Russia's LGBT Community One Year Later: Q&A with Vladislav Slavskiy
On June 30th, 2013 the Russian discriminatory anti-"propaganda" law went into effect, amidst widespread international condemnation. In the year since the Russian government enacted the vaguely worded law, Russian human rights activists and members of the LGBT community have faced harassment from government officials, threats of violence, and imprisonment for peaceful public demonstrations. Some have even chosen to leave Russia in search of safety and freedom. This month, Human Rights First will share the stories of some of the brave individual whost lives have been and continue to be affected by Russia's crackdown on civil society.
Vladislav Slavskiy is a high school student who organized an LGBT rights protest in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic Games. He is currently seeking asylum in the United States.
How has the federal propaganda bill impacted your personal life in the year since it has gone into effect? What is life like for you since Putin signed the law?
Vladislav: Everybody started saying: " It's gay propaganda! It's illegal!" I had the same problem in school. My teacher said to everybody that I was promoting homosexuality. They said it to TV journalists from France 2. People became more homophobic and started saying "We have a law against propaganda! It's beautiful! But it would be better to put gays in jails or mental hospitals like in the Soviet Union!" People who didn't love Putin started saying: "Putin is bad, but it's better than Gay Pride on the street and married men kissing everywhere!"
Have you experienced harassment or persecution from government authorities or on the street since the law was passed? Please briefly describe what you have seen and experienced.
Vladislav: I have experienced discrimination from the government and police, and experienced violence from other citizens. I was beaten by Neo-Nazi groups, and when I went to the police, an officer said to me: "It's your own problem! You're gay and you're promoting your sexuality everywhere. It's normal that you were beaten because Russian people hate fags. If I found that some of my friends were fags, I'd never speak with them. Get away from this office!" I have experienced discrimination in school. My math teacher said to me: " Fags don't need education! You can work as prostitute!" She promised to give me bad grades and cause problems with my exam. My chemistry teacher discussed me with other students in classroom. She told the others that I'm a loser. When I tried to move to another school, the new director found information through Google that I'm gay and didn't accept my documents to that school.
How has the international community supported you? In what ways can the international community do more?
Vladislav: I was supported by the organizations Spectrum Human Rights and RUSA LGBT. A lot of journalists during Olympics interviewed me, gave me a chance to speak out about the situation in Russia and to be heard by the international community.
One year later, are you seeing people’s attitudes toward LGBT people changing for better or worse? Have there been any positive steps toward fighting back against discrimination?
Vladislav: The situation is getting worse. Hate against the LGBT community has become government policy. Anti-American, anti-European and anti-LGBT propaganda are always broadcast on Russian TV. People believe it and gays are being killed.
At what point did you know you had to leave Russia?
Vladislav: I decided to leave Russia when my friend, who had helped me during the Olympic Games(he gave my contacts to international journalists), was accused of extremism for writing posts about the boycott of the Games in social networks.