The term “homophobia” (Homophobia: from the Greek homos – the same and phobos – fear, fear) appeared relatively recently – in 1972. Prior to this, the phenomenon, which today is called homophobia, was a social norm. To refer to the irrational fear of homosexuals, rejection and neglect of members of sexual minorities, the term “homophobia” was first used by the psychiatrist George Weinberg.
The 20th century was, without a doubt, the most homophobic historical period: the deportation of gays to concentration camps under the Nazi regime, the Soviet Gulag, blackmail and persecution in the United States during the McCarthy era … Obviously, all this seems very distant to us. But in many countries, the situation of gays remains exactly that now.
Homosexuality discrimination is observed everywhere: in at least eighty countries homosexuality is prohibited by law, in many countries it is punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years. Sometimes the law provides for life imprisonment. In another dozen countries, the death penalty is applied to homosexuals.
The idea of establishing the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17 was put forward by the French writer and scholar Louis-Georges Ten. The day was not chosen by chance – it was May 17, 1990 that the General Assembly of the World Health Organization excluded homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. Ten expressed the hope that this day will help change for the better the lives of those people who need it most.
International Day Against Homophobia has been officially celebrated since 2003. The recognition of this day poses certain obligations to the international community, which has already come together in the fight against many other forms of discrimination and social violence, but so far in most states it has not provided broad support in the fight for the rights of sex minorities.
The goals of this Day are to counteract any physical, moral and symbolic violence towards people with a different sexual orientation or gender identity; supporting and coordinating all initiatives around the world that help all citizens achieve equal rights; a broader campaign to protect human rights.
For example, in a number of countries that supported the initiative to hold this Day, on May 17 various events and campaigns, campaigns and flash mobs are held related to the International Day against Homophobia and aimed at raising awareness of the planet’s population about the problem of homophobia through the media, as well as promoting bills on equal rights for homosexual and heterosexual persons.
The main economic university in Yekaterinburg monitors the sexual orientation of its students through social networks. A special service for monitoring the moral character of students has been created at USUE. The mere fact of communication with representatives of the LGBT community is enough to cause problems. One student is already at risk of expulsion.
“Vice-rector Krasnov Roman Valerievich called him and demanded to pick up documents from the university with the wording: we tracked your social networks, here are the printouts – you are gay,” fellow students of the injured student told EAN.
He himself confirms this story: “The director of my institute called me and said that an unpleasant situation had occurred and I needed to talk. At the meeting, he explained that a group for monitoring social networks of students was created and they found that I was subscribed to a group of the LGBT community. Then the vice-rector for educational work Roman Krasnov called me to him, he said that I “defamed the name of the institute”, that I have a pink phone and that having a girl, in his opinion, is not an excuse and does not prove that I am not gay ”, told EAN Vitaliy himself (name changed).
According to him, he was sent to collect characteristics from the school and from the place of work, on their basis a decision will be made whether he is gay or not. From the groups that caused the scandal, he has already retired.
Roman Krasnov confirmed to EAN that monitoring the behavior of students and their participation in similar groups in social networks is underway.
“We have not only now – we have led, are and will continue to monitor the social networks of our students! For one simple reason: we are a state university, and, accordingly, we look at the moral character of our students. We have the right to see how our student lives. After all, these are public pages. And what prevents our youth policy department, our social management department from seeing: how, what do our students do outside of school hours? Of course, we watch social networks, ”the vice-rector for social work told EAN.
But to answer the question of whether participation in LGBT community groups is the basis for expulsion and with what wording the order is received in such cases, he refused, offering to write an official request indicating the name of the particular expelled student.
They unfurled the flag alongside handing in a petition calling for the Russian government to intervene.
‘We’re here to hand in some post,’ Eleanor Kennedy said into the intercom outside the Russian Embassy, London.
Kennedy, alongside dozens of placard-holding supporters, were handing a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to respond to the second purge of LGBTI people in Chechnya.
Alongside the petition, she and her team laid out a giant Pride flag on the embassy steps today (17 May) in protest against the bloc’s silence. It was done to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexsim and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).
What was the protest?
At 10am today, dozens of LGBTI people and allies met outside the embassy and blanketed the sidewalk with a Pride flag and an array of multi-colored placards and signs. Contrasting to the cream-colored three-story building and dusky gray sky behind it.
