Persecution of LGBTI+ people in Russia: Increasing repressions 2021-2022

18.05.2022

It has been almost a decade since the repressive laws on “foreign agents” (2012) and “gay propaganda” (2013) were adopted. At the time of their adoption, defenders of the rights of LGBTI+ people were at the forefront of Russia’s human rights movement and became one of the first targets of state persecution. With the increase in political repressions came an increase in homophobia propagated by the authorities. Now we can assess how political repressions against LGBTI+ organizations and activists have been reflected in public opinion, state practices, and the situation of the most vulnerable LGBTI+ individuals.

In 2013, as preparations for the “gay propaganda” law were underway, Levada Center sociologist Aleksey Levison wrote the following about the results of a poll that identified a high level of homophobia in Russian society:

“What is currently being presented as a fight against propaganda is actually a fight against freedom. Not the freedom for same-sex relationships and marriage – that affects just a small percentage of people living in Russia – and not even the freedom to come out into public space, but the freedom of all people to express their opinion, their position in this space….Homophobia always goes hand in hand with fascism. The heinous example of Hitler’s Germany showed very clearly what we should never have forgotten: What starts with wiping out a minority ends with disaster for all of humankind.”

A poll conducted by the Levada Center in October 2021 showed a heightening polarization of public opinion in regard to LGBTI+ people. While the number of people who would deny adults the right to enter into a consensual same-sex relationship rose to 69% (60% in 2013), the number of people who recognize this right increased slightly, from 23% in 2013 to 25% in 2021. Opinions were also polarized in relation to equal rights for LGBTI+ people: There was significant growth in the number of people opposing equal rights (59% versus 47% in 2013), while the number of supporters of equal rights fell (33% versus 39% in 2013). In terms of personal attitudes toward LGBTI+ people, there was an increase in neutrality and friendliness (to 36%, from 29% in 2013) and a drop in negative attitudes (to 50%, from 68% in 2013), although there was an increase in what Aleksey Levinson called “collective phobias” (feelings of “repulsion and fear” rose from 26% to 38%).

Political persecution: recognition as “foreign agents,” forced liquidation of organizations, forced emigration

The increase in neutrality at a personal level coupled with denial of equal treatment politically and heightened unconscious fears are most likely the result of the fact that the persecution of LGBTI+ people has predominated on the political plane – in terms of laws (the creation of new lists of “foreign agents”) and their application (censorship, inclusion in lists, liquidation of organizations). The chronology of surging repressions in 2021-2022 given below lists organizations that work to protect LGBTI+ rights and individual activists who were deemed foreign agents for various reasons, some not for the first time.

May 20, 2021, Phoenix Plus, an HIV service, and the administrator of the Parni+ [Guys+] website were fined 300,000 rubles. This organization was charged with violating the first clause of Article 19.34 of Russia’s Administrative Offenses Code (on failure to independently register as a “foreign agent”). NGO. Founder and director Yevgeny Pisemsky:

“I have been living with HIV for 20 years and have devoted 16 of those years to making sure people with HIV receive assistance, and to reducing the number of new infections as much as possible. Over the years of our work, we have helped tens of thousands of people, but the Ministry of Justice’s illegal decision has basically forced us to close down, since we cannot pay such enormous fines.”

On November 8, 2021, the interregional social movement Russian LGBT Network was added to the registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent by the Ministry of Justice. The ministry decided that calling on people to sign a petition to revoke the law on “foreign agents,” publishing the book From Dawn to Dusk: Mama, Papa and the Kids, and distributing the results of a survey monitoring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity amounted to political activities. On the same day, Max Olenichev, the legal adviser to Russian LGBT Network and the advocacy group Coming Out, was added to the list of foreign agents.

On November 12, 2021, Igor Kochetkov, a historian, human rights defender, blogger and founder of Russian LGBT Network, was added to the registry of foreign media outlets performing the functions of a foreign agent:

“… I am a ‘foreign agent’ three times over…. I was the director of the charitable foundation Sfera, which was deemed a “foreign agent” in 2016, then I recently became one again as the founder of the Russian LGBT Network, and now I’ve become one as an individual.

And I am now going to say something that is very unpopular with my colleagues: Yes, we are engaged in political activities, all joking aside. This is politics. I just explained why sexuality is politics. And when we speak about sexual freedom, this is a political question, which is where politics ultimately begins.

