A new poll shows the vast majority of Russians believe LGBTQ activists are ruining the nation’s “spiritual values.”
Six in 10 (or 63 percent) of respondents told the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) that a “group of people seek to use LGBTQ issues to attack the spiritual fiber of Russia,” as Newsweek first reported. Recently released survey results show less than a quarter (24 percent) of Russians believe advocates have “no nefarious motives” in working for queer and transgender equality.
Thirteen percent of individuals claim they have no opinion on the subject.
The only group that offered support for LGBTQ activism were respondents in the 18-24 age bracket. Nearly half of millennials (48 percent) claimed queer and trans advocacy is not harmful to Russia, while 44 percent of young people say it’s dangerous for the nation.
These findings are cannily timed for Russia, which passed a bill banning LGBTQ “propaganda” in 2013. The five-year-old-law — which forbids the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors — became the center of international attention this month when a teenager was fined 50,000 rubles (or $762.50) for posting photos of shirtless men on Facebook.
Maxim Neverov, the 16-year-old student at the center of the controversy, claimed the pictures in question just “showed guys hugging.”
“I didn’t publish them, just saved them in an album,” he claimed in an email to NBC News. “One of the photos said, ‘Love is better than f***ing.’ I saved them and forgot about them — just as tens of thousands of teenagers do all across Russia. I never thought they would charge me according to this.”
His attorneys have filed a court appeal to overturn the ruling.
While Neverov is the first minor prosecuted under the “propaganda” law, activist Evdokia Romanova was subjected to similar persecution last year. In October 2017, Romanova was fined 50,000 rubles (USD $870) by a court in Samara for posting links to LGBTQ news stories on Facebook. At least 15 individuals have reportedly faced financial penalties under the law.
Russian authorities also use the “propaganda” codes to shut down LGBTQ events, such as in the case of the small town of Novoulyanovsk. In August, the village of just seven people announced it would be holding its first-ever Pride parade, but the decision was reversed within 24 hours.
Despite approval from Mayor Svetlana Kosarinova, Novoulyanovsk City Manager Gennady Denikayev told Radio Free/Radio Liberty Europe the decision was invalid without prior consent from its city council.
“We intend to protect traditional family values and, foremost, our children from the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” he said.
But in the face of anti-LGBTQ sentiment from local leaders and the majority of the general public, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has repeatedly objected to the existence of Russia’s “propaganda” law. In August, the ECHR ruled that anti-LGBTQ codes in the northern city of Arkhangelsk were “ambiguous, disproportionate, and discriminatory.”
The case concerned an appeal from activist Kirill Nepomnyashchy, who was arrested in 2012 after hanging a pro-LGBTQ sign outside of a library. “Homosexuality is a healthy form of sexuality,” it read. “This should be known by children and adults!”
The court concluded that Nepomnyashchy’s “right to freedom of expression was violated in a discriminatory manner.”
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