One sign read: ‘Love is a Human Right.’ Another: ‘I am who I say I am.’
The protest was a collaboration between two of the largest human rights charities, Amnesty International and Stonewall. Rainbow RU, a London-based Russian community, also joined.
The trinity of activists were there to bring to light to arguably one of the biggest human rights atrocities in the 21st century so far.
In a notorious crackdown in April 2017, more than 100 men thought to be gay were abducted, tortured – and in some cases killed – in Chechnya in what appeared to be a coordinated purge.
‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility’.
This wasn’t the first time that the 33-year-old individuals at risk campaigner at Amnesty International UK tried to mail a petition to the embassy.
Kennedy told Gay Star News: ‘We’re here on IDHOBIT 2019 to hand in a petition that Amnesty International have been running calling on the Russian government to take responsibility for human rights abuses that have happened against the LGBTI community in Chechnya.
‘The Russian government, who are the de facto leaders of Chechnya, refuse to take any responsibility for this and have refused to cooperate with international calls for a legal investigation into these atrocities.
‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility.’
Kennedy and a co-worker went to hand-in the petition, but embassy guards communicated that this wasn’t possible. Kennedy would have to post the petition instead. ‘We’ll post by first class,’ she said.
Not the first petition, and not the last.
The 65,000-strong petition is the second Kennedy has tried to hand in. Her first coincided with the first recorded wave of attacks back in March 2017, she told me, as a can of Diet Coke was blown down the sidewalk.
‘Off the back of that, we ran an action similarly calling for the Russians to take responsibility. Tried to hand it into the embassy and they refused to engage.
‘The same thing has happened again. Just kicking the can further down the road.’
Why were they protesting? Senna, 25, said to me ‘Merry IDAHOBIT.’ The Kingston-upon-Thames local was up in Kensington for the day along with her Amnesty International colleagues.
‘I’m a bisexual myself and I find what’s happening horrible,’ she told me, standing by a residential street. ‘There are no words to describe what is happening.
‘We need to change what’s happening. What we’re doing today is raising awareness and we have more than 200,000 people behind us.’
‘Continue to say that we’re here’. This was a sentiment held by Leanne MacMillan, director of global programmes at Stonewall. ‘It’s incredibly important that we practise a politics of presence,’ she told me after the protest.
‘Over 65,000 people have signed this petition worldwide. We knew this was going to be for the long-haul.
‘This isn’t just an issue for the LGBTI people, this is about human rights in general. A crushing assault on human society in Russia and Eastern Europe spearheaded by Russia and other states.
‘I think the more that we can do to send a message that we’re calling for action. One of the tactics of the Russian state is to practise a politics of normalization, invisibility, and denial.
‘The best thing we can do is continue to say that we’re here, even when the actions aren’t hitting the headlines.’
Chechnya: A timeline of the atrocities. Chechnya, or the Chechen Republic, is a subject of the Russian Federation located in the North Caucasus region. It has a population of 1.4 million and the capital is Grozny.
Its president is Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been in power since 2007. He tends to rule the country in accordance with traditional Islamic social codes, even if these contravene Russian law.
Chechnya relies on Russia for federal assistance, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has often turned a blind eye to Kadyrov’s human rights abuses or failed to act.
Since last year, LGBTI folk have been detained in makeshift prisons, strapped to homemade electric chairs, sexually assaulted with police nightsticks as the torture methods intensify.
While Russia decrminalized homosexuality during the breakup of the Soviet Union, the police in Chechnya have periodically detained queer people in extrajudicial arrests without repercussions from federal authorities.
They held the vigil on Victory Day, one of Russia’s most important holidays.
In an act of brave defiance, a group of LGBTI Russians commemorated the gay victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Leading LGBTI activist Petr Voskresenskii secretly planned the event in St Petersburg held on Victory Day. The day is one of the most important holidays in Russia as it marks Nazi Germany’s surrender during World War II.
Russia celebrates the day with a parade through the Red Square in the capital Moscow. The parade is an opportunity to show off the country’s military might.
