Opinion: LGBTQ torture in Russia is not isolated


Bobbie Szabo

Bobbie Szabo

The Chechen Republic, or Chechnya, is a federal subject of Russia in which gay men are being rounded up, repeatedly beaten, forced to report their friends and loved ones, as well as “treated” with electric shocks and killed.

Chechen officials have denied the capture and subsequent torture of over 100 gay men. Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for the local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, insists that no gay men live in Chechnya, as “you cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.”

He continues his defense of the government by stating that relatives of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya “would send them somewhere from which there is no returning,” thus making government action unnecessary.

It is no secret that Russia, when not being explicitly hateful and violent toward LGBTQ-identifying individuals, is generally unaccepting and intolerant. Both the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin have taken staunch anti-gay stances on all issues in which sexuality is involved; the Russian Orthodox Church also condemns homosexuality. While homosexuality is technically legal in Russia and has been for over 20 years, amendments made to propaganda laws within the last decade have made gay people the recipients of an enthusiastic and terrifying witch hunt.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation do not exist in Russia. There are no protections for gender and sexual minorities in the workplace, housing, judicial systems, politics or even casual social situations. Those who commit violence against LGBT-identifying individuals are very rarely — if ever — convicted for their crimes, and as such, more and more members of the queer community are being targeted by both organized vigilantes and police.

But such violence is not only occurring in Russia. LGBTQ discrimination, violence and erasure is not isolated to the federal subject of Chechnya or to Russia as a whole.

Comparatively, some countries in the West have made incredible gains in human rights issues in the past decade. The past year or so, however, has brought a frightening wave of conservatism which threatens to reverse all of the social progress made.

Between Brexit and the United States’ 2016 presidential election, Western countries have recently proven their citizens to be fearful and intolerant. In the United States, states such as North Carolina have attempted to pass bills which restrain the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom and, most recently, to combat the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding marriage equality.

2016 was the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans — the majority of victims being transgender women of color — and the rate at which they are being murdered has not slowed in 2017. The U.S. Census Bureau recently scrapped ideas of including LGBTQ identities in the 2020 Census and in the American Community Survey.  

The erasure, lack of access to equal rights and murder of LGBTQ individuals is not isolated to Russia. We experience the same to a lesser degree in the United States on a daily basis — we just refuse to acknowledge our own forms of discrimination.

The international community has to hold all countries accountable for their human rights violations. We as humans must hold our governments accountable for their human rights violations.

Bobbie Szabo is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].