Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently denied that his country persecutes homosexual people: "I want everyone to understand that in Russia there are no infringements on sexual minorities' rights," he stated one such time. "They're people, just like everyone else, and they enjoy full rights and freedoms." But, unfortunately for gay people living in the Eurasian country, their leader's words never quite match his actions.
Although homosexuality was legalised in Russia in 1993, it remains a controversial subject across the country and, despite Putin firm refutations, LGBT rights appear to be being crushed at every twist and turn. And we don't have to look far to guess who is to blame. Despite insisting that gay people are "just like the rest of us", former spy Vladimir Putin has signed off discriminatory law after discriminatory law. So, without further ado, let us take you through some of the worst things he has done to or said about homosexual people.Signed the Russian gay propaganda law
The Russian federal law "for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values" - otherwise known as the gay propaganda law - was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June 2013. The deeply discriminatory piece of legislation was put into place to "protect" children from being exposed to homosexuality and basically bans the promotion of homosexual behaviour to minors. Ruled as reinforcing "stigma and prejudice" by the European Court of Human Rights and condemned as discriminatory by the Russian LGBT community, the law encourages and normalises homophobia in society and curtails people's right to freedom of expression and basic human rights.Supported the ban on same-sex couples adopting Russian children
In 2013, a decree was signed that banned foreign same-sex couples from adopting Russian children, as well as single people from countries where same-sex marriages are legal. The Kremlin website claimed that psychological research found that gay parents were harmful to their children and the discriminatory law aimed to protect them from “dictated non-traditional sexual behavior” and rid them of “distresses of soul and stresses". Afterwards, Putin defended Russia’s ban on same-sex adoption saying: “I cannot say that it is welcomed by our public. I say this frankly. In my view, children will have a freer choice when they become adults if they grow up in a traditional family.”Acted like gay people were sexual predators
Would President Putin ever shower next to a gay man? Of course he wouldn't. So, what would he do if it did happen? Use his mastery of martial arts, of course! When US filmmaker Oliver Stone asked if he would mind a homosexual male cleaning himself beside him, Putin answered: “Well, I prefer not to go to the shower with him. Why provoke him? But you know, I’m a judo master.”Blamed homosexual people for depopulation
Research tells us that if current trends in low birth rates and an usually high working-age male mortality continue, Russia's population will drop from 143 million to 107 million by 2050. Considering the fact that many experts estimate that if we keep on reproducing at the sheer rate in which we are, the world is not going to be able to cope, this doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world. But, of course, Putin doesn't see it this way, claiming that the country's falling population poses a dire threat to its existence. The solution, according to Russia's president? Stop gay people getting married.
In a series of interviews with American film director Oliver Stone, Putin claimed:"I can tell you this, that as head of state today, I believe it's my duty to uphold traditional values and family values. But why? Because same-sex marriages will not produce any children. God has decided, and we have to care about birth rates in our country. We have to reinforce families." He continued to state: "That doesn’t mean that there should be any persecutions against anyone." However, his comments were telling and highlight his controversial views on homosexuals.Made it illegal to compare him to a gay person
In April 2017, it became illegal in Russia to distribute images of President Putin wearing make-up, along with any other implication that he was gay. Images of the leader with rouged cheeks and eyeshadow had been circulating online since 2013 in protest over Russia's gay propaganda law. The two-time president's solution? Give anyone who re-tweeted it 15 days in prison or a fine of 3,000 rubles ($53). The Justice Ministry in Moscow has included one specific image among a registry of "extremist materials," along with others such as anti-Semitic and racist pictures and slogans.Was he reluctant to investigate the alleged Chechen gay concentration camps?
The status of LGBT rights in the Chechen Republic has always been a cause for concern, but it became desperate in February 2017 when it was reported that more than 100 male residents had been abducted, held prisoner and tortured by the authorities which were targeting them on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation. The semi-autonomous republic within Russia's borders has its own legal code, but Putin was called upon by world leaders, including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, to investigate. The president was criticised in the media for initially supporting Chechnya's blanket denial that the gay purge was happening. He authorised an investigation in May 2017, but was still slammed by many for his alleged reluctance to investigate what he called "the well-known information, or rumours" about what is happening to people "with a non-traditional sexual orientation."Did he compare homosexuality to paedophilia?
In defence of his signing of the gay propaganda bill, Putin appeared to imply that being a homosexual was just as bad as being a paedophile: "Can you imagine an organization promoting paedophilia in Russia? I think people in many Russian regions would have started to take up arms.... The same is true for sexual minorities: I can hardly imagine same-sex marriages being allowed in Chechnya. Can you imagine it? It would have resulted in human casualties."
Despite Putin's refusal to acknowledge the vast amount of homophobic propaganda in Russia, it's becoming crystal clear that it is a country that is not safe for gay people. We can only hope they can gain their human rights back in the future. However, although gay rights are nearing rock bottom in Russia, in America they're not always ideal either; in fact, even nowadays homophobia stands as justification in US courts.