16 Aug 2013

To Russia with Love: Singapore LGBTs and allies to protest Russia's anti-gay laws, Aug 24

Members of Singapore's LGBT community and allies are are expected to gather at 6pm on Aug 24 to take a stand against Russia's anti-gay law which bans so-called gay "propaganda", and express solidarity with LGBTs in Russia.

In July, the Russian parliament passed legislation that bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children. The government claims that the law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" is meant to protect children and young people from information and propaganda that are harmful to their well-being and development. Gay equality advocates including judges, lawyers, lawmakers and media organisations, will also face hefty fines for violating the law. Since the anti-gay laws were passed, there has also been widespread increase in the number of violent incidents, assaults, harassment and bullying of Russian LGBT people and their allies. According to the BBC, two brutal murders this year were reported to have homophobic motives even if, as in the case of a young man beaten to death in May in Volgograd, the victim may not actually have been gay.

The To Russia with Love rally will be held at Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park, the only venue where people can hold protests and demonstrations in Singapore. It will feature speeches from activists and poetry readings while attendees will be asked to sign a petition which will be submitted to the Russian embassy in Singapore.

The event was initiated by Jolovan Wham, a social worker focusing on migrant workers' rights, under the banner of IndigNation 2013, Singapore's month-long LGBT pride season, which is currently underway.

He told Fridae: "Even though Russia is far away, from a personal point of view, what is happening there could happen to someone we care about. From the global point of view, worldwide condemnation is what is needed to communicate to the Russian government that the civilised world stands against the Russian law on the so-called 'promotion' of homosexuality."

In recent weeks, pressure has been mounting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to clarify how Russia’s anti-gay law will be applied during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held 7-23 February in Sochi. Earlier this week, Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed that the police will enforce the law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” during the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi in February.

LGBT rights advocates worldwide have called for a boycott of the Games and for a stronger response from both the IOC and the corporate sponsors of the Games.

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha – an openly gay politician and civil activist in Singapore – who will attend the rally on Saturday, called on members of the community to lend their voices to speak up for LGBT Russians.

He told Fridae: "Meaningful global activism has always helped to bring down injustice and oppression. Apartheid in South Africa was assisted to its death by the simple actions of ordinary people and groups in so many countries. The solidarity event in Singapore may not remove this cruel law but the Russian government should be in no doubt that the world holds it in contempt for enforcing it."

Earlier his week, openly gay American TV host and Bravo television executive Andy Cohen announced he will not return as a co-host of the Miss Universe pageant in 2013 as the pageant is being held in Moscow for the first time. Entertainment Weekly reported that numerous gay celebrities including former Star Trek actor George Takei, British actor Stephen Fry, Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and American actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein have all criticised Russia; all but Black have also urged the Olympic Committee to either demand the retraction of these laws or to move the 2014 Winter Olympics to another country.

President Barack Obama said in a recent interview on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them” when asked about Russia's recent laws.

Last weekend, hundreds in London protested near the residence of Prime Minister David Cameron and the foreign ministry, and called for the government to push Russia to repeal the laws.

Homosexuality was decriminalised after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union but President Vladimir Putin is said to have turned toward the Russian Orthodox Church and is championing its rhetoric of traditional values to bolster his popularity.

For more IndigNation events, visit https://www.facebook.com/IndigNationSG