Following a recent ruling that branded the LGBT ‘movement’ as ‘extremist’, police in Russia have been reportedly raiding gay bars and spaces.
On Thursday (30 November) the Supreme Court in Russia handed down a ruling that effectively banned pro-LGBTQ+ activism.
The BBC reported a hearing was held behind closed doors with reporters only allowed in to hear the verdict. The broadcaster also reported that the hearing was brought by Russia’s Justice Ministry.
LGBTQ+ groups tried to fight the hearing but were not allowed in by the court.
Local media reports from Friday (1 December) indicate that several Moscow gay bars were raided by police. The BBC reported that some patrons were held and had ID photographed. Police claim to have been searching for drugs.
As per the BBC, one eyewitness told the Ostorozhno Novosti Telegram channel: “In the middle of the party, the music was stopped, and [police] began going into the lounges.” The Sota Telegram channel has said three clubs were raided on Friday in Moscow.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that a gay sauna was also raided, again under claim of a drug search. AP also reported that following last week’s ruling, the Central Station gay bar in St. Petersburg has closed.
A human rights lawyer, Max Olenichev, has told AP that the new ruling allows authorities in Russia to “enforce (the ruling) against LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement.”
Human Rights Watch reported that in Russia, taking part in or funding extremist organisations can result in up to 12 years in prison. A first offense can be up to 15 days detention and up to four years for a repeat offence. People can also have bank accounts frozen and be barred from running for public office.
It’s the latest authoritarian measure from Russia which has sought to position itself as a defender of “traditional family values.”
In 2013 Russia introduced its ‘gay propaganda law’ which banned any pro-LGBTQ+ content aimed at minors. This was expanded last year to include any content aimed at any audience.
Gay marriage was outlawed in 2020 and earlier this year a new law was brought in that bans “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person.”