Report Says LGBT Rights Defenders In Former Soviet States Face ‘Rise in Hostility’

According to a recent report made by the global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, activist groups defending LGBT rights in some parts of the former Soviet Union are facing a rise in hostility. This may come as discrimination, homophobia, and what the report described as Russia’s crusade against “non-traditional sexual relationships.”

The report, which was released on December 22, found that in recent years, LGBT rights groups in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan had been facing an increasingly “discriminatory environment,” not only within their own governments but the human rights community, as well. These four countries have been showing hostility towards the LGBT community largely due to the prevalence of oppressive rhetoric and customs in Moscow.

Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, Denis Krivosheev, said that although the LGBT rights groups had already faced discrimination in the past, the situation has been aggravated because of the so-called extent of Russian influence and the wide reach of its propaganda machine known as the media.

Krivosheev also explained that these countries’ all-out assault on LGBT rights had inflamed their resolve to further their crackdown against these groups, even influencing those in the ‘mainstream human rights groups’ to do the same.

He further said that these four countries have been tagging the LGBT rights groups’ fight for equality as “a threat to national security.” Krivosheev noted that this kind of thinking stems from a climate of ignorance and hatred that is being perpetuated by the national governments themselves.

An Anti LGBT person carrying a placard

“The idea, promoted by Russia, that LGBTI rights are ‘western values’ that somehow constitute a threat to national security is entrenching elsewhere. It’s a climate of ignorance and hate that’s being fostered by national governments and is even infecting the human rights community in the region.”

In the past, these countries had attempted to introduce homophobic “propaganda” laws, including instilling in the minds of minors that “non-traditional sexual relationships” or same-sex marriages are not the norm.

The laws are similar to the ones Russia had crafted in 2013. Belarus, however, was the only country to pass similar discriminatory laws in 2016. LGBT rights groups called this government intervention as encouragement of discrimination and violence against the LGBT community.

To make matters worse, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, in 2015 and 2016 respectively, had amended their constitutions to explicitly prohibit the celebration of same-sex marriages.

Reports also mentioned that gay pride marches had been banned in these countries, and LGBT groups have been targeted by homophobic groups, with police doing little to intervene or investigate hate crimes.

The violence experienced by LGBT groups in the region does not only make them fearful but also “less equal” within their own local human rights communities, according to the report.