When we are evacuating gay Chechens, when we say that the Chechen government committed crimes against humanity and the Russia federal government covered this up for them, are we not engaged in political activity? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but we have to admit that we are. Yes, we are engaged in politics, and yes, we receive foreign financing, which I am also not ashamed of. And moreover, I can assert that no self-respecting human rights organization should receive state funding, at least from the state where it operates. Because the state is our natural opponent, and we will have a conflict of interest if we take money from this state and use it to protect people from it.”

On December 17, 2021, the Far Eastern social movement Mayak [Lighthouse] was added to the registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent by the Ministry of Justice. This organization provides legal and socioeconomic assistance to LGBTI+ people and women who are the victims of violence in Russia’s Far East. Mayak director Regina Dzugkoyeva said :⠀

“I understood that this would happen to us, even though I was hoping for common sense to prevail. We still don’t know why exactly we were deemed a foreign agent. Maybe we will find out later. But right now anyone could become a foreign agent and any activity at all could be considered political activity.

For me it’s madness to call an organization that helps your very own citizens a foreign agent. They help women suffering from domestic violence. They save Russian citizens – homosexual, bisexual, transgender, but still Russian citizens – and they suddenly end up foreign agents.

If I had wanted to get rid of foreign financing, I would probably have done that back when all this was starting. But I believe there is no foreign or non-foreign financing in our work. There is a problem: Women being beaten in their families. There are LGBTI+ people facing violence. And it doesn’t matter one bit to me which foundation is giving me money to save these people. Our organization gets financing where it can. If the state doesn’t help, then of course I’m going to look for help from any other source I can find.

We are planning to continue our work, to carry out the same functions that we carried out before.”

On December 23, 2021, Coming Out and the advocacy group Reverse were added to the registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent by the Ministry of Justice.

On April 15, 2022, the following people were added to the registry of “foreign agent” media outlets :

  • Maria Sabunayeva, a well-known psychologist (who organized and heads Russian LBGT Network’s psychological service), feminist, and author.

“I have worked for LGBT organizations deemed foreign agents like the advocacy group Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network. It appears this was enough: We were paid using grant money (since it’s impossible to receive support for LGBTI+ people in Russia), and any mention of the rights of a given group is deemed political activity.

But this coincides with my feminist optics, where ‘the personal is political,’ even though that obviously is not what the Ministry of Justice based its decision on. The stamp of foreign agent is, of course, about political persecution by the government, about an attempt to force us to be silent and stop acting.

Now I have to figure out how to do all this reporting about how I spend my money (spoiler: on my family’s life, food, medications, rent, transportation, and other terrible political expenses). Instead of spending time with my child, I have to think about litigation with the Ministry of Justice to be removed from the registry, even though my human rights position here is that I am prepared to be listed in this registry for as long as it exists, because this is not about how I personally ended up there, but about the fact that it shouldn’t exist in principle, that it’s a blot on the country. It’s likely that my responses will also have to be marked as the political statements of a foreign agent. Let it be that way!”

  • Regina Dzugkoyeva, head of the Autonomous Nonprofit Organization Lilith and the Fear Eastern social movement Mayak, which works to protect the rights of LGBTI+ people.

“It seems to me that listing someone in the foreign agents registry is an attempt to brand people with a disgraceful stamp to make society condemn them. But I don’t think this trick will work for them…. I have a long and spotless reputation. I’m receiving many messages in support now. People aren’t turning away from me.”

  • the journalist Karen Shainyan, creator of the popular video channel “Straight Talk With Gay People,” which is about the life of LGBTI+ people and communities in Russia and elsewhere.

On April 22, 2022, the Ministry of Justice added Yaroslav Sirotkin, a member of the LGBT-movement Callisto from Yaroslavl and one of the coordinators of a shelter in Armenia for LGBTI+ refugees from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, to the registry of “foreign agent” media outlets.


Assigning LGBTI+ organizations the status of “foreign agent” has become a prelude to their liquidation in court, with charges of unconstitutionality. For example, on April 21, 2022, a Saint Petersburg court liquidated the charitable foundation Sfera, which provides support for Russian LBGTI+ initiatives, at the request of the Ministry of Justice. In court, a representative from the ministry said that the foundation’s activities “were aimed at changing the law, including the Constitution,” and were not in line with charitable purposes. According to the ministry, the foundation only provides assistance to the LGBTI+ community, while the Constitution enshrines “the main traditional family values.”

