As Syria continues to tailspin out of control and the United States inches towards intervention, Russia is looking glossier than ever on the international stage with their effort to ameliorate tensions through diplomatic negotiations. Clever foreign policy strategy, however, doesn't cloak the hideous domestic policy and social regression that is making LGBT citizens live in secrecy and in fear.
According to Radio Free Liberty Europe, a video recording of a young Uzbek man being raped by Russian vigilantes is circulating the popular mobile chat service WhatsApp. The video is said to depict this poor man weeping and shuddering as he is forced to sit on a glass bottle which is then further forced through the use of a baseball bat. The assailants, also alleged Uzbeks, committed these acts as a means of encouraging "repentance" and his coming to reason. This summer, the beating of a transgender woman was also caught on tape and widely spread throughout the Internet.
These are not the first intensely homophobic incidents that Russia has seen in recent times, but homophobic violence has increased terribly since new laws banning "homosexual propaganda" passed in June. LGBT groups say that this new legislation has bolstered anti-gay activity, which includes "ambushing" suspected homosexuals through social media trickery and then submitting them to recorded humiliation and abuse.
As if these acts are not chilling enough, it seems as though these videos and clips are released to a vividly supportive audience, often applauding the attacks. Surely, there must be a dissenting movement that abhors this treatment of anybody, not just the LGBT community. But where are they?
If they are not detained during protests, it must be because they are simply too scared to do anything about the lack of liberty and justice in Russia that accompany stipulations in the "homosexual propaganda law" which now fines 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD) per individual and 800,000-1,000,000 rubles (24,000-30,000 USD) per registered organization for even mentioning gay rights.
Unless a very serious social movement, emerges Russia will continue to rank with other deplorably anti-gay states (i.e. Uganda, Cameroon, Iran) and generations of LGBT youth will continue to live fearing for their futures and their lives. While Russia finds itself at a rare moment of international prudence, the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of Russia's LGBT citizens.
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