Concern has mounted over a recently enacted Russian law restricting the promotion of “untraditional sexual relations” following the emergence of a series of online videos in which a vigilante group appears to assault gay men
The brutal videos suggest a hardening of attitudes towards homosexuals among a section of Russian society, according to the BBC.
One video shows a man being forced to drink urine in order to “cure” him of being a homosexual. A metal bucket is then placed over the victim’s head and hit with what appears to be a baseball bat. Attacks such as this are reportedly being filmed and posted online across Russia by an ultra-nationalist group. The group does this under the pre-text of shaming and punishing suspected paedophiles.
The tone and language in the videos suggests that these are homophobic attacks.
In another clip a woman armed with a gun and dressed in camouflage jokes that she is “out on safari” hunting for paedophiles and gays. Speaking to the broadcaster in St Petersburg, the woman, whose name is Yekaterina said, “Our priority is uncovering cases of paedophilia. But we're also against the promotion of homosexuality. And if - along the way - we encounter people of non-traditional sexual orientation, we can kill two birds with one stone.”
Gay-rights activists in Russia believe the aggression on display in the videos is a direct result of the controversial new law signed by President Vladimir Putin.
The legislation bans the spread of information about “untraditional sexual relations” to anyone under 18, portraying homosexuality as a danger to children and the family.
Anastasia Smirnova from the Russian LGBT Network, a human rights group, said, “The law itself is not a danger in terms of its application. But it's a great danger in terms of what kind of opinions it shapes.”
“It entitles people to mob rule, to organised violence against those they perceive to be dangerous to society, to families and to children. People take over the role of the authorities to react against what they think is a violation,” she added.
Russia has been rated the most difficult country in Europe in which to be gay by Ilga-Europe, a gay rights watchdog.
The Russian government rejects that the legislation has contributed to the violence. Vitaly Milonov, a member of the country’s legislative assembly who helped draft the legislation said, “We do not attack any sexual minorities. They have absolutely the same rights. But they should not try to change the Russian traditions supported by 90 percent of the population. For the traditional Russian population, homosexuality is a sin.”
However, earlier this month Mr Milonov launched an astonishing attack on homosexuality and described broadcaster Stephen Fry as “sick” because of his attempt to commit suicide. Mr Milonov’s comments came during an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live after he was interviewed by Mr Fry for a documentary on gay people’s experiences across the world.