Much has been discussed over Russia’s recent “gay propaganda” laws, essentially making it a criminal offense to be a member of the LGBT community or show support for LGBT causes. The most shocking and angering aspect of these laws is how the legislation has essentially allowed neo-Nazis to “hunt gay people for sport.” (Pinknews, 2/7/14) The anti-LGBT group, Occupy Pedophilia, has used Russian social media sites such as VKontakte to lure unsuspecting LGBT Russians into their clutches, and then upload the atrocities committed against the victims online. According to a February 2014 report by the Guardian, “Occupy Pedophilia use the site to connect with gay men, posing as potential love interests, before luring them into situations where they will be attacked, a process they refer to as ‘safaris’ using ‘bait’…Uploaded regularly to the site, films show victims being violently attacked and humilliated. This is content that is easily available to view, and is ‘liked’, passed around, and shared on the site, seemingly without impediment.” (The Guardian, 2/11/14) The group uploads videos of their victims being humiliated, beaten, raped, and tortured, not only onto VKontakte, but also onto American-based websites like YouTube. The group claims to not have any political leanings, but they often post neo-Nazi propaganda from Russian fascist parties that not only speak out against members of the LGBT communities, but also against Russia’s Jewish and Romani populations.
According to the New York Daily News, “In one case members of Occupy Pedophilia lured a man into an arranged encounter where they then punched him, breaking his jaw in two places. They then robbed him of $1,450, according to Human Rights Watch.” (New York Daily News, 2/4/14) This conduct is continuing to draw the attention of American media, and pro-LGBT advocacy groups from around the world. When the Winter Olympics were held in the Russian city of Sochi in February, much was made of these attacks by supporters of equal rights. Tanya Cooper, a researcher for Human Rights Watch told Yahoo News: “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people…Russian officials have long denied that discrimination against LGBT people exists, including to the International Olympic Committee, yet the hostility and violence clearly have been intensifying.” (Yahoo, 2/4/14)
In spite of the increased prejudice against LGBT Russians, there are those who are taking a stance against the draconian laws and the humiliation videos that go unpunished by Russian authorities. LGBT Russians are now taking to Twitter to plead for help from the west. Kiryll Martin, an openly gay Russian teenager, runs the Twitter account, @RU_LGBT_Teen. He told The Guardian in February: “I wanted people who live abroad to hear the true story of life for LGBT teenagers from Russia…Gays have become targets of crimes and human rights violations. The Russian state uses LGBT as a shorthand for ‘internal enemies’. Homophobia is very much prevalent in our society.” (The Guardian, 2/11/14)
As Russia continues to exert its military power in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the world is watching as human rights atrocities against countless marginalized minorities in Russia continue to increase.