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End the gay rights ‘ghetto’

by at 30/05/2011 20:31

The failure by gay rights activists to hold a march in Moscow on Saturday, and the now-ritual beating of LGBT protestors by police, ultra-nationalists and Orthodox fundamentalists, comes as a blow to hopes that a post-Luzhkov City Hall would finally allow the march to go ahead.

Sadly, this was not to be, and if anything some sections of Russian society are now less tolerant of gay rights.

However, there are many ordinary young people who have a non-judgemental, “live and let live”, attitude towards sexuality.

But the prejudices fed by a largely intolerant mainstream media need to be challenged by more than publicity stunts and annual visits to Moscow by international LGBT celebrity protestors.

The strategy of Nikolai Alexeyev, the main organiser of Moscow’s gay marches, to appeal for Russian authorities to obey European laws on equal rights but not to link up the struggle for equality with a wider alliance of social protest movements, seems to be coming unstuck.

The problems with this approach were clearly shown by Alexeyev’s controversial performance on the “K Baryeru” TV debate last week. Faced with homophobic comments and attempts by his opponents to link gays and lesbians to paedophilia, Alexeyev somewhat petulantly walked out of the debate.

Taking his place for the last part of the TV show – and doing a far better job in arguing for an end to discrimination against all sexual minorities – was a socialist feminist, Yevgenia Otto.

Rather than antagonising the audience, Otto pointed out how discrimination is used by elites to divide and rule, and cited examples of how united community action in the US changed attitudes there.

She also emphasised how the struggle for equal rights goes hand-in-hand with the fight for social justice.

Strange as it may seem, even the rank-and-file policemen ordered to break up gay marches can be won over to the cause of equality – if the campaign is linked to the struggle for decent jobs, free education, and an end to low pay and corruption.

Rights for sexual minorities should not be a “ghetto issue”. They should be part of a wider campaign for a more just and tolerant society.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #40"
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