Russian LGBT Groups Appeal for Letters to Be Sent To ECHR and UN over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Moves

Kaleidoscope Trust and IDAHO back the campaign

LONDON, November 28, 2011  – The recently formed Kaleidoscope Trust, a London-based international  group set up to campaign for diversity and gay rights around the world, has joined-up with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and other organisations to back a campaign by Russian activists to try and halt a proposed law that will outlaw the “promotion of homosexuality” in Russia’s ‘second city’, St. Petersburg.

The Bill has already had its first reading in the St. Petersburg legislature where it was approved by a 27-1 margin.  The second reading is expected later this week – possibly on Wednesday.

Launched today, the latest campaign seeks to persuade the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to instigate an early hearing of an appeal over a similar law passed in 2006 in the Ryazan region of Russia.

LGBT activists Irina Fedotova (Fet) and Nikolai Baev were, in 2009, arrested, detained and found guilty of  holding a banner in front of a local school stating that “Homosexuality is normal”.

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation gave a decision arguing that the law did not contradict the Constitution.  The activists then lodged a case with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

The group mounting the campaign feel that an early ruling by the ECHR, if it was against Russia, would stop the St. Petersburg law, if it were to finally be passed.

Similar legislation on the “promotion of homosexuality” is already in place in the northern Russian port city of Arkhangelsk (Archangel) and in Lithuania.  Both Moscow and Ukraine are reported to be ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and looking to follow suit.

Even the Russian Federation is looking at a similar law that would be effective across Russia – from the enclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltics to Vladivostok.  Already, Valentina Matvienko, the former governor of St. Petersburg and now Speaker of the upper house of the Federation Duma (Parliament), say she supports the St. Petersburg bill and is looking to introduce a similar measure at federal level.

Co-ordinating the campaign is GayRussia along with other Russian LGBT groups.

In the last few days, GayRussia has been consulting with its activists, other Russian based LGBT activist groups – including Equality St. Petersburg, Radio Indigo, Russian Community LGBT Grani, Marriage Equality, Moscow Pride Committee, Article 282 and Pride House Sochi – and legal specialists to think of how to best address the current circumstances.

In a joint statement issued this morning in Moscow, the group said it was campaigning for 10,000 people worldwide to write to both the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

“At this stage, your support and your mobilisation will, we think,  help to achieve a global solution to the problem, not only in St. Petersburg but also, in Ryazan, in Arkhangelsk, in Moscow, in Ukraine and elsewhere,” the statement says.

“By asking the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee to prioritise the cases of Bayev and Fedotova, you can make a difference, globally.  GayRussia propose template letters that you can print and send. An envelope, a stamp, and a piece of paper is all you need.

“If 10,000 of you write a letter to these two institutions, it has a very good chance of making a change.  All of your letters will be filed with the papers for each case.  So, the more letters are filed, the more chances we have to show the importance of these cases.

“The quicker that the European Court of Human Rights opens the case of Nikolay Bayev vs Russia, the faster we will get a decision.  And this decision will be binding for Russia.  More importantly, it will make a precedent for member countries of the Council of Europe which will serve not only Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and St. Petersburg in Russia, but also Ukraine, Lithuania – and maybe more.”

Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are binding.  But decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee are only ‘advisory’ – and the case of Irina Fedotova was lodged with the UN in Geneva.

Lance Price, director of Kaleidoscope Trust said this morning: “The Kaleidoscope Trust strongly supports this action and we are asking all our supporters to join this letter writing campaign.

“Politicians in all corners of the world like to attack LGBT people to win popularity. But we can take action now to demonstrate that our rights are as valid as everybody else's and these legal challenges are a vital step.”

Speaking from Paris, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder and president of the IDAHO Committee, said that he had already written to the ECHR and the UN asking both organisations to expedite the two cases.

“IDAHO stands united with our brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe to put an end to these anti-gay laws,” Mr. Tin said.  “We call on each of you to spend a few minutes of your time and write to the European Court and the UN to try to make a change.

“We are also calling on any LGBT organisation to do the same.

Peter Tatchell, speaking for both Outrage! and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said that both London-based groups were “proud to support Russia's courageous, inspiring LGBT activists as they challenge these latest attacks on LGBT human rights and freedom of expression.

