When gay-bashing hits World Cup fans, here’s who to call

LGBT rights groups in Russia have set up hotlines to help visiting World Cup fans who run into homophobic violence or discrimination, which are common in Russia even when sports rivalries haven’t inflamed fans’ passions.

Image of rainbow-colored ball is courtesy of Coming Out
Image of rainbow-colored ball is courtesy of Coming Out

“The chances of being affected by discrimination and violence from fans are high for both residents and tourists,” says Coming Out, a St. Petersburg LGBT rights group.

“The situation is worsened by the Russian discriminatory legislation: we are referring to the infamous ‘propaganda of homosexuality law.’ For Russian Federation citizens, this law entails an administrative liability and a fine of up to 100,000 rubles [about U.S. $1,587]. Foreigners, in addition to a fine or administrative arrest, are liable for deportation from the Russian Federation.”

Both hotlines accept calls in English. Each has Russian lawyers ready to advise LGBT visitors.

The hotline in St. Petersburg (+7 953 170 97 71) is operated by Coming Out.  It also accepts WhatsApp texts to that number and emails addressed to [email protected]

The hotline in Moscow (+7 495 241 03 10 or 8 800 555 84 88) is operated by the LGBT rights group Stimul.

In addition, the Russian LGBT Network will accept requests for help from visiting LGBT fans who encounter trouble at other locations in Russia.  ([email protected], and +7 952 230 19 31).

For more information, read the two groups’ announcements about their hotlines. First, the press release from Coming Out:

“Coming Out” is launching a World Cup Hotline in St. Petersburg, Russia

Protesters from Coming Out, shortly before their arrest on July 12 at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Protesters from Coming Out, shortly before their arrest in July 2016 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Dear friends, the World Cup is coming soon. Although Russia promises to demonstrate a high level of tolerance and security, foreign football organizations warn LGBT fans that there are no laws in Russia that would protect them against potential manifestations of intolerance. No matter how tense the situation might be, “Coming Out” will try to ensure the safety of LGBT people in St. Petersburg for both residents and tourists.

During the Championship our lawyers and psychologists will be ready to help if necessary. Please write down our contact information for the Championship: call +7 (953) 170 97 71 or email [email protected]

Call us if:

  • You have been refused services because of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender;
  • You have been attacked or threatened with violence for the same reason;
  • You have been accused of “homosexual propaganda” and there is a risk of administrative legal action.

Why is this necessary?

Despite the fact that there have been discussions of a policy of non-discrimination in football, football fans do not always adhere to it. Recently, the UEFA disciplinary committee fined FC Zenit 50 thousand euro for the racist behavior of its fans. The chances of being affected by discrimination and violence from fans are high for both residents and tourists.

The situation is worsened by the Russian discriminatory legislation: we are referring to the infamous “propaganda of homosexuality law”. For the Russian Federation citizens, this law entails an administrative liability and a fine of up to 100 thousand rubles. Foreigners, in addition to a fine or administrative arrest, are liable for deportation from the Russian Federation. Since in the five years of the law’s existence, law enforcement agencies have not developed a clear understanding of what “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” means, the law can be applied arbitrarily.

How does the hotline work?

Call the hotline or write on WhatsApp to +7 (953) 170 97 71, or send an email to [email protected]

We will register your call/text/email, and within a day you will be contacted by a lawyer who will assess the situation, and consult you on the best course of action. In urgent cases the lawyer will call you immediately. How we can help: we can prepare an appeal to the consulate, draw up the necessary documents, and, if necessary, represent you in court. In difficult cases, our psychological service will step in to help.

The hotline is bilingual: we speak Russian and English.

Please note: the hotline will be open from June 14 to July 15, only for the duration of the Championship.

If you have friends and acquaintances who are coming to Saint Petersburg for or during the World Cup, please share this information with them.

Other regions of Russia

If you’ve met with violence or discrimination in other cities of the Championship, please contact the Russian LGBT Network ([email protected], +7 952 230 19 31).

Dancing bears adorn Stimul's flyer for its World Cup hotline.
Dancing bears adorn Stimul’s flyer for its World Cup hotline.

Below is the text of a flyer from Stimul about its hotline:

Welcome to Russia, dear droog!

You, a fellow football (soccer) fan, who happened to stumble upon this flyer, should know that we are honored to have you here as a part of this glorious event, that took years of preparations in order to become something this big.

However (yep, you guessed it), the things are not as shiny and fresh on the inside, as they are on the outside.

The last 5 years have been pretty tough for the ĹGBT community due to the existence of the federal law, that literally forces you to stop being gay around people because it «traumatizes children» and «serves as a propaganda for homosexual style of life» (whatever this means).

We’ve been living in this kind of society for years now, but that does not mean that you have to.

That is why we are here to be your LGBT watchdogs.

As a local Moscow group called «Stimul», we know ins and outs of our judicial system, so if you ever face any kind of troubles because of who you really are, do not hesitate to call us.

Our lawyer is ready to help you anytime, so rest assured that there are real people here, who care about making your stay here as enjoyable, as it gets.

FREE HOTLINE: 8 800 555 84 88

+7 495 241 03 10

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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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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