With Russia’s anti-LGBT sentiment spiraling out of control, I have to ask myself, what is America doing to help? The terrifying laws in Russia make it unsafe for anyone even suspected of being a part of, or a supporter of, the LGBT community. There are even laws against what the Russian government vaguely defines as “propaganda” characterized by “nontraditional sexual attitudes” among other ambiguous terms.
Another piece of the anti-LBGT bill criminalizes propaganda among minors that “equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations.”
President Obama has met with Russian LGBT activists to discuss this issue and how he can put the pressure on the Russian government to stop this persecution.
The United States has been awarding asylum to Russians who feel persecuted because of sexual orientation for almost 20 years. The number of Russians applying for asylum has gone up in recent years. Because of the additional oppressive legislation of Russia in recent years, the US should allow more Russians to come into the country. Due to the return of Putin as president, the dangerous environment for LGBT people has only gotten worse.
There are factors that the United States government must take into consideration at this time when dealing with Russia. Syria and Edward Snowden are two very controversial topics involving both the US and Russia. Because Russia is one of Syria’s allies, Putin has said that Russia will help Syria defend itself in the event of an American attack. This issue is most important to our government because of the political and economic implications. The issue of Russia giving asylum to Edward Snowden also seems to be a bigger issue then Russia’s blatant denial of human rights to it’s citizens. Although these issues are pressing for the government and people involved, I would like to see a more decisive stance on human rights in Russia from the U.S.
LGBT people in Russia are subjected to persecution from all realms, including social and political. Police brutality and arrests against LGBT people and activists have been a part of almost every story I have read about the current state of Russian human rights. People are dying in Russia because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and for opposing anti-LGBT legislation, violence and discrimination. The United States government has already been called upon to take action against Russia for their human rights violations.
Another important factor in this battle for human rights is the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia. Many are calling upon supporters of LGBT Rights to boycott the games because of the government’s oppressive legislation and attitude. However, as Garry Kasparov has suggested, it might be better for Olympic sponsors to send a strong message of disapproval to the Russian government by doing something as simple as putting a rainbow flag on Coke cans or Visa advertisements. There are many ways to protest these excessively harsh laws without completely boycotting the Sochi Olympic games, as I assume that would be out of the question for many sponsors.
As a country, we must find some way to be of more help to Russians being persecuted for their identities or for supporting human rights. If the Obama Administration finds it necessary to go into Syria because of human rights violations and an oppressive government there, then we should be taking the issues faced by LGBT Russians and their allies just as seriously. Many find proposed radical solutions, such as completely boycotting the Sochi games, unrealistic.
There are many other ways that we can and should help.
Michaela is a second year Ethnic Studies student who dislikes Russia quite a bit at the moment. Love letters and feedbak can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.