The Fight For Gay Rights in Russia

Nikolai Alekeyev has spearheaded the gay rights movement in Russia since 2005. His out-spoken, animated, and impassioned organizing efforts have yielded some gains for the LGBT community in Russia. In 2008, “men who have sex with men” were finally allowed to donate blood (something they are still unable to do in the US, Canada and the UK!). Additionally he won the first court case at the European Court of Human Rights on LGBT human rights violations in Russia. These gains however, do not appease Alekyev, nor should his recent appearance on “Duel,” a prime-time television debate show in Russia. The fight has been paved with continuous resistance and hate-filled attacks.

A cursory look at his appearance on the show might lead some to believe that the fight for gay rights in Russia has come a long way. For Alekeyev and the movement, however, there is still a great deal to be done, and mainstream media appearances certainly do not mean that the fight is over.

The backlash against gay rights in Russia comes from the national government, appointed officials and general public. At this year’s gay pride events in Russia participants were arrested shortly after flying a rainbow flag. At the same event, participants were forced to listen to angry shouting from a crowd of protesters chanting, “Beat the homos.” Over the course of Alekeyev’s tireless organizing he has contended with varying degrees of hate and homophobia.

The former mayor of Moscow has referred to Alekeyev’s organizing as “satanic” and the participants of as “faggots.” During Alekeyev’s recent appearance on “Duel” the host equated homosexuality with pedophilia. As a gay rights activist in Russia Alekeyev has been arrested 6 times for his participation in unsanctioned public events in Moscow. Public opinion about gay rights in Russia is polarized: in 2005, 43.5% of Russians supported the re-criminalization of same-sex sexual acts between two consenting adults, while 42.8% of Russians support legal ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. There are no anti-discrimination laws in Russia with respect to sexual identity.

Alekeyev is unmoving in his dedication to gay rights, maintaining that “You cannot work on human rights, you can only live with human rights issues. Fighting for human rights cannot be a job. Fighting for human rights is an ideal.”

by Revel and Riot contributor Krista Whitehead