From Russia Without Love: Legalised Homophobia

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Words by Sophie Walker

After watching Channel Four’s Hunted, a documentary about anti-gay Russia, I feel fired up, angry, passionate, and upset all at the same time. For me it’s been a visual pep talk, and motivated me to do something about the atrocities that are currently occurring in Russia.

Stephen Fry said that he does not believe homophobia should be described as such, because to do so would suggest that homo ‘phobia’ is something that is medically defined and therefore accepted. I wholeheartedly agree. A phobia is something we are intrinsically scared of; our brains hold an irrational fear over a particular object or feeling. However, anti-gay behaviour is not something we are born with, it is developed over time and reinforced by certain parts of society. This train of thought says: ‘it is OK to hate homosexual people, or to be scared of them,’ and it is definitely not OK.

I am not gay, but it makes me sick to my stomach that Russian society thinks it is acceptable to victimise another human being for having romantic thoughts about the same sex. That it is accepted that anti-gay vigilantes in Russia beat homosexuals within an inch of their lives for loving someone of the same sex. That it is accepted to pour urine, as part of a ritual, over gay people that they ‘capture’. That it is acceptable to rape, torture, and physically abuse gay men, that it is acceptable to rape lesbians in public, and that it is acceptable to say out loud ‘we will ruin their lives’.

These vigilantes are mindless, angry members of society being manipulated by their government. This is not to say that they are blameless, or forced by their government to commit these heinous acts, but there is something far bigger than these pawns on the chessboard. The government and religion are the overarching perpetrators of this anti-gay movement. The Russian government recently enforced a loose ban on ‘non traditional’ sexuality, and to disseminate information of this to anyone under 18 has been made illegal. The supposed agenda behind this is the protection of the Russian youth, which is supported by the Russian Orthodox Church. The global transparency of this is insulting to the human race. The lie that is being spun is that homosexuality and paedophilia are synonymous. The truth is that the Russian government are blaming homosexuality for the country’s social anxieties: lack of employment; the failing economy and education system; and Russia’s decline as a global power.

In Channel Four’s Hunted an anti-gay vigilante asks his ringleader Katya Zigunova: ‘shall we pour piss on him?’ She replies: ‘no, I can’t be bothered’. It is not a question of morals for Zigunova, but a question of activity. It shows the absolute acceptance of the Russian government that it is suitable for homosexuals to be treated this way by other members of society. Hunted shows a group of anti-gay vigilantes hunting gay people, as though it were a Sunday activity and for some of them, it was. In one case, the vigilantes physically interrogated a man for an hour, including forcing him to do a dance for them, before letting him go. It had been filmed and would be posted online. The victim would undoubtedly be sacked and recognised by anti-gay vigilantes across Russia. It is unfathomable why this group of people feel it is their duty to treat people this way: to demoralise, traumatise, and essentially destroy a fellow human being just because he is gay.

Every time you go home be thankful that waiting for you (if you’re lucky) is your legal, loving partner. If you want to do something about this atrocity on a personal level, spread awareness and disassociate yourself from anyone who makes you feel like homosexuality is wrong.

Sophie is a third year English and American Literature Student, finishing uni in the summer and hoping to travel abroad after. She is partial to a mojito. Take a look at her blog, and follow her on Twitter.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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  1. James Harris 15th February 2014 at 5:54 pm -  Reply

    As a gay guy myself, struggling with the frustration and anger Russian homophobia has roused in me, I want to say thank you very much for writing this. Whilst the gay rights movement is a family full of friends and fighters despite the assistance of outsiders, it is always heartening to see the support from straight allies like yourself, who have no personal motivation to help the cause, but are motivated merely by a desire to do and communicate what’s right.
    Your last paragraph particularly resonated with me: “If you want to do something about this atrocity on a personal level, spread awareness, disassociate yourself from anyone who makes you feel like homosexuality is wrong.” That’s exactly it. And from my side of the fight I have a duty to set by example to the rest of the world that my sexuality is nothing to be ashamed about, by being, as the cliche goes, ‘out and proud’ and refraining, where it is often only too tempting to do so, from “…lying by ommission.”

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