Russia is lambasted in the western press routinely as a place where the environment is very hostile to homosexuals as well as other “non-traditional” sexual minorities.
Lately, western sources have been claiming an outright massacre of gays in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, saying they are literally being “rounded up and killed” by the hundreds.
As someone who has lived in Russia for years, I have seen my fair share of gay and lesbian people on the streets.
I have also seen a man wearing a pink dress and make-up riding a bicycle in circles next to the Lubyanka (HQ of Russia’s FSB security service). I can’t say for sure nothing happened to him, but he was not accosted for the 5-10 minutes I was nearby.
It would be silly to argue “alternative lifestyles” are as openly tolerated in Russia as in the West. Gay parades are banned for example. But this has more to do with the display of lewd behavior in public, than the fact that the participants are gay.
Enter “Gays for Putin” – a group which wants to hold a rally in Russia’s second largest city of Saint Petersburg (also the country’s most westernized and liberal city).
Apparently unaware of Vladimir Putin’s supposedly appalling record of human rights violations against their community, they want to show their support for the overwhelmingly popular Russian leader’s reelection on March 18th.
Moscow Times picks up the story:
A group calling itself “Gays for Putin!” has announced plans to hold a rally in support of the Russian president’s re-election bid next month
The group asked St. Petersburg authorities for permission to hold the rally in St. Petersburg on March 3 and said that they expected to draw around 600 gay Putin supporters. The initiative comes days after a homophobic campaign ad warned Russians of the unintended consequences of failing to vote in the elections on March 18.
In their tongue-in-cheek statement, the organizers said they wished to express the “all-around” support of Russia’s gay community for Vladimir Putin.
“We decided to express the impetus of the gay community by openly supporting Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate,” the group said in a statement published online on Tuesday.
After submitting their request for the rally, members of the group reportedly attended a church service at the nearby Smolny Cathedral “to pray for the success of the good endeavor.”
They promised to use the rally to praise Putin for “signing laws that strengthen the moral foundations of Russian society” and for “awarding distinguished gays in Russia with orders and medals.”