Desperate Times in Putin’s Russia

by: Diego Martínez

March 6, 2012

Without any glimpse of surprise, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential election held last Sunday, with a landslide of over 63% of the popular vote. After declaring victory, a tearful Putin claimed the process as ‘an open and clean struggle’. For his opposition and global monitors, it was anything but. Allegations of fraud began to surface, enough to push hundreds of furious Russians into the streets of Moscow to protest against a leader who has already earned himself a bad name. Putin’s autocratic tendencies have been further exposed in recent months, thanks in part to a continued support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

But in the midst of doubts and police arrests near the Kremlin, another human rights concern still is present in the country. Just last week, and despite a widespread international opposition, the St. Petersburg parliament adopted a controversial bill which imposes fines against anyone that engages in public activities promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality. The legal document is setting a dangerous precedent for the government’s ability to suppress public demonstrations and activism particularly involving LGBT issues. It also violates the right to freedom of expression and assembly and protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the words of Human Rights Watch, it could easily lead to a ban on displaying a rainbow flag or wearing a T-shirt with a gay-friendly logo or even on holding pride rallies.

Taking in consideration that St. Petersburg Governor Georgiy Poltavchenko has up to two weeks to veto the bill or turn it into law, the pressure has been stronger than ever. Many nongovernmental organizations have spoken out and called on the Russian authorities to stop the bill from being adopted. The US State Department, the UK Foreign Office, the Australian Government, and the European Parliament have also expressed their opinions. We as individuals can also make a difference by logging into All Out‘s website and sign a petition boycotting tourism in St. Petersburg.

Do you think a city that muzzles artists, writers, musicians, citizens and visitors is a city worth being in? If your answer is NO, then head over to All Out and support the endangered LGBT community in Russia.

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