First Tourists Have Been Arrested Under Putin’s Anti-Gay Laws

by Nicola Brown

Four Dutch nationals were arrested on Sunday for allegedly violating Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda.” Kris van der Veen was reportedly shooting a documentary, interviewing young people at a campsite called “Frigate” in the northern Russian city of Murmansk, asking them about their views on gay rights, as part of the larger issue of human rights, in Russia.

That’s when the Russian Federal Migration Service burst onto the scene and started questioning people in the vicinity. Low and behold, Van der Veen had violated article 6.21.3, “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among the under-aged, spread by citizen of a foreign country, ” because his video featured under-aged individuals discussing the topic of gay rights.

A hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed, and the four were instead fined 3, 000 roubles each (approximately $95). Their documentary film footage was confiscated by police. Under the new laws, the four could have been jailed for up to 2 weeks and even deported if given a guilty verdict.

The new law bans everything from gay rallies to holding hands, and most disturbingly, even to simply bringing the topic up in conversation, apparently.

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Many have raised concerns that the new laws will incite violence against gays, lesbians, and their supporters — and their predictions are sadly coming true. There has already been an increase in anti-gay violence across the country since the law was passed.

If this seems shocking, consider the numbers coming out of opinion polls across Russia. A survey published on June 11th revealed that 88 percent supported a ban on “homosexual propaganda, ” and 57 percent advocated for fines and prison sentences for homosexuals.

Harvey Fierstein hit the nail on the head with his New York Times editorial piece on Monday:

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. Last week a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world remains almost completely ignorant of Mr. Putin’s agenda. His adoption restrictions have received some attention, but it has been largely limited to people involved in international adoptions.

This must change. With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure. American and world leaders must speak out against Mr. Putin’s attacks and the violence they foster. The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.

What do you think? Do you think Putin’s anti-gay crusades warrant international intervention for the protection of human rights?