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Russia is Hearing Us: Let the Sochi Protests Continue

Russia is Hearing Us: Let the Sochi Protests Continue

Russia’s lawmakers are starting to realize they made a mistake: that passing laws like the so-called homosexual propaganda banábefore the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics wasn’t the wisest of choices.

This epiphany comes courtesy of opera star and Russian MPáMaria Maksakova who last week was filmed telling fellow lawmakers:

“It is sad to realize that the Olympic Games in Sochi, to which we have been preparing for so long and anxiously, may pass with less brilliance than we expected because of this unfortunate initiative, which, I believe, was passed by the [parliament] without a thoughtful discussion and in the wake of not very well-founded ideological cliches.”

Maksakova, a mezzo soprano soloist with St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater,ádelivered this dose of home-truths during a meeting of liberal lawmakers within the presiding United Russia party. During the meeting she said the backlash against the law has been a massive blow to foreign investment in Russia, something her fellow artists have felt as they have sought patronage from other countries, and that it has sparked a wave of hate crimes:

“We are seeing extremely negative consequences as the result of this law with the growth of hate crimes,” she is quoted as saying. “And in [the case with the anti-gay propaganda law] we see extremely negative consequences ľ rise in crime and violence against representatives of sexual minorities. … Our country has suffered a colossal loss to its image around the world.”

Yet, Makasakova didn’t go so far as calling on lawmakers to repeal the law. No, she says that the problem lies in the fact that the ban targets “non-traditional” sexuality. As a mother with two young children, she said she has an interest in protecting her children from all “propaganda” about sex. Makasakova said that if the propaganda law’s language was amended to focus not just on non-heterosexual sex but all sex in general, such an act might improve Russia’s standing and encourage investment once more.

As to this idea the words frying pan and fire spring to mind, but what have her fellow lawmakers made of this? The Party has rushed out a statement saying that Makasakova’s opinions are her own and do not reflect those of other lawmakers. According to RT the author of Russia’s so called gay propaganda law,áSt. Petersburg municipal deputy Vitaly Milonov,áhas also dismissed Makaskova’s comments, saying he is totally opposed to even modifying the ban. Besides, she’s an opera star and the Arts are where “perverts” are common, he reportedly added.

While in real terms there’s not much in Makasakova’s words to celebrate, the very fact that Russian MPs and officials are starting to flinch is encouraging. It also speaks volumes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun using his executive powers to make high-profiled gestures like releasing the remaining jailed members of Pussy Riot or ending the imprisonment of the Arctic 30.

Put simply, by using the Winter Olympics and Paralympics as a leveraging tool, human rights groups continue to have power to affect change in Russia. In case we risk becoming complacent though, in the past few daysáThe New York Times has provided us with a passing glimpse at what life is like for Russia’s LGBTs:

Recently, as a blizzard whipped through the city, I met a 22-year-old bus conductor named Varya. Her hair style was Gothic, shaved on top and hanging on her shoulder in a crimson curtain. She had a toddler, and lived with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s daughter in the kind of family arrangement that some lawmakers allied with President Vladimir V. Putin want to eradicate. They have put forward a proposal — shelved for now — that would let the government remove children from homosexual parents.

Most of her friends are unemployed, Varya told me, and she felt lucky to have a job. She showed me a sticker she had found on her route that morning: “Stamp out faggots,” it read, depicting a jackboot squashing the head of a pink-haired youth. “It’s the neo-Nazis,” she told me. “The stickers are everywhere. They can do what they want because they know the authorities will not stop them.”

The article is an interesting read on a number of fronts, especially on the efforts of young Russian LGBTs who are using the Internet to stay connected and lend each other support.

Chiefly though, the article emphasizes that protests surrounding Sochi must continue, but always with a mind to what helps Russia’s LGBT people help themselves.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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8:25AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

Thanks for posting!

10:51PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Gay groups inside and outside of Russia, are asking people to BOYCOTT the major Sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympics: they are:

Coca-cola
Panasonic
VISA
Samsung
Proctor&Gamble

It's a shame that SOME Companies which have good internal policies regarding LGBTQ employees, are not being Consistent with their supposed "Values" in supporting, in effect, the Russian repressive policies....
It's the almighty greenback $$$$$, of course.... so what else is new.....

10:44PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Miss R: "Homophones will always be the losers."

"Homophobes", Miss R, you mean "Homophobes".
"Homophones" are WORDS that SOUND alike!
"Homo" - "Same" - "phone" - "sound" {from the Greek}. [cf., phonetics]
"Homo" - "Same" {i.e., "Same-sex"} - "phobia" - "fear" {also from the Greek}
[I guess 'homophobe" and "homophone" ARE "homophones" of each other - they sortof sound alike! ;-D]

Miss R, we know what you MEANT - your sentiment came right from the Heart! Love Wins!!!
;-D

2:00PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Homophones will always be the losers. They better be prepared. ;)

7:44AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

good news

3:00PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

By the way, there probably WON'T be any "protests at the Russian Olympics" in the sense of people marching around and chanting slogans. The Russian laws make it quite clear that wouldn't be tolerated - nor would it really help those LGBT people who have to live in Russia, if such a mis-guided thing were to take place.
The "protests" that are STARTING TO HAVE AN EFFECT, are the many PETITIONS, the Articles and Editorials in newspapers, and discussions like this one; the many BOYCOTTS, of going to Russia, of Russian products and especially, of Russian vodka [formerly a staple in many Gay bars!]; BOYCOTTS of the Olympic Sponsors, and of the networks carrying the games; celebrities choosing NOT to go to Russia, from singers and actors to National leaders; and products such as expressive Tee-shirts and other things you can get on the Internet if you look for them. ANYONE can stage your own private "protest", either by yourself or with a group of your friends, Gay or straight, and in so many different ways.
The CUMULATIVE EFFECT of all the protests, INTERNATIONALLY, by individuals or groups, noisy or quiet, humorous or serious, large or small - THAT is what is starting to bore thru the thick hides and thick brains of the Russian legislators - probably more than they're ready yet to admit!

2:29PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

According to an article in the Gay magazine "The Advocate", it seems the Russians had actually NO IDEA that their passage of Homophobic laws would rouse such a firestorm of INTERNATIONAL protests!
Pretty dumb and insulated, I'd say!
I guess they thought that if it was OK with the religious emissaries from the U.S. who influenced that legislation - see Lloyd's post below - "Brian Brown... President of NOM.... in June of 2013, 'testified' before a joint meeting of the Dumas Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Family, Women and Children about changing Russian Adoption Laws. Surprise! two bills game out of the meeting..."
I guess they thought that meant the "world" was on their side...
These protests have gone INTERNATIONAL, in a huge way, this is simply a FACT, and trying to belittle and dismiss them here on Care2, just shows how ignorant the dismisser is....

11:22AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Joseph B, what is the "gay lifestyle" and how does it represent "moral decay and rot"?

8:45AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

@ PJ C. Breads and circuses!

2:34AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Very interesting!

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