Men who held hands around Moscow to show plight of LGBT community say they had to pretend to be homophobic to not get beaten up

'We told him we supported anti-gay propaganda. He told us: 'Well done! Keep it up.'

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The Independent Online

Two men who held hands along the streets of Moscow for a social experiment to show Russia's intolerance to homosexuality have revealed they had to pretend to be homophobic to one aggressive passerby to avoid being beaten up.

The video produced by ChebuRussiaTV has received over 7 million views on YouTube and millions more on Facebook. The two male presenters explain that gay marriage has become a hot topic across the world after the US Supreme Court struck down same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

Thus, the two Russian men want to "check how people in Moscow, Russia, will react to a gay couple," showing that while the LGBT community achieved a huge, historic victory in the USA, in other countries there is still a long way to go.

The video shows various Russians heckling the pair as they walk hand-in-hand around Moscow. At the end of the shoot, one man deliberately barges into the pair and attempts to start a fight. The video cuts out before we see what happens next.

Watch the response from Moscow residents to two men holding hands:

In an interview following the video's success, the pair discussed their experience.

The two men, who are both heterosexual, said, "For one part of the planet, it’s fine (to be gay). If two men hold hands, nobody will laugh at them. So we decided to see how it would he here (in Russia). The idea was simple: how will people react to what is ordinary behaviour?"

When asked whether they were afraid, they said they had no fear but that they did have to stop one of the men from getting too aggressive with them.

"His reaction was pretty usual," they said, referring to the man who barged them and then squared up to fight them. "We told him we were making a video. But we lied a little bit so as not to provoke any aggression. We told him we supported anti-gay propaganda. He told us: 'Well done! Keep it up.'"

Later in the interview, they go around a square in Moscow and ask various individuals about their thoughts on homosexuality. The response is overwhelmingly negative: "I don’t like it," "I hate it," and "awful" are just some of the responses.

Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, said that both videos were accurate depictions of homophobia in Russia.

"The adoption of the so-called 'propaganda law' two years ago in a way legitimised violence and open aggression against LGBT in Russia," Zakharova told The Independent. "Recent public poll opinion shows that 41 per cent of respondents believe that LGBT people should be persecuted. This is the direct result of state-sponsored homophobia – when all the central TV channels regularly portray LGBT people as perverts or traitors."

Zakharova said it was worrying that the two men in the video only saved themselves from injury by explaining to the aggressor that they were holding hands for a social experiment and pretending to be homophobic.

In a December 2014 85-page report on the LGBT situation in Russia, Human Rights Watch said that Russian authorities had "failed in their obligation to prevent and prosecute homophobic violence." HRW found, just as Zakharova emphasised, that the anti-LGBT law of June 2013 had "effectively legalised discrimination against LGBT people and cast them as second-class citizens," with violence occurring in the run up to the signing of the bill and in the aftermath of its implementation.

HRW interviewed dozens of LGBT people and activists in 16 Russian cities. They wrote, in words that mirror what is witnessed in the video above, that LGBT people "described being beaten, abducted, humiliated, and called “paedophiles” or “perverts,” in some cases by homophobic vigilante groups and in others by strangers on the subway, on the street, at nightclubs, at cafes, and in one case, at a job interview."

Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director Denis Krivosheev told The Independent: "Unfortunately, the video provides an accurate depiction of the homophobic atmosphere that gay people in Russia are commonly confronted by.

"Anti-gay sentiments have become almost normalised. It's shocking and needs to change".  

Video courtesy of ChebuRussianTV.

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