“…the ministry and the court adopted this decision on grounds that were not legal, but ideological. There is no Russian law that bans the activities of organizations that ‘are not in line with’ a given value. The law simply does not contain any grounds for liquidating this NGO. In this sense, the court decision was significant: Mandatory state ideology has returned. It’s official.”

Igor Kochetkov, founder and past director of the foundation

The natural result of political repressions is the emigration of human rights defenders and activists. On April 20, 2022, the entire Coming Out team left Russia. Aleksandr Voronov, executive director of Coming Out:

“We are a Saint Petersburg-based initiative. We have spent our entire existence working from Saint Petersburg, for LGBTI+ people from Saint Petersburg, and we never considered leaving. After the war started, and to our enormous regret, we understood that we could not continue further work from Russia: We could no longer guarantee the safety of our team if we stayed there. Because of security considerations and heightening repressions and censorship, we would have to make deals with our conscience even when posting to social media.

We were not prepared for such deals. We elected to continue working from abroad to be honest with ourselves and our beneficiaries, and to be able to continue doing what we truly believe is important.

We also believe that we will someday be able to return to Russia, open our doors, and again meet the people who are dear to us. But for now we will do everything within our power to bring this day closer.”

Prohibition of enlightenment and creativity on social themes

The repressive law “on propaganda” has made it almost impossible to draw attention to discrimination against LGBTI+ people. This concerns not just the persecution of human rights organizations and the blocking of educational websites, but also the censoring of television shows, advertising campaigns, foreign films being rented in Russia, and the translation of children’s and educational books. Repressions have even affected show business, a sector where the public expression of freedom of sexual relations has traditionally been permitted. Below are several examples of violations of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and creative freedom.

On March 10, 2021, upon the recommendation of the district prosecutor’s office, the Ostankino Court prohibited the distribution, on YouTube, of Karen Shainyan’s clip “Gay Adoption: Is this the Russia you want? #DaVyberu [#YesItIs] (18+).” This clip came into being as a dissection of stereotypes in a homophobic advertisement about “Russia’s future” and included detailed stories about same-sex couples raising children. The clip’s blocking was appealed and found illegal. Maks Olenichev, legal advisor to Coming Out:

“The prosecutor’s office had to reject the lawsuit, because we showed that Karen Shainyan’s clip complied with all the requirements of the law. Discussions about the situation of LGBTI+ people in Russia are complicated, but possible. The state does not always succeed in restricting or stopping them. In fact, it turned out that the prosecutor’s office did not understand if this was gay propaganda or not, so it was mistaken in citing the law on gay propaganda.”

On June 5, 2021, the Resource Center website for LGBTI+ people was blocked for “gay propaganda” under a decision of the Ordzhonikidzevsky District Court, Yekaterinburg.

On November 17, 2021, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court fined the television station Muz-TV one million rubles for promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors (Part 2 of Article 6.21 of Russia’s Administrative Offenses Code). The judgment reads that:

“during an analysis of the recording of MUZ television (in the episodes Muz-TV Prizes 20/21. The Dawn of the World) investigators identified characteristics of the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, which was expressed in the distribution of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes among minors, making non-traditional sexual relations appear attractive, and presenting a distorted view of social equality between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or imposing information about non-traditional sexual relations and arousing interest in such relations, committed with the use of the mass media. In other words, information was disseminated that rejected family values, promoted non-traditional sexual relations, and is banned for distribution to children….”

In their opinion, experts said that there were guests at the premiere whose “clothes and behavior that did not correspond to the image of a man of traditional sexual orientation in Russia’s culture,’” and that the host, Filipp Kirkorov, “said that love is beautiful, that it has no boundaries, frame of mind, or gender, that everything done in the name of love is correct, that is, the possibility of same-sex relations was implied [on air] in an environment where there was a high level of positive emotions.”

On November 16, 2021, the Federal Oversight Service for Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media [Roskomnadzor] blocked the website of the LGBT film festival Side by Side on the basis of complaints from right-wing groups. Even though the website is marked 18+, the official reason for its extrajudicial blocking was that “information about age restrictions does not prevent minors from accessing the website’s resources.” In December 2021, it became known that the Ministry of Culture refused to include the Side by Side festival in a list of international film festivals for the upcoming year “because of violations of the law.” This obligates the festival’s organizers to obtain distribution certificates for each film, making it impossible to hold the film festival at all.

