Thousands protest Russia’s anti-gay policies

Amsterdam protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Amsterdam protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s many anti-LGBT initiatives landed Russian President Vladimir Putin in hot water during his visit to the Netherlands and Germany this week. As Euronews reported:

Thousands of people in Amsterdam turned out to demonstrate against a proposed anti-gay propaganda law in Russia, as President Vladimir Putin visited the Dutch capital on Monday.

The draft bill, which still needs a second reading and to be signed by Putin to become law, would see offenders handed a fine of 500,000 roubles (over 12,000 euros).

Euronews correspondent, James Franey said, “The ban on so-called homosexual propaganda is just one step in what gay rights activists have called a state-sponsored witch hunt. Just last year, a Moscow court slapped a 100-year ban on the city’s Gay Pride march. It’s not gone down well with Amsterdam City Hall officials, who have taken an unusual step of protesting against a visiting head of state.”

On Putin’s arrival Rainbow flags were lowered to half-mast around the Dutch city and Amsterdam’s mayoral offices also took part.

The scene was similar in Germany, as ABC News reported:

Vladimir Putin faced hundreds of protesters ranging from gay rights activists to a topless feminist group during his visit to Germany and the Netherlands on Monday, but the Russian president appeared unruffled by the furor.

In Hannover, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Russia’s human rights record at a press conference. Then activists from Ukraine’s Femen group bared their torsos and ran at him shouting “Putin dictator!” before they were detained.

The Femen protest was in support of the members of Pussy Riot who were imprisoned last year for their protest at a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. ABC said:

Protesters booed and whistled at Putin’s arrival at the Amsterdam arm of the Hermitage museum and Amnesty International blanketed the area with satirical signs and police tape proclaiming it a “human rights free zone” during Putin’s visit.

The Russian bill makes gay public events and the dissemination of information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000. It still requires final approval by Parliament and would have to be signed by Putin to become law.

[Dutch Prime Minister Mark] Rutte said he had told Putin during their meeting that, for the Dutch, gay rights are “inextricably linked with human rights.” In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

Putin deflected the criticism, claiming that gay rights are not abused in Russia.

“These people, like others, have all rights and freedoms,” he said.

That is untrue, as ABC quickly pointed out: “Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia remains strong and authorities routinely ban gay pride parades.” The ABC article failed to mention that the lower house of the Russian parliament voted nearly unanimously in January for a ban on so-called “propaganda of homosexualism” where children might be present — a nationwide version of a law that is already in force in 10 regions in Russia.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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