated that one's sexual orientation would not be considered a factor under the law, as it is not considered a psychiatric disorder.[94] The World Health Organization also stated that it planned to review its list of "sexual disorders" to account for modern developments.[95] As of August 2018, the ICD-11 lists this condition as "gender incongruence", under "conditions related to sexual health", coded into three conditions:[96]

  • Gender incongruence of adolescence or adulthood (HA60): replaces F64.0
  • Gender incongruence of childhood (HA61): replaces F64.2
  • Gender incongruence, unspecified (HA6Z): replaces F64.9

In addition, sexual maturation disorder has been removed, along with dual-role transvestism.[97] ICD-11 defines gender incongurence as "a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex", with presentations similar to the DSM-V definition, but does not require significant distress or impairment.

Propaganda bans[edit]

Displayed in      are countries where homosexuality is not illegal, but where freedom of speech and expression is generally censored or prohibited. Russia, as well as other countries, namely China and Iraq, are listed in this category.

Federal laws passed on 29 June 2013 ban the distribution of "propaganda" to minors which promotes "non-traditional sexual relationships".[98] Critics contend the law makes illegal holding any sort of public demonstration in favour of gay rights, speak in defence of LGBT rights, and distribute material related to LGBT culture, or to state that same-sex relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.[99][100][101][102] Additionally the laws have received international condemnation from human rights campaigners, and media outlets that even display of LGBT symbols, such as the rainbow flag, have resulted in arrests, and incited homophobic violence, like is documented in the Channel 4 documentary Hunted which followed anti-gay groups as they lured young gay men into traps where they were humiliated, with the footage later posted online.[7]

Regional laws[edit]

Ten Russian regions passed laws banning the distribution of "propaganda" relating to homosexuality, and/or other LGBT relationships, to minors.
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality and bisexuality
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality

Between 2006 and 2013, ten regions enacted a ban on "propaganda of homosexualism" among minors. The laws of nine of them prescribe punishments of administrative sanctions and/or fines. The laws in some of the regions also forbid so-called "propaganda of bisexualism and transgenderism" to minors. As of May 2013 the regions that had enacted these various laws, and the years in which they had passed the laws, included: Ryazan Oblast (2006), Arkhangelsk Oblast (2011), Saint Petersburg (2012), Kostroma Oblast (2012), Magadan Oblast (2012), Novosibirsk Oblast (2012), Krasnodar Krai (2012), Samara Oblast (2012), Bashkortostan (2012),[note 4] and Kaliningrad Oblast (February 2013).[note 5] Then, Arkhangelsk (2013) and Saint Petersburg (2014) removed the law.

In 2019, Russia cut and censored gay sex scenes in the movie musical "Rocketman" based on the life of British singer Elton John. A decision he criticized saying it is "cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people."[103]

National laws[edit]

In June 2013 the national parliament (the State Duma) unanimously adopted, and President Vladimir Putin signed,[104] a nationwide law banning distribution of materials promoting LGBT relationships among minors.[8][98][105][106][107] The law does not explicitly mention the word "homosexuality", but instead uses the euphemism "non-traditional sexual relationships".[8][108] Under the statute it is effectively illegal to perform any of the following in the presence of minors: hold gay pride events, speak in favor of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.[8][102][105][106][107]

The law subjects Russian citizens found guilty to fines of up to 5,000 rubles and public officials to fines of up to 50,000 rubles.[109] Organizations or businesses will be fined up to 1 million rubles and be forced to cease operations for up to 90 days. Foreigners may be arrested and detained for up to 15 days then deported, as well as fined up to 100,000 rubles. Russian citizens who have used the Internet or media to promote "non-traditional relations" will be fined up to 100,000 rubles.[8]

The statute amended a law that is said to protect children from pornography and other "harmful information".[104] One of the authors of the statute, Yelena Mizulina, who is the chair of the Duma's Committee on Family, Women, and Children and who has been described by some as a moral crusader,[110][111][112] told lawmakers as the bill was being considered, "Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman.... These relations need special protection".[102] Mizulina argued that a recent poll had shown 88% of the public were in support of the bill.[113]

Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, Vitaly Milonov. Milonov is interviewed in the 2014 American documentary film Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda.

