Russian LGBT+ centre Rakurs, based in Arkhangelsk, has been raided after an alleged “complaint” against its work.
On March 28, officers arrived at the community centre and demanded to inspect its premises. They carried out a search, removing materials and preventing volunteers, lawyers and five visitors from leaving until the inspection was complete.
According to a report by metro.co.uk, the LGBT+ centre is now at risk of being banned for “conflating rules on gay propaganda.”
The rule in question is Russia’s law against “information promoting the denial of traditional family values” and “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” introduced by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
The purpose of the law, as stated by Russia’s government, is to protect children from being exposed to portrayals of homosexuality as a norm in society. However, Russian activists suggest that its actual impact has gone further – since its introduction, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic violence has increased. A report by Human Rights Watch has highlighted the impact of the law on inclusive education and support services, pointing out the suffering caused to young LGBT+ people in need of such supports.
This attack on an LGBT+ centre is part of an ongoing assault on Russia’s queer community. According to reports this January, two people were killed and nearly 40 detained in a purge of LGBT+ people in the region of Chechnya. The deaths were allegedly caused by the use of torture by police.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, denied that the purge took place. However, he also told an interviewer that gay people in Chechyna should be removed “to cleanse our blood.”
Russian LGBT Network leader speaks out
Igor Kochetkov, Programs Director of the Russian LGBT Network, has received death threats for his work on behalf of the LGBT+ community.
“Everyone’s involved and everyone stays silent,” he said in an interview on the violence in Chechnya for opendemocracy.net. After being tortured by police, LGBT+ victims are handed over to their relatives, who are given an order to kill the “defective” family member and thereby save the family’s honour. “You need courage in order not to carry the order out, and help your son, daughter, brother or sister to run,” says Kochetkov.
Chechen society has violently repressed its LGBT+ minority, Kochetkov believes, in an attempt to consolidate the fragile identity of the region’s majority culture. “As we entered a new millennium,” he says, “Chechens have been experiencing hugely powerful shocks to their collective identity: an unsuccessful attempt to create their own state, two wars and a genocide, they have been scattered across the whole world.”
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