“We urge the European Union, United Nations and Council of Europe to ensure Russia's compliance with the human rights conventions it has signed and pledged to uphold,” he said.

In Moscow, Nikolai Alekseev, the founder of GayRussia and Moscow Pride, commented: “This campaign goes beyond Russia, our aim is to put a barrier to any attempts limiting freedom of speech for LGBT people in Europe.

“10,000 of you can make a change simply by buying a stamp and an envelope,” he added.

Also joining the campaign is the Gay Liberation Network in America.

“World leaders like Putin, Obama and Medvedev pretend they support human rights, but then support the violent suppression of 'Occupy' protesters, the murders of democracy activists in Egypt, and now, the escalation of attacks on the free speech rights of LGBTs and others in Russia,” said co-founder Andy Thayer who, along with Mr. Tin, as attended a number of Gay Prides in Moscow.

“It is our responsibility to forcefully denounce the hypocrisy of ‘our’ leaders, to directly organise against them, and to foil their plans for violence, exploitation and oppression by any means necessary,” he added.

What you can do to help the campaign is to print-off the letters on the GayRussia Website, put your address, date and sign them and mail them in.  The page has a letter to the President of the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights and a letter to the Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

GayRussia says that the St. Petersburg bill is politically motivated: Russia’s Parliamentary election will take place on December 4 and targeting LGBT is a way to earn support from members of religious and nationalist organisations to bolster votes of the United Russia party.

Russia’s LGBT community has historically been divided and GayRussia and other groups joining the campaign are hoping that today’s attacks by politicians in St. Petersburg will serve as a ‘wake-up call’ for some LGBT groups in the city who have been appearing in the media for six years arguing that both “gay prides” and “gay marriage” are provocations.

This anti-LGBT law being debated in the St. Petersburg legislature is a chance, GayRussia says, for Russian LGBT people to work against homophobe politicians and government rather than to work against each other.

“Our enemies are homophobes,” a spokesperson told UK Gay News.  “We should not attack each other.  If we stand united, we have more chance than if we stand on two opposite sides where we only fuel the anti-gay rhetoric.

  LGBT media backing the campaign include New York Gay City News (USA), Yagg (France - site is in French), Queer (Germany - in German), Gayby (Belarus - Russian and English) and UK Gay News.


British Foreign Office “Concerned” About Proposed Anti Gay Moves in St. Petersburg. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London expressed “concern” today over the proposed new law in St. Petersburg that would outlaw the “promotion” of gay, lesbian and transgender matters.  (UK Gay News, November 24, 2011)

Washington Moves Over St. Petersburg Proposed ‘Gay Propaganda’ Bill.  Despite having more ‘weighty’ matters of foreign policy on its agenda, the State Department took less than 24 hours to react to a question on the proposed legislation in St. Petersburg that would outlaw “gay propaganda”, as the Russians call it.  (UK Gay News, November 23, 2011)

Why It Is Wrong in Even Considering Anti Gay Legislation in St Petersburg.  UK Gay News Commentary.  Russia, in allowing ‘anti-gay’ legislation to be introduced in two regions – Ryazan in 2006 and Arkhangelsk last month, has totally flouted conventions of the 47-nation Council of Europe which it voluntarily joined as it came out of the Soviet era.  And when the Duma in St. Petersburg finally passes a similar law in the coming weeks, and this is virtually inevitable, there will be three regions of the country that fall foul of Strasbourg.  (UK Gay News, November 22, 2011)

Moscow Authorities Now Propose Anti Gay Bill.  The authorities in Moscow are now proposing to introduce a Bill that will outlaw the “promotion of homosexuality”, it emerged this afternoon.  (UK Gay News, November 17, 2011)

Gay and Lesbian Rights: St. Petersburg About to Enter ‘Hall of Shame’.  Commentary by Nikolai Alekseev.  After Ryazan in 2006 and Arkhangelsk, this autumn the regional parliament of St. Petersburg is considering a bill which will outlaw ‘the promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, and transgenderism to minors’.  St. Petersburg is about to enter the hall of shame of the Russian regions which limit a fundamental human right of an individual, the right to freedom of expression.  (UK Gay News, November 16, 2011)