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Gay Russian teen imprisoned in drug rehab for coming out is released

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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MOSCOW — A Russian teen has been released from the Marshak drug rehabilitation facility after spending 12 days in the institution after being forcibly admitted by his traditionalist father, who was angered when he came out as openly gay earlier this month.

Marshak Clinic

Ivan Kharchenko, 16, was released after friends and supporters staged an improvised siege of the facility, and was placed him in the custody of his mother, who said she was not opposed to her son being gay.

LGBT activist Dmitry Aleshkovsk said that the State Duma deputy from the Just Russia party, Ilya Ponomaryov, along with Violetta Volkova, a human rights lawyer, took on the young teen’s case and participated in successfully having him released from the facility.

Both insisted that Kharchenko’s placement in the rehab without his consent amounted to kidnapping.

Russian journalist Alex Eremenko said that Kharchenko publicly admitted his homosexuality at his 16th birthday earlier this month. His announcement did not disturb his classmates and peers, but angered his relatives including his grandmother who tricked her grandson into going to a “witch” who unsuccessfully attempted to exorcize the “spirit of homosexuality” from him.

After the failure to exorcise the youth’s “homosexuality,” his father took Kharchenko to the drug clinic and left him there allegedly against his will.

“I’d rather have you disabled or a vegetable than gay,” the boy’s father was cited as saying to a local radio station.

According to the activists who managed to free the teen, Kharchenko had placed a banner in his window at the facility addressed to his boyfriend that declared his love, but that was promptly removed by clinic staffers.

Kharchenko was released on late Tuesday and spent the night at his mother’s after his grandmother refused to take him back.

A spokesman for the Moscow Militia, [Police] said that law enforcement officials would be investigating the claims of false imprisonment and kidnapping.

LGBTQ rights is a controversial topic in the Russian Federation largely due to recent laws were passed by lawmakers in three regions including Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, that bans discussion of homosexuality to minors.

That vaguely-worded piece of legislation was denounced as homophobic propaganda by LGBT activists in Russia and beyond, but a bill proposing to spread the ban nationwide was later introduced into the Russian national parliament known as the State Duma and is pending review.

Ninety-four percent of Russians said they have never encountered gay propaganda, but 86 percent still support a ban on it, according to a poll by state-run television earlier this month.

During a recent broadcast discussing LGBTQ rights, approximately 60 percent of some 750 callers at Radio Ekho Moskvy said their offspring being gay would be a “tragedy” for them.

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