Would You Travel to Russia as an LGBT Person?
It’s now just over a year since an amendment to a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” was enacted in Russia, and though much of the furore surrounding the law may have died down somewhat on the internet and in the media, the way it affects the every day lives of the Russian LGBT community certainly hasn’t.
Foreginers visiting Russia are by no means exempt from adhering to the law, and indeed are subject to extra punishments.
In Russia, the fine for individuals for breaking this law is between 4,000 and 5,000 rubles (US$110-US$138 or €82-€103), though non-Russians may also be imprisoned for up to 15 days and subsequently deported from Russia.
But how exactly does one break this law? What is constitutes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”?
The wording of the law is that it is anything which may cause
minors to form non-traditional sexual predispositions, notions of attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relationships, distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships, or imposing information about non-traditional sexual relationships which raises interest in such relationships insofar as these acts do not amount to a criminal offence. [Source]
To my understanding, simply stating that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans does not infringe on this law. What would, however, is holding up a sign declaring that homosexuality is normal.
However, the deeper issue is not whether or not being an LGBT person and being out about it is legal or not in Russia, but rather that the introduction of this law may indeed have contributed to a rise in violence towards LGBT people. The reason for this may be that the government approving the law has been perceived by extremist groups that it is now acceptable, or even somewhat lawful, to perpetrate hate crimes against LGBT people.
So the question becomes whether you would feel safe travelling to Russia as an LGBT person. I travelled there in 2009 and did not have any problems, but I would not go now. Though I’ve travelled to countries where male homosexuality is technically illegal, such as Syria, I’ve never felt threatened just for being who I am on my travels.
In Russia, as it stands now though, I wouldn’t take my chances.
What about you? Would you feel safe travelling to Russia if you identify as LGBT?