Commenting on the bill prior to its passage, President Putin said, during a visit to Amsterdam in April 2013, "I want everyone to understand that in Russia there are no infringements on sexual minorities' rights. They're people, just like everyone else, and they enjoy full rights and freedoms".[108] He went on to say that he fully intended to sign the bill because the Russian people demanded it.[102] As he put it, "Can you imagine an organization promoting pedophilia in Russia? I think people in many Russian regions would have started to take up arms.... The same is true for sexual minorities: I can hardly imagine same-sex marriages being allowed in Chechnya. Can you imagine it? It would have resulted in human casualties."[102] Putin also mentioned that he was concerned about Russia's low birth-rate and that same-sex relationships do not produce children.[104]

Critics say that the statute is written so broadly that it is in effect a complete ban on the gay rights movement and any public expression of LGBT culture.[30][102][108]

In July 2013, four Dutch tourists were arrested for allegedly discussing gay rights with Russian youths. The four were arrested for allegedly spreading "propaganda of nontraditional relationships among the under-aged" after talking to teens at a camp in the northern city of Murmansk.[114]

In March 2018 the Russian authorities forbad the biggest gay website because of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships".[115]

Domestic reactions[edit]

Saint Petersburg, 1 May 2014

According to a survey conducted in June 2013 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), at least 90% of those surveyed were in favor of the law.[30][116]

Some of Russia's biggest stars, including Dima Bilan, Philipp Kirkorov and Nikolay Baskov, voiced their opposition to the laws. Other stars such as Valeriya support the anti-gay laws.[117] In February 2012, the feminist protest band Pussy Riot put on a controversial performance within Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior to protest the Orthodox Church's political support of President Vladimir Putin, which included his stance on LGBT rights in Russia. Weeks after the performance, three members of the band were arrested and charged with "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred", which then sparked a global protest movement against the trio's arrest.[118]

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, responding to questions raised in the international community about the implications of the new law on the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi said the controversy over Russia's anti-gay propaganda law is an "invented problem" created by the Western media[119] and that the law does not discriminate against anyone.[120] He said that the law is intended to protect the right of children, whose young minds are still developing, from being exposed to propaganda about non-traditional sexual relationships, in the same way that children should be protected from messages promoting alcoholism and drug abuse.[120] He also said that the rights of all Olympic athletes, organisers, and visitors in Sochi would be respected. "An athlete of non-traditional sexual orientation isn't banned from coming to Sochi. But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable".[121]

The screenplay writer, Yuri Arabov, who was working on a new biopic of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (never released), claimed that "it is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual," this is held in tension with the majority of scholars that acknowledge Tchaikovsky was definitely homosexual.[122] He further added that he would "not sign my name to a film that advertises homosexuality".[122] The film had been given Russian government funding, and Arabov's claim was reinforced by Russia's culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, who when questioned on the issue claimed: "Arabov is actually right – there is no evidence that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual."[123] Scholars have pointed out that Tchaikovsky's homosexuality is in fact extensively documented in the composer's personal papers and correspondence.[123][124] There has been speculation in the Western press that the removal of all evidence of Tchaikovsky's homosexuality in the film – promoted by its director Kirill Serebrennikov as "the true story of the tragic love and death of the brilliant Russian composer" - was in response to Russia's anti-gay propaganda law.[122][123][124][125][note 6] Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the passing of the law as "a step toward the Middle Ages."[8]

On 12 October 2013 a demonstration was organised by 15 to 20 LGBT rights activists in Russia's second largest city Saint Petersburg against the new law banning "homosexual propaganda" on the day after the National Coming Out Day.[127][128] The demonstration was blocked by far-right groups, such as radical Orthodox Christians, Cossack paramilitaries and nationalists.[129] After a fight broke out between the groups, the police arrested 67 people from the two opposing groups.[129]

Political parties in Russia have generally been reluctant to oppose this or other discriminatory policies against the LGBT community due to prevailing public opinion and the fact that the current laws effectively criminalize public support for LGBT-rights. Only a handful of small political parties have expressed any support for LGBT-rights.

The Libertarian Party of Russia sees the ban on "promoting" homosexuality as a violation of the right to the freedom of speech and expression.[citation needed]

International reactions and boycott[edit]

Activists painted the pedestrian pavement in front of the Russian Embassy in Finland with rainbow colors to protest Russian's anti-LGBT sentimentality and legislation. Similar activism has been done in Sweden.
Activists in New York City protest LGBT rights violations in Russia

International human rights organisations and the governments of developed democracies around the world have strongly condemned this Russian law.[130][131][132][133] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned this Russian statute and another similar one in Moldova (which was later repealed) as discriminatory and has made clear that the Russian statute in question is a violation of international human rights law, including the right of gay children to receive proper information.[134][135][136][137][138] The European Parliament has condemned Russia for homophobic discrimination and censorship[139] and the Council of Europe has called on Russia to protect LGBT rights properly.[140] The European Court of Human Rights had previously fined Russia for other infringements of LGBT rights.[141] In 2012 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that a similar statute in the Russia's Ryazan Region was discriminatory, infringed on freedom of expression, and was inadmissible under international law—a Russian court in Ryazan later agreed and struck it down.[142][143] Some members of the gay community commenced a boycott of Russian goods, particularly Russian vodka.[144] Notable individuals have also responded to that ban.