On April 15, 2022, the Main Investigative Department of Nevsky District, Saint Petersburg opened a criminal case under Part 1 of Article 148 of Russia’s Criminal Code (“Public actions expressing willful disregard for society and committed with the intention of offending the religious feelings of believers”) against the photographer Sergey Kondratyev. This case was prompted by a complaint about an eight second video on Sergey’s Instagram page. The video shows him kissing his partner in front of Saint Petersburg’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

“I didn’t even think there would be any consequences when I posted the video, and I still don’t think that my video could offend someone or cause emotional distress – it’s just a regular kiss. But I am preparing for the worst. I have absolutely no faith in the Russian justice system and, if the case goes to court, the verdict will naturally be guilty. The only question is what the punishment will be”.

Sergey Kondratyev

The criminal investigation of Yulia Tsvetkova — an artist, director, and LGBTI+ activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur – has been dragging on for over three years. On February 5, 2019, she was accused of promoting an LGBTI+ lifestyle to minors for working with adolescents to put on a play about gender stereotypes. Police and FSB officers intimidated the child actors and their parents. In November 2019, she was charged with the illegal preparation and dissemination of pornographic materials online (paragraph b of Part 3 of Article 242 of Russia’s Criminal Code) for maintaining the public page Vagina Monologues on Vkontakte. She was kept under house arrest from November to March as part of the criminal case, but the court later changed this pretrial restriction to a written undertaking not to leave. Yulia went on a hunger strike on May 1, 2021 to protest the amount of time the trial was taking: In December 2021, charges of disseminating pornography were filed for the fourth time.

“This is all the same case, the prosecutor just isn’t forwarding it to court, but is instead sending it back for additional investigation. First the Ministry of Internal Affairs was leading the investigation, then it was the Investigative Committee (they filed charges twice), and now it’s the Investigative Committee for Khabarovsk Krai”.

Yulia’s mother, Anna Khodyreva.

According to information from the Russian LGBT Network, the FSB is involved in the identification and administrative prosecution of “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations,” which “is not one of the agency’s responsibilities under its bylaws.” According to the organization, letters from the FSB were used to open the case against Yulia Tsvetkova and the case against Aleksey Pavlov, the administrator of a gay dating group who was fined 50,000 rubles for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations.”

On June 29, 2021, the European Court for Human Rights registered the complaint Tsvetkova v. Russia. The court asked Russia to respond to the questions of whether articles on freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to personal inviolability and family life, and the article banning discrimination (in conjunction with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) were violated. Russia was supposed to respond to the questions by February 23, 2022.

North Caucasus: Murders, Kidnappings, Torture

The most vulnerable members of the LGBTI+ community are having an even harder time accessing assistance because many human rights defenders have been forced to leave Russia and many organizations working in this area have been shuttered. This is particularly true of the North Caucasus, where the situation with LGBTI+ rights is most acute. Illegal detentions, kidnappings, arrests, torture, and killing of LGBTI+ people committed with the involvement of security officials has been documented there. The North Caucasian Federal District ranks first in terms of frequency of physical violence committed by the relatives, colleagues, and classmates of LGBTI+ people. The lives of LGBTI+ people in this region are also at high risk because of “conversion therapy” and the practice of “driving out evil spirits and djinns,” which is practiced not just as a form of alternative “folk” medicine, but also at quasi-medical centers, where people are “cured” of being homosexual or transgender. Security officials catch up with people who try to flee to other regions of Russia with assistance from local colleagues.

In April 2021, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Russian LGBT Network filed a criminal action in a German court against five supporters of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The authors of this action accused the five Chechen officials of harassment, illegal arrests, torture, rape and incitement to murder of at least 150 people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In March 2017, information was received from Chechnya about mass repressions against Chechens suspected of being gay. The victims started appealing for assistance to the Russian LGBT Network, which, in cooperation with Novaya gazeta journalist Yelena Milashina, prepared a report on these crimes. The Investigative Committee’s pre-investigation review did not yield any results: No criminal cases were ever opened, and, in spite of the public testimony and complaints of real people, the Russian authorities said they could not confirm evidence of a crime. In 2019, the Russian LGBT Network helped over 140 gay Chechens immigrate to European countries and Canada.

