Gay Russia

Keywords: Gay Russia
Description: Russia, the post-Soviet nation, may have a growing economy, but equal gay rights and cultural acceptance of LGBT people is moving at a snail's pace. Read about gay life in Russia and Russian culture.

Ramon Johnson and Carlos Lopes aren't just writing partners, they're a newly married bi-national couple living in London. While Ramon finishes his PhD in Cultural Studies, including the occasional break to BBQ American style, Carlos is usually off filming or planning another Lisbon-based documentary, all while building his massage practice. Together, Ramon and Carlos have over 13 years experience writing about LGBT issues.

Gay, lesbian and transgender people aren't widely accepted in Russia, a post-Soviet nation with a population of nearly 143 million. The estimated number of LGBT Russians is unknown.

Russian political and social life is heavily influenced by the conservative traditions and extreme sexual restrictions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the last few years, mostly due to the demands and openness of younger gay and straight generations, Russian society is slowly becoming more tolerant of LGBT people. Major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg now have LGBT clubs and venues.

The Russian slang term for a gay man is "blue" (goluboy) and "pink" (rozovaya) for lesbians.

For more on gay life in Russia, visit a project of Russian National LGBT center "Together".

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Russian officials decriminalized homosexuality in April of 1993, following the lead of post-Soviet republics Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus.

The move was necessary to gain Western support and to become a member of the Council of Europe. Prior to 1993, same-sex acts were punishable by prison terms of up to five years through Article 121 of the Russian criminal code. Gays and lesbians were also subjected to torture and psychiatric treatment. Today, being gay or lesbian in Russia is no longer illegal, but still considered a "perversion".

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov believed homosexuality was unnatural and described same-sex love as "satanic". He also believed a gay pride festival in Moscow would cause public outcry.

In response, gay rights groups sued the city unsuccessfully. Organizers held the parade anyway. The illegal festival ended in violence. Approximately 100 religious and nationalist extremists attacked festivals participants and 200 gays were also arrested for violating the ban.

Festival organizer Nikolai Alexeyev told the BBC's World Today. "This event was just the opportunity for us to say no to homophobia and to attract the media attention to this problem and to attract the attention of the authorities."

Weeks before the festival, 39 right-wing and religious activists were arrested for picketing and shouting slurs at patrons leaving a gay nightclub.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Russia. Marriage traditions are heavily influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church, which sees homosexuality as a perversion. (Also read Gay Marriage Around the World )

For the same aforementioned reasons, gay and lesbian couple adoption is not allowed. In addition, the State Duma makes intercountry adoption very difficult. (More on Adoption in Russia )

According to HIV/AIDS guide Mark Cichocki, "The Cold War has been over for years. But for the people of what used to be the mighty Soviet Union the battle against HIV has yet to begin. Russia is in the midst of an HIV epidemic expanding at a frightening pace." Read more of Mark's feature report on HIV Around the World - The Russian Federation.

Photogallery Gay Russia:

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