A country known mainly for its vodka, snow and the Winter Olympics, is now known for a series of vicious attacks on homosexuals.
Channel 4’s latest ‘Dispatches’ revealed the true horror behind what it is like to be a homosexual in the European country. The presenter, Liz MacKean, showed viewers the horrendous attacks that homosexuals are regularly subjected to. She began: “(Russia) a place where people are hunted like animals,”.
Under normal circumstances I would suggest that this was melodramatic, and perhaps slightly evading the truth. However, unfortunately, this was not the case. Throughout the programme we saw some serious assaults and homophobic opinions.
“This is Russia. This is hell for homosexuals…they should get used to it.”
Timur Isaev, was the first man we were introduced to, and he held the view that homosexuality was a disgusting way to live. He is part of a group of people called ‘Parents of Russia’ which seeks to maintain traditional familial relationships. He and his colleague Dmitry believe that “filth like them should not exist”. He told Channel 4: “This is Russia. This is hell for homosexuals…they should get used to it.” This may see like an extremist view, but in Russia more and more people are involved in planning brutal an humiliating attacks.
The country legalised homosexuality twenty years ago, but there are clear signs that this is not widely respected. On their first day filming, Dispatches came across a tea party within the gay community which was subject to an awful attack. Dimur, a gay Russian man, was left blinded in one eye following a shooting and a repeated assault on a group of people. He echoed the awful truth: “The hunting season is open, and we are the hunted.”
The programme was very visual and showed a string of violent assaults and language against homosexuality, leaving viewers feeling anxious for those involved, as there was no information about the people after they had been subjected to such terrible crimes. Some of the assaults included repeatedly hitting the victims, kicking them and using language such as ‘faggot’, ‘immoral’ and ‘filthy’, to refer to the gay community.
“Well in that case, paedophiles and sexual offenders are just a bit different too.”
Part of the problem, it is believed, I that the church governs much of Russia’s lifestyle and teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Father Sergei Rybko said that he considered homosexuals to be spiritually and morally ill. He said that many people say they are just a bit different but that this is not true. He compared homosexuals to paedophiles saying: “Well in that case, paedophiles and sexual offenders are just a bit different too.”
Another group of people against homosexuals was Katia, a leader of her group “Occupy paedophilia” who said they were hunting paedophiles. She implied it was just a coincidence that out of about 30 men, 28 were gay. The documentary producers went into the flat one day when the group were planning to harass a man who had been in contact with one of them. The director saw how the man was thumped when he refused to give information about himself, while being filmed by the group.
They taunted him saying: “Will you lose your job if your employers see this?” and laughing when he said yes. Arguably, Dispatches stood by to some extent and watched the situation unfold, however they say that they believe the group were less violent because they were in the room.
Videos such as this one are regularly posted online and watched by Russians who believe that this is the way to tackle homosexuality. It is believed that only 1% of gay people live openly and the rest live in fear that they will never come out.
“They will have to kill me before they take my children.”
One lesbian couple who are co-habiting spoke to Dispatches to reveal that the attacks are not just physical, but that the law is also against them. One of them, Iulia was too scared to be revealed, her partner, Sveta spoke out. They both have children from previous relationships. New laws are expected to be passed saying that same-sex couples cannot raise children. Iulia said: “They will have to kill me before they take my children…We are certainly scared.” For now it seems that homosexuality will always be the group most subjected to hatred in the country.
Not all Russians are against homosexuals though, there is hope for Russia, and it comes in the form of a group of people who are campaigning against these heinous crimes. Member and teacher, Yekaterina says that she thinks there is a witch hunt going on against homosexuals.
She says the economy is in a bad state and she believes the government are trying to shift the blame and draw attention to others. “There comes a moment here you have to speak out… or you start to lose your self-respect,” she said. Yekaterina, who is not gay, faces losing her job because of her beliefs.
Perhaps the future is dimmed for Russia, with some of its community hiding its real self, and expecting life to get worse after the Olympics, we can only hope for a change in stance from the government. For now, it seems, the LGBT community must hide its true self like it was forced to generations ago.