Not content with the so-called gay propaganda ban, Russian lawmakers are now said to be mulling two new attacks on the LGBT community: a gay blood donor ban and a nationwide conversion service that, while supposedly opt-in, raises the specter of forced sexual orientation change attempts.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, State Duma MP Mikhail Degtyarev, who is also a Moscow mayoral candidate, revealed that lawmakers will soon make recommendations to amend national law and reintroduce a ban on gay people from donating blood.
He justified doing this as a reasonable step because “65 percent of all HIV-positive persons are homosexuals.”
Degtyarev did not give sources for these statistics and they seem suspect given that health experts have previously warned that much more pressing is the need to tackle Russia’s significant drug problem which, health watchdogs believe, poses a greater risk at this time.
The Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development retired its ban on gay people donating blood in 2008 but has cited such bans in other countries, such as the USA, as being uncontroversial.
Perhaps even more worrying was Degtyarev’s second revelation that Russia’s lower house is working on what has been described as “anonymous consultations with psychologists, psychotherapists and sexologists” that would, in Degtyarev’s words, help them “return to normal life and become heterosexuals, as are 95 to 99 percent of our citizens.”
Given Russia’s recent intense onslaught against its gay community as highlighted by the “homosexuality propaganda law” President Putin signed in June, the video evidence of hateful violent attacks, and the vast collections of stories detailing the oppressive atmosphere in Russia, this raises alarm bells that the service could never truly be opt-in.
This also adds yet more pressure to calls for the IOC to abandon Sochi, Russia, as a host of the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, with a growing number of LGBT rights and wider human rights groups saying that to allow Russia to host the games is to give tacit support and indeed reward the oppressive regime that is revealing itself more and more with every passing day.
In other related news, the United Nations has strongly condemned Russia and called on lawmakers to repeal the homosexuality propaganda ban, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Claude Cahn quoted as saying:
Such measures form the basis for standing and regular harassment, and even arbitrary detention, and help create a climate of fear for anyone working on advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The past week has also seen a number of marches and protests in other countries, including a demonstration in Spain that drew hundreds, while on Sunday a number of Canadian Olympians marched in Ottawa’s Pride Parade with messages of solidarity and vowing to help advance gay rights and human rights in Russia when they attend the Sochi 2014 Games. How they will do so with the ever present threat of arrest under Russia’s propaganda law remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, and perhaps symptomatic of the wider climate in Russia, it was revealed last week that a Russian biopic on the life of the famous and celebrated composer Pytor Tchaikovsky will paint him as a man dogged by rumors of homosexuality that have just been greatly exaggerated. The makers of the film, which is partially financed by the Russian government, contend that Tchaikovsky’s sexuality is not an important issue and that, anyway, it is still of debate. This is of course nonsense.
Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality is well established based on primary sources such as his own letters and diaries and those of his (also homosexual) brother.
Whether this is a willful attempt to mislead over Tchaikovsky’s sexuality or a move to dodge the so-called propaganda law is unclear but it starkly illustrates how and why Russia’s federal and state level propaganda laws are so oppressive and why protest over the Olympic governing body’s soft approach to this issue is refusing to fade away.
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