Activists in Berlin protest LGBT rights violations in Russia

Many Western celebrities and activists are openly opposed to the law and have encouraged a boycott of Russian products—notably Russian vodka—as well as a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which were scheduled to be held in Sochi, unless the Games were relocated out of Russia.[145][146][147][148] The boycott against Stolichnaya vodka was called off after the owners publicly explained they were not a Russian company after all, were supporters of the LGBT community, and were opposed to the anti-gay laws. Also a game to dress up Putin as a gay man was released during Sochi's Olympics to support the LGBT community and reached more than 500,000 players.[149][150] Tying into the international spotlight of the February 2014 Olympic games, months of protests took place before the Games, with many campaigns targeted at the worldwide Olympic sponsors.

Activists protest LGBT rights violations in Russia during a 2015 rally in Cologne, Germany
Political figures[edit]

United States President Barack Obama said that while he did not favour boycotting the Sochi Olympics over the law, "Nobody's more offended than me about some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia".[151] Obama subsequently, in September 2013, met with Russian gay rights activists during a visit to St. Petersburg to attend a meeting of the G-20 nations' leaders. Obama said that he was proud of the work the activists were doing. His aides had said that Obama's opposition to the anti-gay propaganda law was one reason Obama had canceled a meeting previously planned to have been held with Russian President Putin during the trip.[151]

The law was also condemned by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German cabinet secretaries,[152] British Prime Minister David Cameron,[153] Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr,[154] as well as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.[155]

  • In 2013, pop singer Madonna, during a concert in St. Petersburg, denounced a newly enacted local law banning homosexual "propaganda". She told the audience, "I am here to say that the gay community and gay people here and all around the world have the same rights – to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love".[156] In a Facebook posting, she had called the law a "ridiculous atrocity".[157] Conservative groups filed a lawsuit against her seeking the equivalent of nearly $11 million, arguing that her performance would hurt Russia's birthrate and, as a result, the nation's ability to adequately maintain its army.[156] One of the claimants said at the trial that although Madonna had "brutally violated" the city's laws, the precedent of the lawsuit would ensure that in the future "any artist coming to our city will know now what laws exist".[156] The day the case was heard, a member of the Russian parliament said that the singer Lady Gaga, who was due to perform in St. Petersburg the following month, should be banned from performing the song "Born This Way" during her Born This Way concert tour stop in Russia.[158] The case against Madonna was dismissed by the presiding judge.[158][159]
  • British actress Tilda Swinton tweeted a picture of herself with a rainbow flag with Moscow in background, adding in comment: "In solidarity. From Russia with love".[160]
  • Polish singer and Eurovision Song Contest 2010 contestant Marcin Mroziński cancelled his concert in Russia due to the worsening situation of the LGBT community.[161]
  • American singer Lady Gaga condemned the Russian government for its increasingly anti-gay policies in August 2013.[162] One of the sponsors of the St. Petersburg municipal law against homosexual propaganda requested that Lady Gaga and Madonna both be investigated to see whether either had violated immigration or tax laws during their 2012 concerts in St Petersburg.[162]
  • In December 2013, Elton John told fans at a Moscow concert that the laws were "inhumane and isolating" and he was "deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation."[163] In a January 2014 interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Elton John in an attempt to show that there was no gay discrimination in Russia, stating; "Elton John – he's an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation."[164] Elton responded by offering to introduce the President to Russians abused under Russian legislation banning "homosexual propaganda".[164]
  • British actor Stephen Fry published on his website an open letter to the International Olympic Committee advocating the boycotting and relocation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in Sochi.[147]
  • Several prominent entertainers, including Stephen Fry,[165] American television talk-show host and comedian Jay Leno,[30] American actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein,[166] and American author and gay-rights activist Dan Savage,[166] drew parallels between the treatment of LGBT people in Russia and the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany in the years leading up to The Holocaust. Fierstein, who is Jewish, wrote in a July 2013 op-ed article in The New York Times:
In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler's campaign against the Jews. Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.[167]
  • In 2013 Swedish Olympic athlete Emma Green Tregaro painted her nails in the rainbow flag colours during the 2013 World Championships in Moscow as an act of defiance against Russia's recent ban on "gay propaganda".[107][175] Russian Olympic pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva condemned Tregaro's action at a press conference, but later said she "had been misunderstood due to her poor English".[176][177]
  • New Zealand Olympic speedskater Blake Skjellerup announced his intention of wearing a rainbow-coloured gay-pride pin from the 2012 Olympic Games when he competes at the 2014 Games in Sochi.[178] Skjellerup said that he does not support a boycott of the Sochi Olympics because he and other athletes have worked so hard to compete at the Games. However, he said strongly opposes the anti-gay propaganda law: "I don't think anybody should be persecuted".[178]
  • American basketball player John Amaechi said that the Winter Olympics "shouldn't even be in Russia" but a boycott of the Games isn't practical as it would hurt the athletes.[179]
  • On 21 August 2013 Dagbladet reported that the painting over of pedestrian crossing markings near Russia's embassy in Oslo—in the rainbow colors—was a "mild" protest.[180] Furthermore, the same form of protest appeared in Stockholm earlier in the same month and in Helsinki during September.[181][182]
  • In September 2013, same-sex "kiss-in's" were held in 50 cities worldwide in protest against Russia's anti-gay laws.[183]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No Legal since 1993. In Chechnya, vigilante executions are tolerated,[184] as well as torture and abduction.[185] In Chechnya, punishments up to torture and death where homosexuals are abducted and sent to concentration camps based on their perceived sexual orientation. See Gay concentration camps in Chechnya for more information.
Equal age of consent (16) Yes since 1993[note 7]/ No No in Chechnya
Freedom of expression No Federal ban on distribution of "propaganda" for "non-traditional" relationships to under-18s; some regions have legislation banning "propaganda of homosexuality, bisexuality and/or transgenderism"
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (including indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage(s) No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Adoption by single homosexuals in Russia or (in case of Russian children) in foreign countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage Yes No legal restrictions based on sexual orientation for single people to adopt[note 2]
Adoption of Russian children by single homosexuals or same-sex couples in foreign countries that do recognise same-sex marriage No (illegal since 2013[12])
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Gays allowed to serve openly in the military No Gay people can serve in the military, however, there is an unofficial "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.[2][3]
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 1997[note 1])
MSM allowed to donate blood Yes (Since 2008[187])/ No not allowed in Chechnya

