Brave LGBTI “Coming Out” activists fight back against first application of homophobic law in St Petersburg

5th April 2012

By Graham Jones

I have been very concerned today at reports from the LGBT organisation “Coming out” in St. Petersburg in Russia that the city administration denied LGBT activists the right to organize an International Day of Silence street protest. The basis for denial was the infamous "gay propaganda" law, which achieved worldwide opprobrium and notoriety when it came into effect in St. Petersburg on March 30 of this year. The St Petersburg authorities have effectively authorised the persecution of LGBT people.

But this is the first application of the anti-gay law in St. Petersburg, the heart of the Russian LGBT rights movement.

Contrary to numerous assurances by Russian politicians, including the author of the law in St. Petersburg Vitaly Milonov, St. Petersburg governor Georgiy Poltavchenko, and other members of the United Russia party, that this law is not meant to violate the rights of LGBT citizens or to hinder LGBT human rights activity, the banning of this protest proves that this is not the case.

“Coming Out” reports that the head of administration of central district of St. Petersburg, Ms. Scherbakova, in an official letter of denial writes
"According to [the law]… any public activity, aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, transgenderness, and paedophilia with the goal of forming a contorted view of social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional conjugal relations, is forbidden",.

“Coming Out” reply that an administrative ban to organize a peaceful street action, motivated by the "propaganda of homosexuality" law, is discriminatory and directly violates freedom of assembly, guaranteed by the constitution of the RF and by the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 11 and 14 of the Convention). St. Petersburg LGBT activists will appeal the ban in regional court, and, if all national remedies fail, take this case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Despite the ban, on April 7 activists are going to protest in the centre of St. Petersburg with slogans "Homophobic hatred kills teenagers!", "Two moms is normal! Two dads is normal! Mom and dad is normal!", "No to silencing of hate crimes!"

"Now that we are living with the homophobic law hanging over our heads like a sword of Damocles, it's even more important for us to publicly express our disagreement and outrage, and to attract attention of fellow citizens to the terrible consequences of homophobia in society. We will dedicate this Day of Silence protest to the hundreds of thousands of gay people forced to be silenced by this law," says Mikhail Belodedov, LGBT organization Coming Out advocacy manager.

“Coming Out” are courageous people and they and other LGBTI activists in Russia will continue their fight against these laws spreading across to other parts of the country. Whether they are on the streets or in the courts, they deserve our support.