LGBT activists take part in a protest event called “March Against Hatred” in St. Petersburg on Nov. 2, 2014.
A new report from Human Rights Watch details rising violence against LGBT people in Russia since the country adopted a ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors in 2013. The research comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments that his country has been unfairly labeled as anti-LGBT.
“Russia recognizes and does not infringe upon the rights of people with non-traditional sexual orientations,” Putin said at a Dec. 5 meeting with Russian human rights officials.
The Human Rights Watch report, based on dozens of interviews with Russian LGBT individuals and activists conducted in 2013 and 2014, paints a starkly different portrait.
3. Violent attacks targeting LGBT activists have increased in the last two years, advocates told Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch documented such 18 attacks from 2012–2014. Activists said virtually every demonstration in support of LGBT rights in 2013, the year the “propaganda” law passed, was attacked.
4. Dmitry Chizhevsky, an activist in St. Petersburg, lost his sight in one eye after masked intruders attacked a local HIV prevention center that serves LGBT people.
In November 2013, an assailant fired an air gun and Chizhevsky caught a bullet in the eye. Another victim was beaten with a baseball bat. After the attack, Chizhevsky left Russia.
5. Seven educators supportive of LGBT rights found their jobs in jeopardy.
All were teachers, youth workers, or university professors who told Human Rights Watch they were threatened or pressured to resign, several on the grounds they were spreading “gay propaganda.” Only two remain in their positions.
6. Just over half of the victims of anti-LGBT attacks and harassment interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they reported these incidents to the police.
“It’s all right, you’re gay so it’s normal that you were attacked,” one victim recalled a police officer told him. “Why would you need to file a complaint against anyone?”
7. Several of the activists quoted in the report have since left Russia to seek asylum in other countries.
Asylum claims from Russians hoping to stay in the U.S. are up by 34% since 2012. It’s impossible to know how many of these asylum seekers are LGBT, but activists say applications from the Russian LGBT community are on the rise.
8. Watch LGBT activists tell their stories here:
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