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Federal Law On Acts of Civil Status (1997) provides for the possibility to rectify acts of civil status based on the document confirming sex transformation issued by a health institution (art.70). Also, transgender people can change their passport on the grounds of sex transformation. See the Administrative Legislation section of the Russian LGBT Network 2009 Report.
  2. ^ a b Adoption is regulated by the Civil Procedure Code of Russia (Chapter 29); Family Code of Russia (Chapter 19); Federal Law On Acts of Civil Status (Chapter V). None of these documents contain any direct restriction or ban for homosexual people to adopt, though unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt children (Article 127.2 of the Family Code of Russia), and since same-sex marriage is not officially recognized, gay couples cannot adopt children together; nevertheless, single individuals can adopt (see also the Parent Relations section of the Russian LGBT Network 2009 Report). The Court makes the decision to allow or deny adoption considering many documents and testimonies, so it is unclear whether LGBT affiliation of the candidate adopter can be in fact an issue for a judge to make a negative decision.
  3. ^ Federal Law of 29 June 2013: 'On the introduction of amendments to Article 5 of the Federal Law', 'On the protection of children from information liable to be injurious to their health and development' and individual legislative documents of the Russian Federation aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values (no. 135-FZ).
  4. ^ Bashkortostan is the only region where the law does not include any kind of administrative sanctions or fines.
  5. ^ Kaliningrad Oblast's measure bans "propaganda of homosexualism" not only among minors, but among the population in general.
  6. ^ The Guardian reported that, late in 2012, the director Kirill Serebrennikov had admitted to the cinema website KinoPoisk that he was having trouble finding funding due to officials' concerns about the composer's homosexuality.[126]
  7. ^ The age of consent for homosexual acts was never specifically mentioned in the old Criminal Code of RSFSR, which was replaced with the new Criminal Code of Russia in 1996, and this new Code mentions the age of consent regardless of sexual orientation (although harsher penalties applies in case of an illicit same-sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16) in Article 134.[186]


Definition of Free Cultural Works logo notext.svg This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 License statement: Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, 45, UNESCO, UNESCO. UNESCO. To learn how to add open license text to Wikipedia articles, please see this how-to page. For information on reusing text from Wikipedia, please see the terms of use.


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Sources with multiple references[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Engle, Eric Allen (2013). "Gay Rights in Russia? Russia's Ban on Gay Pride Parades and the General Principle of Proportionality in International Law". Journal of Eurasian Law. 6 (2): 165–186. SSRN 2296803.
  • Clark, F. (2014). "Discrimination against LGBT people triggers health concerns." Lancet, 383(9916), 500-502.

External links[edit]