Friday, 6 September 2013

LGBT rights in Russia 2013 and Putin-spoof



This year (2013) has been a great and a fatal year for homosexuals all over the world. On the one hand, many states in the U.S. legalized same-sex-marriage (a.o. Delaware, Maryland and Minnesota), just like Urugay, which makes Uruguay the second country in Latin America, after Argentina, to do so.

On the other hand, there have been shocking news and events this year: Fierce demonstrations in France, radical far-right party’s protests against the Gay Pride Parade in Hungary, in Germany, successive adoption became legal, however, adaptions by homosexuals stay impossible and the homosexual unions have not yet been put on the same level as heterosexual marriage, the Nigerian parliament passed a law banning same-sex marriage. Most of the (peaceful) gay prides in Moscow have been banned by Mayor Luzhkov. All of them were overshadowed by brutal, homophobic attacks. In June 2012 Moscow enacted a hundred-year ban of gay parades.

But the most regressive laws have been introduced in the Russian Federation in 2013. The Russian Parliament approves a ban on "gay propaganda". This means that everybody who promotes homosexuality to minors and everybody who "offends the feelings of religious believers" may be arrested.

Adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and heterosexual couples who live in foreign countries that do recognize same-sex marriage became illegal in July 2013.
In May, after Victory Day parades in Volgograd, the body of a 23 year old man was found tortured and murdered by three males who stated anti-homosexual motivations.

Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists who might be homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. This means that athletes, who want to join Olympic winter games in Russia next year, might be arrested if some kind of suspicions or rumours exist.
The next (possible) step in Putin's war against LGTBs is an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The arbitrariness of all this is, in one word, sick!

It is uplifting that all over the world the anger at Russian policies grew and many protests were staged.

Loads of celebrities expressed their solidarity, which is possible and effective due to mass media and social networks like twitter and facebook. As an example, British actress Tilda Swinton tweeted a picture of herself with a rainbow flag, actor Stephen Fry published a letter to the International Olympic Committee, Lady Gaga tweeted, actor Wentworth Miller, who came out shortly before, announced that he will boycott the St. Petersburg international film festival, Polish singer Marcin Mroziński cancelled a planned performance in Russia, and Madonna vented her anger... of course (and might as well expose some body parts) and so on...
Demo gegen russische Anti-Schwulen-Gesetze (Bild Thomas Blecha)
Protest in Berlin (found on: http://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2013/08/protest-gegen-putin-gesetz-homosexuelle-propaganda.html)

Besides "classical" forms of protests (rallies, marches etc., 10.000 people went on the streets in Copenhagen, Denmark, 4.000 in Berlin, Germany), there have been some very "arty" ways of expressing a criticism.

In the USA "Vodka Dumps" have been organised (for example outside the Russian Consulate in Manhattan). Demonstrators poured vodka down the drains in protest over the new laws. In Russia, proponents staged "kissing protests" (while opponents attacked them). 
Athlete Emma Green Tregaro painted her nails in rainbow colors during the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Two Russian women runners, Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova, kissed as they were awarded their gold medals... These images moved around the world. 
Gold medallists team Russia celebrate at the women's 4x400 metres relay victory ceremony during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow
(Image found on: http://thewildmagazine.com/blog/did-russian-track-stars-protest-with-a-kiss/)
 
In Oslo a pedestrian crossing markings near Russia's embassy was painted in the rainbow colors, just like in Stockholm, which might seem a bit harmless, but makes a beautiful picture which (thanks to social media) distributes like virus and (might) find some copyists.
The main target in this context became Putin's face. Putin in drag, Putin with make up, Putin with Hitler-moustache...
Putin has been a popular subject in Russian art for many year. The Blues Noses Group showed him having sex with other, Altunin showed him with a halo etc. 
In St. Petersburg, the police now seized paintings in a museum. The artist Constantin Altunin announced that he plans to leave the country - because of the "threat". One of his paintings titled "travesty" shows a painted Putin in negligee with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women's underwear. 

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69512000/jpg/_69512780_putin.jpg
(Found on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23861707)
This is a very clever tactic. Nobody cares when political activists get arrested in Russia, but as soon as the "artistic freedom" is challenged, the Media (in Western countries) prick its ears. When it comes to the Russian art scene, political motivated art and initiatives, declared as art by their organisers, belong to the most popular topics in the West European Feuilletons (think of Pussy Riot, Voina, Femen etc).
The accusations "censorship" is a hot topic, especially in Europa (with its vivid history and its totalitarian past). Art becomes an indicator for freedom and democracy.
Russia (with its difficult political power structure and in consideration of the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church) did set itself into hot water when it comes to the artworld. In 2010 two curators, Andrei Jerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov, were charged with inciting religious hatred and ordered to pay fines of $5,300 and $7,000, because they organised an exhibition called "Banned art", Pussy Riot were imprisioned and now: two paintings were seized. The first mentioned above, the second by Vera Donskaya Chilko.
(You can find a more examples on: http://old.readrussia.com/magazine/winter-2008/00043/)

"Wrestling" mit Obama und Putin: Gemälde der Künstlerin Vera Donskaja-Chilko aus dem Jahr 2011
"Wrestling", 2011 by Vera Donskaya-Chilko

It is difficult to judge these actions. Western media is fast in saying "censorship". But this is not true. Censorship means that there are official organs that say what is art and what is not. And its not Putin himself who instructs the seizures, but he does nothing against it either. Furthermore it would be naiv to say that the above mentioned paintings were not intended as a provocation. Surely the seizures it did not come as a surprise to the artists, however, banning art is not tolerable!

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