Russia: Three Gay Activists Arrested for Propaganda of Homosexuality
The activists were arrested in Arkhangelsk while advocating for LGBT rights, court hearing scheduled for January 20
Nikolai Alekseev and Alexey Kiselev holding 20 meters rainbow flag at the entrance of Arkhangelsk parliament
On Wednesday, January 11, three activists of the Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru were arrested in Arkhangelsk while holding solitary pickets in front of the regional children’s library.
The activists were protesting against the law recently passed by the Regional Parliament which outlaws what MPs defined as the “Propaganda of Homosexuality to Minors”.
Nikolai Alekseev, Alexey Kiselev, and Kiril Nepomnyaschiy were arrested and detained quickly after the start of their individual actions. Local police officers told the activists that they were called by employees of the Library.
The activists were arrested while holding solitary pickets which under Russian laws do not require a permit. They were holding different posters saying: "Russia takes first place in the world in suicides of adolescents. Among them, a large proportion are homosexuals”, "Children have a right to know by virtue of Art. 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Great men can also be gay. Gays also become great. Homosexuality - is normal!" and "Homosexuality - is a healthy form of sexuality. Both children and adults should be aware of that!”
One poster listed the names of famous known Gay Russians, such as Sergei Paradjanov, Peter Tchaikovsky, Vadim Kozin, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Kuzmin, Yuri Bogatyrev, Sergei Eisenstein, Vaslav Nijinsky and the Grand Duke Sergei Romanov.
After the arrest, the activists were taken to the Lomonosov district police station, where they stayed for four hours, during which they were interrogated and notified charges.
The activists’ arrest only one month after the law came into force demonstrates that local police intends to make use of it whenever necessary.
"Our arrests show that such laws are enforced against gay activists in contradiction with what Russian officials told European diplomats recently when they wanted to cool down the issue arguing that the laws had only a symbolical value” commented Nikolai Alekseev.
In the last two months, Arkangelsk’s City Hall banned a series of events in support of LGBT rights applied by the same activists in the main streets of the Regional Capital on the basis that if held anywhere in public, they could be seen by minors.
“It is no longer possible to advocate LGBT rights in Arkhangelsk in the public place” said Nikolai Alekseev. “This law is not here to protect children but instead to silence LGBT people,” added the campaigner.
The activists’ arrests is the first application of the law prohibiting so-called promotion of homosexuality to minors in the Arkhangelsk region, a month after the ban came into forced.
A judge will hear the case on January 20. If found guilty the activists are facing fines from 1,500 to 2,000 rubles each.
In 2009, two activists of GayRussia were arrested in Ryazan and faced similar charges.
As of today, Arkhangelsk and Ryazan are the two Russian regions to outlaw propaganda of homosexuality to minors.
St Petersburg and Kostroma where the Regional Parliaments have adopted similar laws in preliminary hearings are the next to follow. Several MPs in Moscow expressed the desire to draft a similar bill.
“If it continues like that, we expect that by the end of this year 20% of Russians, approximately 30 million people, will live in areas where advocating LGBT rights in the public place will be illegal” said Nikolai Alekseev.
Eyes on the European Court of Human Rights
“Our arrests allow us to take this ban once again to the Russian Constitutional Court but more important to the European Court of Human Rights where we very much hope to make a European precedent which will prevent any similar initiatives in Europe as they are being discussed not only in Russia but also in Ukraine and Lithuania”, said the campaigner.
The UN Human Rights Committee is expected to discuss the case in July this year when it will give a decision in the case of Fedotova v. Russia. Although by opposition with the European Court of Human Rights, the decisions of the Committee are not obligatory for Russia.
Exclusive photos of the protest and arrests are here
A day earlier Gay activists unfurled a 20 meters rainbow gay flag at the entrance to Arkhangelsk parliament. They were not arrested. Photos of this protest are here
GayRussia.Ru, from Arkhangelsk
TODAY IN HISTORY
In 1993, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality. Starting from 2006, Russian gay rights activists started to celebrate this date by attempting to organize an annual gay rights march known as Moscow Gay Pride. The first edition was banned and marred with violence. It was reffered as the first Russian Stonewall.
This day was founded in 2004 by French Academic Louis-Georges Tin to mark the anniversary of the declassification of homosexuality from the list of disease by the World Health Organization. Russian LGBT have been celebrating this day every year since 2005 under the leadership of Project GayRussia which was itself founded on May 17, 2005. GayRussia is Russia's coordinator of IDAHO.
Following Moscow in May 2009, Minsk was the second capital to host the Slavic Gay Pride. The March was banned and marred with violence but it did not prevent two dozens of Pride organizers from Moscow, Minsk and St. Petersburg to march over 300 meters waiving a 10meters long rainbow flag. 11 participants including some of the organizers were brutally arrested by police forces.
2009 marked the launch of GayRussia's campaign for the opening of same-sex union of gays and lesbians in Russia. While the Constitutional Court already expressd the opinion that marriage is between a man and a woman, activists believe that the lack of partnership or marriage for gay couples is a strong point to impose legislative changes via a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
The five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber of the Court rejected the appeal of the Russian Federation in the Moscow Pride Ban case. The decision given on October 21 is final. By repeatedly banning Gay Pride Marches as well as other LGBT themed public action, Russia breached the European Convention on Human Rights.