Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brody's Notes... Homophobia Running High In Russia, New Poll Suggests

Nikolai Alekseev is a leading voice and advocate for LGBT Equality Rights in The Russian Federation. Founder and online Publisher of the Russian-Language website,, established in 2005, the LGBT Human Rights Project very quickly became one the main sources of information on the topic and leading force in the fight for equal rights of gays and lesbians in Russia.
Earlier this year, Alekseev, along with UK LGBT Equality Rights Activist Peter Tatchell organised and participated in a 'Flash-Mob' style unauthorised Gay pride parade in the Russian capital to protest the continuing denial of LGBT rights by Moscow's notoriously homophobic mayor. A lawyer and also a journalist, Alekseev is also frequent contributor to the British newspaper,'s online 'comment is free' column.

Nikolai Alekseev   Photo by Kirill Nepomnyaschiy
By Nikolai Alekseev (Moscow, Russia) AUG 29 | The Moscow based Levada Centre released a new poll on the attitude of Russian society towards homosexuality, gay pride marches and same-sex marriages. On three questions, the figures tend to show a slight increase of the negative perceptions of homosexuality. The poll, conducted from July 23 to July 26, sampled 1600 Russians aged 18 and older in 130 cities and 45 regions. The margin of error is 3.4%.
Homophobia is widely spread in Russian public opinion. 74% of respondents believe that gays and lesbians are morally dissolute or mentally defective persons. Only 15% said that homosexuality is equal with the traditional sexual orientation. 11% found it difficult to answer. Only a quarter of respondents (25%) believe that there should be no special measures taken against homosexuals and that they should be left to live their lives as they wish. 24% said they should be offered psychological support. 39% of Russians believe that homosexuals should be forced into treatment or be otherwise isolated from the society. 4% of respondents expressed the view that persons with different sexual orientations should be eliminated.
On the question of whether gays and lesbians should have equal rights along with those of traditional sexual orientation, Russian society is divided almost equally. 45% of Russians support equality, 41% - support limiting the rights of gays and lesbians. And the relatively high percentage remained undecided - 15%.
According to the poll, 84% of Russians oppose legalization of same-sex marriages and only 14% - would support such a move. 82% of Russians said they do not wish to see gay parade marches in the Russian cities. Such parades are supported by only 8% of the population nationally.
In terms of attitudes towards same-sex marriages and gay parades the attitudes of the society have no significantly changes since 2005 when a similar poll was conducted also by  the Levada Center.
The enactment of the law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation also caused a split in public opinion. 41% of respondents supported this measure, 31% in one degree or another oppose such a law and 28% were undecided.
Over the past five years (since the first survey, conducted in August 2005) attitudes in Russian society have fallen slightly in the level of tolerance towards homosexuals and intensified homophobic sentiments. There are 5% less Russians who offer to leave homosexual people alone, a 4% increase in the number of those who believe that such persons should be treated and 6% of those who propose to isolate them from society.
Homophobia in Russian society is most common among men, older respondents (over 55 years), people with secondary education and low income. These groups often refer to homosexuality, promiscuity and bad habits.
Tolerance to persons with different sexual orientation and understanding of their problems are often higher among women, young Russians (18-39 years), more educated and wealthier respondents. Among these groups it is more common view that homosexuality has a right to exist along with traditional sexual orientation. These categories of respondents increasingly offer not to take any special actions against gay and lesbian people and let them live the way they want.
Those, who responded that homosexuality is a disease that requires medical intervention and that homosexuals should be isolated from society, are respondents older than 40 years, as well as individuals with middle-and lower-middle-low income residents of villages - that is, categories of people that preserve the inertia of the Soviet era of thinking.
"The conclusion we can make from these results is that we only have more work ahead." stated a spokesperson for Moscow Pride. "The attitude of Russians towards gay prides, same-sex marriages cannot improve when officials are using the media to call for hatred towards the LGBT community."
Gay advocates unsuccessfully initiated law suit in Russian courts against the Mayor of Moscow who said that; "Gays are fagots and weapons of mass destructions" and the Governor of the Tambov region who was quoted as saying that: "Gays should be torn apart and their pieces thrown into the wind".
The spokesman [ For Moscow Pride ] added:
"The cases we introduced against the hatred of Russian officials at the European Court might help us, though that's a long term hope. We need to work more to get the Russian justice accepting to recognize us as part of a social group. This is the only legal way to get protected from hatred by the justice under the existing legislation. 
But when some gays themselves are openly saying that there is no homophobia and that they don't need anything, it does not help as well to convince the society that we do need equal rights. We still have to be cautious with these figures as it remains unclear who ordered this complete research on homosexuality in Russia but from what we know it does not come from any of Russian LGBT groups. Furthermore, people are still considering homosexuality as a sensitive question and that might affect the answer they give when being asked a question face to face by a polling institute."