Today I have this piece from VZGLIAD, by reporter Petr Akopov. It touches on a host of issues — most of them thorny, — including homosexuality, family law, international law, and Russia’s relationship to Europe. Akopov’s headline even raises the alarmist spectre of Russia losing her actual sovereignty as a state. As one of the Russian commenters to this piece (Semyon Bersenyov) noted sarcastically, “Two fags almost overthrew Russia’s sovereignty? Is its construction perhaps not too fragile?”
Before I get to the story of these actual two men who attempted to use a loophole in Russian law to get their same-sex marriage (registered in Copenhagen, Denmark) re-registered in Russia as well, we first need some cultural and legal background to these complicated issues.
Quoting liberally from this wiki piece as to the current situation in Russia:
- The age of consent currently stands at 16 since 2003, regardless of sexual orientation.
- Transsexual and transgender people can change their legal gender after corresponding medical procedures since 1997.
- Homosexuality was officially removed from the Russian list of mental illnesses in 1999 (after endorsement of ICD-10).
- As far as adoptions of children: Single persons living within Russia, regardless of their sexual orientation, can adopt children. Russian children can be adopted by a single homosexual who lives in a foreign country provided that country does not recognize same-sex marriage. A couple can adopt children together, as a couple, only if they are a married heterosexual couple.
These facts show that Russian law is not exactly medieval when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation, and in fact reflects similar legislation in European countries from around the 1990’s. However, all of this is sort of decoration and does not reflect the biases of the majority of Russian people, who are not at all tolerant on this issue. As wiki goes on to say:
Public opinion in Russia tends to be among the most hostile toward homosexuality in the world—outside predominantly Muslim countries and some parts of Africa and Asia—and the level of intolerance has been rising…
Yeah, well, as to the rising levels of intolerance in Russian society, this fact should be at least partly blamed on the West. In the United States, for example, homosexuals gradually gained more acceptance as a result of internal cultural and political forces. Starting with the various “liberation movements” and personal identity politics of the 1960’s. A few decades later, the American TV sitcom “Will and Grace” comes to mind. Silly as the show is, it was a force in changing people’s minds about homosexuals. Like, changing the stereotypical image from the sick mentally ill predator or victim — to the cuddly living-room companion. Shows like this, and the experiences of ordinary people in dealing with homosexuals in their families led, over the decades, to a shifting of public opinion. There was a growing acceptance, which laid down a spectrum from mere tolerance all the way to legal acceptance of same-sex marriage. I am not sure, but I think a similar internal process occurred in European societies.
Such an internal process never happened in Russia (or in China, or in most other countries in the world, for that matter). The vast majority of Russians do not distinguish between homosexuals and pederasts; in fact, the most common Russian slang word for “gay” is “pidor”, which also means pederast. Most Russians cannot conceive of two adult males being in love or having romantic feelings for each other; hence, in their minds, homosexuality per se is seen as a threat to children, especially young boys. And this is a valid concern, since a certain percentage of homosexuals (like heterosexuals) are also pedophiles
And yet, despite these prejudices, if there was ever a chance for more tolerance towards consenting adult same-sex couples, Russia could possibly have been a candidate, more so than China, for example. Russia has always been open to European ideas and cultural values. Remember that it was Tsar Peter the Great who (allegedly) cut boyars beards off, in order to make them conform to European standards of grooming!
However, in the last two decades, the hostility of the Western elites towards Russia, and their attempts to cram homosexuality down Russia’s throat [no horrible puns intended!] had the opposite effect: Of reinforcing the native Russian abhorrence of homosexuality. Many Russians now see homosexuality as just one more colonialist battering ram aimed at their way of life, their family values, and even their national sovereignty. The Western propaganda of homosexuality could have been more successful, had it been more subtle!
Nonetheless, ompared to, say, Saudi Arabia, Russia is still a fairly liberal country, even by Western standards. Homosexuality per se is not illegal, nor are homosexual acts between two consenting adults, when done in private. However, there is no such thing as same-sex “civil unions” let alone “gay marriage” in Russia; nor is there likely to be in the near future. Opinion polls show that most Russians are vehemently opposed to homosexuality. If left to their own devices, ordinary Russians would go much farther in repressing it, than their relatively moderate government. Due to this, ordinary Russian gays (I exclude the usual high-profile ones, in show business, etc.) should consider themselves fairly lucky that they have any legal protections at all; things would go much worse for them if they were simply turned over to the will of the mob.
Despite which, some Russian homosexuals persist in trying to push the envelope. Whether they are acting on their own (as a native, gay rights movement); or are paid provocateurs working at the behest of foreign governments, is a question best answered on a case by case basis. But many Russians believe they know the answer already: They believe that ALL gay activists are pro-NATO provocateurs seeking to overthrow the Russian government. And in some cases they are right! But are they right, in this particular case?
[to be continued]