New Survey Of LGBTQ+ Russians Finds Steep Rise In Homophobia Since War Began
When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, fears were widespread that an already hostile environment for the LGBTQ+ community could get much worse. A new survey finds those fears were more than justified.
MOSCOW — Soon after Russia launched its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin passed a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” It was just one of many signs that the war would likely be even crueler for the LGBTQ+ community than other Russians. A new survey by the Russian LGBTQ+ rights organizations Vykhod (literally “Coming Out”) and Sphereconfirms the bad news — on multiple fronts.
According to the survey released this week, 83% of LGBTQ+ respondents said Russian society has become more homophobic since the outbreak of the war. Of those surveyed, 39% also reported experiencing a steep rise rise in hate speech originating from both pro-government media and government officials, further exacerbating the already challenging situation.
The most recent in a series of examples of dangerous information was a segment on the country's largest TV news program, Russia 1, that drew false comparisons between transgender individuals and criminals.
The survey also shows that the trust of many LGBTQ+ community members in governmental organizations and especially law enforcement agencies has been severely undermined, with 58% of respondents indicating that they would hesitate to approach the police if they were to fall victim to a hate crime.
Hate and discrimination are increasing
Like others in Russia, there has also been a stark economic impact of the war on the LGBTQ+ community. Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported that the war had led to a deterioration in their financial situations, arising from loss of work in international companies, the restriction of career prospects, rising prices and lower incomes. Sixty percent now say they have an income below the average monthly salary (64,191 rubles, $800), and 7% report earning less than the subsistence level (13,919 rubles, $175).
Of those surveyed, 16% said they had decided to leave the country as a result of the increased discrimination. Of those, around 60% left the country after September 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization of military reservists. Many traveled to EU countries (23%), though Georgia (16%) and Turkey (11%) were also popular destinations. Two percent of the respondents reported that they later returned to Russia.
Russia has long been considered among the world's most homophobic countries. But state and religious rhetoric around so-called "traditional values" has multiplied as part of the justification for the war in Ukraine, which Putin and the Russia Orthodox Patriarch Kirill say is a defense against the West's culture that supports such policy as LGBTQ+ rights.
A file photo of Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirillcommons.wikimedia.org
Russian state policy
The study was conducted from December 5, 2022 to February 12, 2023, with results released on Wednesday. Questionnaires were distributed via the social media pages of both Vykhod and Spheres. A total of 6439 questionnaires were included in the study, with the age of participants ranging from 13 to 70 years.
In 2021, the Russian Justice Ministry announced that it had included Vykhod in the register of public associations acting as a " foreign agent." In April 2022, the St Petersburg district court issued a decision to shut down Sphere.
The Ministry of Justice said the foundation’s activity went against state policy because “all the actual activities of the organization are aimed at supporting the LGBTQ+ movement in Russia” and therefore Sphere was aiming to “change the legislation and moral foundations in the Russian Federation.”
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