Russia 'ignoring' anti-gay attacks, says Human Rights Watch

Russia's authorities have failed to prevent an increase in homophobic attacks, Human Rights Watch has warned

Russia 'ignoring' anti-gay attacks, says Human Rights Watch

The US-based body said Russia's leadership had reacted to violence and anti-gay rhetoric with silence, and it accused some officials of hate speech.

A 2013 law banning gay "propaganda" had led to more attacks, it said. Politician Vitaly Milonov, who authored the first version of the law, told the BBC people found homosexual acts "uncomfortable". The rules ban people from providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.

Analysis, by Sarah Rainsford, BBC News, St Petersburg

It was never easy, being gay in Russia, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups say life now is even tougher. Since "promoting non-traditional lifestyles" was made illegal, they report an increase in harassment, abuse and even physical attacks.

One activist in St Petersburg told the BBC that the new law sent a signal that gay people were second-class citizens, and so gave others a green light to discriminate and even harm. One LGBT support group cited by Human Rights Watch documented more than 300 homophobic attacks last year, over 10 times more than before the gay propaganda law. Fifty per cent of those it interviewed reported psychological abuse.

The law's supporters cloak themselves in talk of Russia's Christian roots and conservative, "traditional" values - all increasingly popular here - and often refer to homosexuality as a kind of "perverted" Western import.

So far only a handful of people have been prosecuted under the new law, but activists believe that fear is driving Russians back into the closet or, increasingly, to seek a new, freer life abroad.

'Lack of will'

Human Rights Watch detailed testimonies from cities across Russia, with reports of beatings, abductions and public attacks. Tanya Cooper, a Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the authorities were deliberately ignoring such crimes. She added: "Russian law enforcement agencies have the tools to prosecute homophobic violence, but they lack the will to do so."

Mr Milonov, a local councillor who first introduced changes to the law in St Petersburg, said: "I want to protect my kids and my family from this dirt going from the homosexuals.

"They can do whatever they want in their homes, in the special garbage places called 'gay nightclubs', they can kill themselves with their viruses as fast as possible, but they're not going to do it on the streets because it's not polite and it's uncomfortable for the people." Mr Milonov's local measure inspired a national law which was rolled out after approval by the Duma in June last year.

Source: BBC

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