Autor: Jade MacEwan
You will not find any reference to the original video within this article due to the fact that it embodies hate speech. Images that we include serve the purpose of visual illustrations accompanied by our commentary.
A homophobic political advert has gone viral in Russia in the run up to the referendum on a package of constitutional amendments, which will take place on 1 July (The Moscow Times, 2020). While the main purpose of the bill appears to be amendments which would enable Putin to serve a further two terms, thereby extending his rule until 2036, this is barely mentioned in political advertising for the referendum. Advertising is instead focused on issues aiming to mobilise people to vote, such as so-called “traditional family values” (Bloomberg, 2020).
The video, which was produced by the Patriot Media Group (The Moscow Times, 2020) for the pro-government tabloid news source, RIA FAN, shows a scene in which a man goes to an orphanage to meet a young boy whom he is planning to adopt. The boy asks where his new mother is, and the man points out his partner, who is an exaggerated stereotype of a flamboyant gay man. The voiceover at the end of the video asks the question, “Is this the Russia you want? Decide the future of the country. Vote for the amendments to the constitution.” (CNN, 2020).
Illustrations from the video represent a situation in which an exaggerated stereotype of a flamboyant gay man is presented as a “mother-to-be” who is to dress his boy in a ruby gown. The boy is expressing his sadness about this situation. We believe it is hard to imagine a more stereotypical and homophobic representation.
The bill is a package of constitutional reforms, including an amendment which will specify that marriage may only be between a man and a woman. In Russia, only heterosexual couples can adopt children and same-sex marriage is not legal, meaning that a gay couple would still not be able to get married or adopt a child if the Russian people vote against the bill. Contrary to the message conveyed by the video, nothing would change to improve current rights for LGBT+ people in Russia if the constitutional amendments were rejected, but the adoption of these amendments means that it would become far more difficult to legally achieve same-sex marriage in Russia in the future (The Moscow Times, 2020).
The anti-gay video has received criticism from a number of sources. Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician and political activist, has tweeted against the video, and the Russian LGBT+ group Stimul has filed a legal complaint against it, stating that it “incites hatred and hostility towards a group of people on the basis of belonging to the LGBT community, it degrades the dignity of a person (and) is frankly discriminatory in nature” (Reuters, 2020).
A petition has also been launched against the video, which has been signed by over 60,000 people. The petition demands that the video be removed from RIA FAN websites and networks, and from all other publications of the Patriot Media Group. It also demands the removal of the video from the popular Russian social media network VKontakte, where it has already been viewed by over a million members of the network and still has the potential to reach a greater number of people (Reuters, 2020). The petition points out that the video legitimises persecution and discrimination of LGBT+ people, and states that attacks on LGBT+ people had already significantly increased in recent years following the introduction of the law against so-called “gay propaganda” in 2013 (Change.org, 2020). This law states that it is illegal to “promote non-traditional sexual relations to minors”, which in practice means that young Russians have no access to resources or education about sexuality, and this has also led to a lack of legal and mental health support services for LGBT+ people in Russia (Advocate, 2020).
YouTube has already removed the anti-gay video, replacing it with a statement that the video violates the YouTube policy on hate speech. However, VKontakte has not removed the video from their platform (Reuters, 2020).
Links to resources:
AFP. (2020-06-03). Russian Political Ad Bashes Gay Marriage. The Moscow Times. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/06/02/russian-political-ad-bashes-gay-marriage-a70459
Bacchi, U. (2020-06-03). YouTube takes down anti-gay ad after outrage in Russia. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-lgbt-referendum/youtube-takes-down-anti-gay-ad-after-outrage-in-russia-idUSL8N2DG4D5
Brave Team. Petition: We demand to immediately remove the video promoting hatred and hostility in Russia. Change.org. [Link to petition cannot be added here due to the Cyrillic writing].
Cockerell, I. (2020-06-04). How LGBTQ+ Russians Are Continuing to Organize During the Pandemic. Advocate. https://www.advocate.com/world/2020/6/04/how-lgbtq-russians-are-continuing-organize-during-pandemic
Hodge, N. and Ilyushina, M. (2020-06-03). Anti-gay viral video stirs outrage ahead of Russian referendum. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/03/europe/anti-lgbtq-video-russia-referendum-intl/index.html
Rudnitsky, J. and Meyer, H. (2020-06-08). Putin Plan to Extend Rule Played Down in Kremlin Vote Pitch. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-08/putin-s-plan-to-extend-rule-played-down-in-kremlin-vote-pitch