On June 10, 2021, 22-year-old Khalimat Taramova, who was hiding in a safe house in Makhachkala intended for victims of domestic and sexual violence because of domestic violence and threats to her life and health due to her sexual orientation and her desire to divorce her husband, was forcibly removed from this safe house and returned to her relatives in Chechnya as part of a “special operation.” Several days later, Chechen television broadcast an interview with Taramova recorded at her parents’ home. In it, she asserts that her rights are not being violated and that she is fine. According to her relatives, Khalimat is not a member of the LGBTI+ community, since “there cannot be sexual minorities” in Chechnya. Akhmed Dudayev, the Chechen minister for national politics said that Khalimat had mental health problems, which were supposedly confirmed by medical documents. Such a statement implies that there is a direct threat to the safety and life of Khalimat Taramova, who could be placed in a psychiatric clinic or even killed, since evidence from human rights organizations shows that honor killings are practiced in Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general and are often masked as suicide:

“We call on human rights organizations, international human rights organizations, and the international community in general to do everything within their power to save Khalimat Taramova, whose life and health are currently under threat, and we demand that the Russian authorities protect her rights and freedoms, including by ensuring her safety and her ability to leave Chechnya”.

Russian LGBT Network

On February 22, 2022, the Achkhoy-Martanovksy District Court in Chechnya read out its verdict concerning the brothers Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev. The court sentenced 21-year-old Magamadov to eight years in prison and 18-year-old Isayev to six years in prison under charges of buying a bag of food for a Muslim fighter. The brothers (one is gay, the other, transgender) were the administrators of the Telegram chat for atheists Osal Nakh 95.

The brothers explained that in April 2020, they were kidnapped (Magamadov, in Grozny, and Isayev, in Saint Petersburg) and held for two months in the basement of the second regiment of the Akhmat Kadyrov Patrol and Checkpoint Service in Grozny; both were tortured. Magamadov said he was told he had been arrested for his own good, that he was lucky that he hadn’t left for Europe because then no one could have corrected him: “We are torturing you to correct you We will release you when we believe you have been corrected. If you end up here a second time, we will subject you to even harsher torture, because you’re just dense.” After they were tortured in 2020, the Russian LGBT Network helped the brothers leave for Nizhny Novgorod, but Chechen security officials arrested them on February 4, 2021 with the assistance of local colleagues and took them to Chechnya. There, the brothers were not allowed to see a defense attorney for three days, while their father was beaten and threatened with disgrace for the entire family if the brothers did not turn down a lawyer. The parents and older brother left Russia immediately after this. In March 2021, security officers brought “almost 20” of the defendants’ relatives to the police department and demanded that they find the brothers’ parents and bring them to Chechnya and that they commit “honor killings” against Magamadov and Isayev.

“Everyone knows the case is fabricated, but Chechen society believes that this is correct and that we should be killed, but to the shame of our times, the case had to be brought to court,” wrote the younger brother, Ismail Isayev, from the pretrial detention center. “For Chechen society to despise us, all we have to do is exist. But, fortunately, I have deep contempt for the opinion of this society, whatever it may be, and I don’t have to reckon with it. I am accustomed to following my common sense and my heart, so I will remain alone before society. I think the fact that so many evil and ignorant people wish us ill and the fact that we have not adapted ourselves to this harsh world, is a credit to us.”

Discrimination, hate speech, hate crimes: the reality of LGBTI+ across Russia

The most flagrant violations of LGBTI+ rights have been recorded in the North Caucasus, but polls taken throughout the entire county show a high level of homophobic violence, discrimination, and xenophobia. According to a poll by the Russian LGBT Network (October 2021), 78.4% of respondents had faced violence or discrimination in connection with their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Almost one-third of all cases of violence originated with members of homophobic and transphobic organizations. The poll showed that LGBTI+ people everywhere must hide their identity or orientation. Almost one-quarter of respondents were involved in cases where their personal data was used illegally for blackmail or extortion, and the rights of 14.8% were violated at work. Fifty-two people were fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The law enforcement and judicial systems are not only unable to protect the rights of LGBTI+ people, but in fact often act as agents of discrimination and violence. In 25% of cases, the police did not accept victims’ statements, and staff at law enforcement agencies often support homophobic attitudes and actively fight LGBTI+ activism. They do not bother to investigate attacks by right-wing groups and often disrupt educational LGBTI+ events themselves. Experts from human rights LGBT organizations in the Far Eastern Federal District also commented that the media are active disseminators of homophobia in the region and that they “promote hatred of LGBTI+ people, with real success.” Experts from some regions also commented on the negative role played by the local elite, which cultivates homophobic and transphobic attitudes in the public consciousness.

