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MOSCOW, August 9, 2010 (GayRussia) – The attitude of Russian society towards homosexuality, gay pride marches and same-sex marriages is hardening, a new opinion poll is suggesting.
The Moscow based Levada Center had released the findings of the poll which shows that on three questions, the figures tend to show a slight increase of the negative perceptions of homosexuality.
Conducted between July 23 to July 26 on a sample of 1600 Russians aged 18 and older in 130 cities and 45 regions, the poll shows that homophobia is rife across Russia, with 74% of respondents believing that gays and lesbians are “morally dissolute or mentally defective persons”.
Only 15% said that homosexuality is equal with the traditional sexual orientation – and 11% found the question difficult to answer.
The margin of error is 3.4%.
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, while 39% of Russians believe that homosexuals should be forced into treatment or be otherwise isolated from the society.
And 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% support equality while 41% support limiting the rights of gays and lesbians. And those undecided were 15%.
According to the Levada Center poll, 84% of Russians oppose legalising of same-sex marriages in the country – just 14% supported such a move.
On the matter of Gay Pride marches, 82% of Russians said they do not wish to see them in cities. Just 8% approved.
In terms of attitudes towards same-sex marriages and gay parades, the attitudes of society has not significantly changed since 2005, when a similar poll was conducted 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 opposed such a law, and 28% were undecided.
Over the past five years, Russian society has 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), those with only a secondary education, and low income individuals. These groups often refer to homosexuality, promiscuity and bad habits.
Tolerance of persons with different sexual orientation, and understanding of problems of gay men and women, is often higher among women, young Russians (18-39 years), the more educated and wealthier respondents.
Among these groups it is the 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 peoplethat preserve the inertia of Soviet thinking.
“The conclusion we can make from these results is that we only have more work ahead,” said Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev. “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 have unsuccessfully initiated law suits in Russian courts against the Mayor of Moscow who said that “gays are fagots and weapons of mass destructions”, and the Governor of Tambov region who said that “gays should be torn apart and their pieces thrown into the wind.”
“The cases we introduced against the hatred of Russian officials at the European Court might help us, though that's a long term hope,” Mr. Alekseev said.
“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 us to convince 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 the Russian LGBT groups. Furthermore, people still consider 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,” Mr Alekseev added. “This result can only give a boost to the LGBT movement in Russia.”