Human Rights First Meets with Russian LGBT Activists on Eve of Sochi Olympics
Sochi, Russia – Human Rights First today met with LGBT leaders in St. Petersburg to discuss Russia’s crackdown on the LGBT community, as well as the threat of harsher treatment and introduction of additional discriminatory laws. In the meeting, Russia LGBT Network chairman Igor Kochetkov, lawyer Maria Kozlovskaya of “Coming Out,” and Anastasia Smirnova, who is coordinating the LGBT work related to the Olympics, described the worsening situation of violence and harassment of the LGBT community and an expansion of prosecutions for violations of the anti-”propaganda” law.
“The most alarming thing is despite the international attention, the authorities are bringing more charges under the [anti-propaganda] law,” said Anastasia Smirnova. “The law is being applied on a larger scale; we have to be prepared for a crackdown against media and social media.”
The activists warned that while increased international attention has helped change the Russian government’s narrative, they expect that prosecutions for violations of the anti-propaganda law will rapidly increase after the Olympic Games are over. In addition to the expected re-introduction of an amendment to Russia’s Family Code that could allow the Russian government to remove children from LGBT families, Smirnova emphasized that the anti-propaganda law is only a symptom of a larger state led attack against this vulnerable minority group.
“It is crucial that the international community continue to pay attention to Russia’s human rights situation after the Olympic torch leaves Sochi,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The United States should continue to press for a repeal of Russia’s anti-”propaganda” laws and take action as necessary to prevent the passage of further discriminatory laws.
Human Rights First’s delegation, which includes gay Olympian David Pichler, is currently in Russia for the Sochi Games. While there, they will engage the international media and human rights defenders about the crackdown on civil society in Russia. They will also work to ensure that attention to these issues continues once the Games are over. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to keep up the pressure on Russian lawmakers to repeal the anti-propaganda laws and prevent the passage of further discriminatory laws.