On May 8, 2021, Sergey Dyatlov was attacked by a group of four people on his way to a Saint Petersburg nightclub. The attack was accompanied by the yelling of xenophobic statements. There were a lot of people on the embankment. They asked the attackers to stop, but that didn’t help. Paramedics diagnosed Sergey with a concussion, hematomas, contusions, and abrasions. The police caught the main attacker, who is being prosecuted under Article 6 of the Administrative Offenses Code (which is interpreted as “battery” and entails an administrative fine or administrative arrest).

“We do not agree with this assessment of the crime and will push for a criminal case under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, since this attack was on the grounds of hatred of an LGBTI+ person, and for the prosecution of all the attackers.”

Coming Out lawyer Kseniya Mikhailova

On June 30, 2021, the VkusVill grocery store chain published the story of an LGBTI+ family made up of four women (a mother, her two daughters, and the girlfriend of one of the daughters) as part of the advertorial “Recipes for Family Happiness.” Many Russian media outlets wrote about the ad, noting that this was the first time a large Russian brand was supporting LGBTI+ people. Homophobic groups started attacking VkusVill immediately after the article was published. The Telegram channel Male State published links to the accounts and home address of the women and spewed out insults and death threats. VkusVill removed the photo from the publication, replacing it with these words:

“There was an article in this spot that struck a painful chord with a large number of our shoppers, employees, partners, and suppliers. We regret that this happened and believe that this publication was our mistake and demonstrates the unprofessionalism of certain staff members. Our company’s goal is to give our buyers a chance to buy fresh and tasty products every day. It is not to publish articles that reflect any political or social views. We did not in any way wish to become the source of discord and hatred.”

The women were forced to quickly move from their apartment to a safe place.

I don’t think we expected it to blow up like that. We were accustomed to our little world. With the same activists, and the same Nazis. We know each other by sight, we are constantly in the same space. But then they started showing us on TV. And that was surprising, that was terrifying.

Mila

Then we started getting hates. And these weren’t bots or trolls (we know what they look like), these were real threats. And yes, we were scared. I honestly flew off the handle when I saw a threat against my granddaughter. This really shook me.

Yuma

On October 12, 2021, administrators at the Telegram messaging service banned the main channel of Pozdnyakov, the instigator of the harassment, citing demands from Google Play and App Store concerning discrimination against LGBTI+ people. On October 18, the Nizhegorodsky Court upheld the prosecutor’s claim to deem Male State an extremist organization. Its activities were banned in Russia, and its social media channels were partially blocked.

The results of a poll by the Russian LGBT Network show that adolescents are particularly vulnerable: They are subjected to violence and discrimination in the family, at schools, and on the streets, and they are harassed online. Among respondents under the age of 18, 20.5% were subjected to physical violence; 73%, to psychological violence; and 4.7%, to sexual violence. In addition, both peers and teachers in schools were sources of violence. An analysis of secondary data indicates that one in ten students at institutes of higher education “seriously considered dropping out because of homophobia or transphobia; seven people were forced to leave school because of homophobia or transphobia displayed by other students, teachers, or administrators.”

According to a poll of the school environment in the context of harassment due to sexual orientation and gender identity, one in two to three students faces violence in some form. Because of the legally-enshrined ban on “promoting non-traditional sexual relationships to minors,” LGBTI+ adolescents are an invisible social group. Adults refuse to help them and advise them to change their behavior or even support harassment by other students, while specialists who provide assistance to children risk punitive measures for “propaganda.”

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are still not considered grounds for aggression and violence. Even those teachers and school psychologists who understand the scale of the problem are afraid to help adolescents because of current laws,”

Alla Chikinda, PR manager at the Resource Center for LGBTI+ People.

The political persecution of defenders of LGBTI+ rights, social organizations, and activists has intensified in recent years, as has homophobic propaganda in general, which labels LGBTI+ rights as a symbol of “Western” values. This, in turn, contributes to an increase in xenophobia, condones the impunity of aggressors, and opens the path to newer and newer hate crimes. The vicious circle of state repressions, general homophobic attitudes, and harassment and violence must be broken. On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, we recall that LGBTI+ people from Russia are in need of support and protection.

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