How do Russians feel about homosexuality?
Russia: "Homosexual Propaganda" Act puts minors at risk
(New York) - Russia's "gay propaganda" law has a negative impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 2013 law increased the already long-standing hostility towards LGBT people in Russia. It also blocked access to information and assistance. This has had harmful effects on minors.
The 92-page report "No Support: Russia’s‘ Gay Propaganda ’Law Imperils LGBT Youth" documents the deeply harmful effects of Russia’s "Gay Propaganda" law on minors. Human Rights Watch interviewed LGBT youth and mental health professionals in various locations across Russia, in both rural and urban areas, to discuss everyday experiences in school, home, and in public and how they had access to reliable and accurate information themselves as well as to offers of advice and help.
"Russia's 'homosexual propaganda' law harms young people by withholding vital information from them," said Michael Garcia Bochenek, senior counsel in the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch. “In Russian society, LGBT people are already facing high levels of hostility. However, the law also prevents adolescents who have questions about their sexual orientation and gender identity from being supported by psychological counseling. "
The law formally aims to “protect children from information that encourages rejection of traditional family values” and prohibits “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relationships among minors”. This is generally seen as a prohibition on educating minors about the realities of LGBT life. The ban extends, among other things, to the dissemination of such information via the press, television, radio and the Internet.
The law harms children directly by denying them access to basic information and by fueling the stigma of LGBT minors and their families.
The 2013 provision has contributed to an increase in stigma, harassment and violence against LGBT people in Russia. It was used to prevent educational offers and the mediation of psychological offers for minors. In addition, aid organizations and psychological professionals were encouraged by the law to stop working with minors. The law has fueled the disapproval of LGBT people and has had a deterrent effect on mental health professionals working with LGBT youth. Some psychologists report self-censorship on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Russia's law against "homosexual propaganda" is a classic example of politically motivated homophobia. With the provision, the government takes action against vulnerable minorities with regard to sexual orientation and gender in order to gain political advantages. By signing the federal law in June 2013, President Vladimir Putin appealed to the widespread aversion to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. With the amendment, the Russian state supported the inaccurate and discriminatory view that LGBT-threatened tradition and family. On the international stage, the law helped position Russia as an advocate of so-called "traditional values".
“Nobody wants to be beaten up on the street. But this is the fear LGBT people in Russia have to live with today, ”Nikita R., an 18-year-old trend gender, told Human Rights Watch. “We know that most people believe the mass media. There we are represented as monsters. That is why we are permanently in danger. "
The law has been used repeatedly to shut down Deti-404 ("Kinder-404"), an online group that provides psychological support, counseling and a protected community for LGBT minors. The users of the group also include minors who have experienced violence and aggression because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The law has had an insidious impact on psychological practice and the clinical setting. Mental health professionals told Human Rights Watch that the law interfered with their ability to provide honest, scientifically accurate, and open counseling. Some of them felt compelled to self-censure or to make clear waivers before their meetings began.
During the proceedings of the European Court of Human Rights on the law, Dr. Ilan Meyer, an internationally recognized expert in social psychology and health care, specializing in minorities, presented an expert statement to the court, according to which the provision does not protect young people, but rather harms them.
"If Russia really wants to improve the health and well-being of its citizens, measures would be necessary that are the exact opposite of the propaganda law," said Meyer.
"In addition, laws like the Russian Propaganda Act can have serious negative effects on the health and well-being [of LGBT people] as the law entrenches stigma and prejudice, leading to discrimination and violence."
The court ruled in 2017 that Russia's law violated the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, which are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, the provision is harmful to children.
Speaking to Human Rights Watch, a psychologist who works with LGBT youth said that almost every client she has ever had is "treated like a scapegoat, clown, or leper." Given this intense social hostility towards LGBT people, psychological support services for young people are extremely important.
The law on "homosexual propaganda" limits mental health professionals in their ability to help. Another psychologist stated that he feels himself restricted by the law even in situations where addressing an underage client's sexual orientation is clinically relevant: “Teenagers often wait for me to ask them a direct and precise question about their sexual orientation or orientation Gender identity. But the law forbids me from doing this. ”A colleague said she hid all LGBT-related books in her office during her therapy sessions to forestall allegations that she was spreading“ homosexual propaganda ”.
"The law on 'homosexual propaganda' threatens to harm generations of Russian youth by promoting discrimination and restricting access to offers of help," said Bochenek. "This law does not protect anyone, but it cuts off young people from the offers they need for a successful life or for bare survival."
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