A video of assaults obtained by Human Rights Watch shows gay men cornered by gangs, humiliated, punched, kicked and forced to torture themselves on tape. Activists said the gangs, with names like “Occupy Pedophiles,” recorded the attacks and called themselves as defenders of Russian children.
Investigative journalist Liz MacKean got inside the St. Petersburg branch of Occupy Paedophilia, an anti-gay organization with at least 37 chapters across Russia. The group tracks down and abducts gay men, torturing and humiliating them, before posting the footage on the internet.
Vigilantes pose as young gays online to lure gays looking for a hookup. Once contact is made, the gay victim is lured to an apartment where other men are hidden inside. Once in the apartment, the victim is surrounded, physically abused by the group and made to give his name and address and place of employment. He is often further humiliated by having urine poured over his head and then beaten brutally. All this is filmed and the videos are posted online. As a result the gay man is usually fired and loses his employment. This is the goal of these so-called "safaris" as one of the group says proudly, “We will ruin his life, as usual.”
Most of the group don’t try to hide their identities, unworried that their actions might have repercussions. These thugs enjoy huge public support in Russia, and “genuinely think they’re doing right.” The police and justice system seems to do very little to stop the groups or the attacks. They just don't care about gays. The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so,' said Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
From President Putin on down, the establishment equates homosexuality with paedophilia. This is clear when earlier this year, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that gay people will be not be subjected to harassment at the Winter Olympics in Sochi as long as they stay away from children.
“We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships,” said Putin in comments reported by Russian agencies.
“We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things – a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.
“We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations.
Churches in Russia also routinely reinforce the belief there's a direct link between homosexuality and child abuse. Father Sergei one of the heads of the Russian Orthodox church said: “These things are interconnected. Where gays are allowed, paedophilia will soon flourish. Permitted evil gives rise to more evil.
The adoption of the federal law banning 'propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors' is but one measure among several federal anti-LGBT laws proposed or adopted in the past year in Russia.
Violating the law is an administrative offense punishable by a range of fines. Media and organizations face particularly hefty fines, while foreigners who violate the law are subject to fines, up to 15 days in detention and deportation.
The law also bans representing 'traditional' and 'nontraditional' relationships as equally acceptable. That makes it illegal to say anything positive about being gay publicly or to tell a child that there is nothing wrong with being gay or being raised by gay parents. You can not even have a street demonstration of more than one person so it's almost impossible for Russian gays to get organized.
Meanwhile the gang safaris continue to destroy the lives of gays in Russia. Nobody seems to care how many gays are beaten. Some lose an eye, others are crippled for life while others have their face kicked in. The brutality and insensitivity begins at the top and it's time for Putin and the police to take these attacks seriously and put an end to the vigilantes. LGBT Brutality - your name is Russia.