Report: Russian authorities fail to prevent, prosecute anti-LGBT attacks

In this June 29, 2013 photo, riot police (OMON) guard gay rights activists who have been beaten by anti-gay protesters during an authorized gay rights rally in St.Petersburg, Russia. Dmitry Lovetsky, AP (File)

In this June 29, 2013 photo, riot police (OMON) guard gay rights activists who have been beaten by anti-gay protesters during an authorized gay rights rally in St.Petersburg, Russia.Dmitry Lovetsky, AP (File)

In this June 29, 2013 photo, riot police (OMON) guard gay rights activists who have been beaten by anti-gay protesters during an authorized gay rights rally in St.Petersburg, Russia.

Russian authorities have failed to to prevent and prosecute an increasing number of anti-LGBT attacks, according to a report release Monday by Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based group says growing numbers of LGBT people have been attacked and harassed across Russia in the lead-up and aftermath of the adoption of the federal anti-LGBT “propaganda” law in June 2013.

That law “effectively legalized discrimination against LGBT people and cast them as second-class citizens,” says HRW.

The 85-page report, “License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia,” is based on dozens of detailed interviews with LGBT people and activists in 16 cities across Russia who experienced attacks or aggressive harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The report includes a number of LGBT people who describe their experiences being beaten, abducted, humiliated, and called “pedophiles” or “perverts,” in some cases by homophobic vigilante groups and in others by strangers on the subway, on the street, at nightclubs, at cafes, and in one case, at a job interview.

“Violence experienced by LGBT people in Russia is unmistakably motivated by homophobia, but the authorities deliberately ignore that these are hate crimes and fail to protect victims,” said Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Russian authorities should effectively prosecute homophobic violence, and the authorities should stop engaging in and tolerating anti-LGBT discrimination,” said Cooper.

Out of 78 victims of homophobic and transphobic violence and harassment interviewed for the report, 22 did not report attacks against them to the police because they feared direct harassment from police and did not believe the police would take the attacks seriously, says HRW.

Human Rights Watch also found that although Russia has hate crime laws, law enforcement agencies do not treat even the most egregious homophobic attack as a hate crime.

Not a single case documented in the report was investigated as a hate crime, says HRW.

The full report is here.

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