Members of Russia’s LGBTQ community fear a court ruling due on Thursday will label them “extremists” and pave the way for arrests and prosecutions of those who speak out for gay and transgender people.
Russia’s justice ministry asked the Supreme Court this month to recognise what it called “the international LGBT social movement” as extremist and to ban its activities.
The ministry said that “various signs and manifestations of extremist orientation, including the incitement of social and religious discord” had been identified in the activities of Russia’s LGBT movement, without giving examples.
The move is part of a pattern of restrictive measures with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity, including laws outlawing the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations and banning legal or medical changes of gender.
“Of course it’s very alarming, and I don’t remember the threat ever being so serious and real,” Alexei Sergeyev, an LGBT activist in St Petersburg, told Reuters TV in an interview.
“If it didn’t have a propaganda effect, if it didn’t have some level of support, it’s unlikely that anyone would do it.”
Putin, with support from the Orthodox Church, has long sought to project Russia as a guardian of traditional morality, in contrast with Western societies that he portrays as decadent in their tolerance of “gay parades” and acceptance of “dozens of genders”.