Russian school kids are being investigated for gay propaganda

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Russian police seized several drawings from a school art exhibition to investigate possible violations of the country’s ban on gay propaganda after parents complained that they depicted same-sex couples. Russia outlawed “gay propaganda” among minors in 2013, a move that allowed courts to ban gay pride events and was followed by a surge in anti-LGBT sentiment in the country.

The drawings were made by students of a school in Yekaterinburg for an art contest marking the UN’s international day of tolerance. The police said they seized 17 drawings from the competition to investigate complaints that they contain gay propaganda, Interfax reported.

The the 5th- to 11th-graders had portrayed gay couples in their drawings. One drawing attracted attention for depicting the silhouettes of a female couple, a male couple and a mixed couple. “Around 10 other posters hang next to this picture showing a rainbow (a symbol of the sexual minority movement), planets and people of different nationalities,” a Russian news site wrote. “Another work contains the motto ‘We’re for peace! We’re for tolerance!’”

First Russian Teen found guilty under Gay Propaganda Law

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On August 7, a 16-year-old Russian teenager became the first minor found guilty under the country’s absurd “gay propaganda” law. The boy was accused of publishing homoerotic pictures on the Russian social network VKontakte. But the Russia LGBT Network suspects that his conviction is actually connected to the teen’s LGBTQ activism rather than the photos themselves.

According to the Russia LGBT Network, a July 24 report filed by the Commission on Minors and the Protection of Minors’ Rights said that the teen published “some pictures of young men whose appearance (partly nude body parts) had the characteristics of propaganda of homosexual relations according to the expert opinion.” The teen was fined 50,000 rubles ($762 US) as punishment.

The Network suspects Russian law enforcement agencies of paying special attention to the teen because last May he helped stage a public performance entitled Gays or Putin. The performance attracted public attention and was even discussed in the Russian federal legislative assembly.

The boy had submitted 12 applications to city administrators for permission to stage the performance. The city refused to grant him a permit. He also tried to organise a local Pride parade.

He was reportedly denied access to a lawyer after his arrest and, as a result, refused to testify at his trial. The Network says that the trial failed to prove that he posted the photos in question. They also add that an appeal is under consideration.

In 2013, Russia passed it infamous national law banning any public displays of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.” The gay propaganda law caused a massive outcry as Russia began to crackdown on LGBTQ activism online and off.

In addition to the gay propaganda law, Russia has an ongoing campaign of kidnapping, torturing and murdering occurring against LGBTQ citizens in Chechnya.

Take me to Church: ‘Gay Propaganda’ goes viral

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Russia’s recently introduced laws against ‘gay propaganda’ sparked controversy all over the world. When Irish singer Hoizer chimed in with his own protest song the people listened. A lot. His song Take me to Church was streamed over 87 million times on Spotify, making it the platform’s most successful single of 2014. The song, which was  nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys, did very well as a video too, it was viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube.

Hozier said: ‘The song was always about humanity at its most natural, and how that is undermined ceaselessly by religious [organizations] and those who would have us believe they act in its interests. What has been seen growing in Russia is no less than nightmarish, I proposed bringing these themes into the story and [director Brendan Canty] liked the idea.’

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Holding Hands, a Russian Extreme Sport

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While we’re making slow but steady progress on several queer rights fronts it’s important not to forget that there’s a lot of catching up to do in some places.

Achievements like marriage equality, anti-bullying laws and out celebrities have helped to normalise the view on the queer aspects of sexuality & gender in many countries. In these places kids grow up learning that the love between two people of the same gender is every bit as real as any other kind. You won’t raise any eyebrows if you’re out on the streets, holding hands with your boyfriend in a town in Norway, Scotland or the Netherlands.

The same can’t be said about countries like Russia, which actually have and enforce anti-gay “propaganda” laws, as the little experiment by Russian YouTuber ChebuRussiaTV below will make obvious.

The start of the video is very loud // Don’t forget to enable subtitles

Keep in mind that this was done in Moscow, the most modern and progressive place you’ll find in Russia. I’d rather not imagine what would happened in a smaller town. And that does not only apply to Russia.

While it’s tempting to approach the issue from the high horse of “modern Western values” one should not forget that this horse is a pretty hypocritical nag. People get beat up in places like Germany for being gay, people get murdered for being transgender in America and kids get bullied into suicide all over the world.

There’s a lot to do.