Voskresenskii and a small group laid flowers at the home of Sergey Nabokov whom the Nazis twice arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. He eventually died in a concentration camp in 1945, just months before the war ended.
‘According to the reports of the surviving prisoners in prison, Nabokov showed outstanding stamina, he helped the weak, shared food and clothing,’ Voskresenskii said.
The group also laid a pink triangle at his home. The pink triangle was a symbol the Nazis pinned to captives to identify them as homosexuals. It has since been reclaimed as a symbol of power by the LGBTI community.
Why is this so brave?
Voskresenskii said the activists were ‘apprehensive’ about the public event. In 2013, Russia introduced the ‘gay propaganda’ law which banned the positive promotion of anything LGBTI.
Authorities have arrested LGBTI activists at Pride events across Russia. As recently as April police arrested 11 LGBTI activists during an annual Day of Silence protest.
Voskresenskii is also well known to police for his LGBTI activism and has been a target because of it.
‘The fact is that recently the authorities of St. Petersburg have been arresting people on any, even officially authorized actions, fining, making lists of activists,’ he said.
‘The activists were especially apprehensive about the fact that for the modern Russian authorities, Victory Day is a landmark holiday, one might even say “sacred”.
‘In fact, this is the first time in Russia when LGBT activists made an event on this day. This is primarily due to the fear of repression.’
Despite the apprehension the activists said the event took place without any problems.
‘On the contrary, passersby reacted positively to the action. The police fortunately was not around,’ Voskresenskii said.
The activist explained why the group decided to hold a public event and how it ties in to Russia’s opposition to Nazism.
‘We believe that the memory of the crimes of Nazism can protect the LGBT community in Russia,’ he said.
‘The authorities of Russia are publicly actively opposing themselves to Nazism. They claim that the fight against Nazism is an important value.
‘We want their words to correspond with their deeds. We want them to keep their promises.
‘In addition, we believe that historical memory helps the LGBT community to better understand themselves, helps to unite in the fight for a better future.’
The crimes of today
They also hoped drawing attention to the tragedies of the past can be an effective tool to combat the crimes of the present, including the ‘gay purge’ happening in Chechnya.
Chechen authorities have rounded up people on suspicion of being LGBTI, torturing and in some cases, executing them. But Russia has not spoken out or acted to stop the ongoing persecution.
‘Political leaders in the Kremlin have repeatedly stated that the fight against Nazism is one of the priorities of their policies, and they consider the victory in World War II one of the main historical achievements of the country,’ Voskresenskii said.
‘Human rights activists are calling on the Russian authorities to back up their words with a deed and stop violence against LGBT people.’
Four men who fled conservative region say they were beaten and humiliated for up to 20 days with limited water.
Gay men are being electrocuted and strung up by their legs in a new wave of torture in Chechnya, according to a human rights group.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed four gay men who claimed they fled the conservative, predominantly Muslim region after police allegedly beat and shocked them with electric currents while they were strung up by their legs.
The international group, headquartered in New York, said the accounts made by the men, who were allegedly detained for between three and 20 days between December 2018 and February 2019, were consistent with a complaint an LGBT+ activist filed in January.
Also, in January this year, a warning appeared on social media urging all vulnerable men and women to flee Chechnya as it was feared a new “anti-gay purge” was underway.
In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured in Chechnya during a “purge”, and that some were killed.
There was no immediate comment on the report from Chechen officials, who rejected the allegations in 2017.
Human Rights Watch said in a report on Wednesday that the men it interviewed reported being beaten, humiliated and held for up to 20 days with limited water.
The four said interrogators also demanded information about other gay men in Chechnya, according to the organisation.
One man said he had been living elsewhere but returned to Chechnya to attend a family wedding.
In the evening, he met a man he’d connected with through a dating app, and police arrived and took him away. The man said he believed he was set up.
Human Rights Watch said it thought the 2017 mistreatment of gay men was not adequately investigated.
Tanya Lokshina, the organisation’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, said: “The absolute impunity for the anti-gay purge of 2017 emboldens the perpetrators.
“We have absolutely no evidence these round-ups were sanctioned by top-level Chechen leadership, but the police officials clearly felt at liberty to hold and torture those men.”
Homosexuality is decriminalised in Russia, but animosity towards sexual minorities still widely persists.