In a remarkable interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that he opposes homophobia and claims that gay people in his country face no discrimination.
Speaking to Charlie Rose from 60 Minutes, Putin astonishingly presented himself as a passionate supporter of LGBT rights.
He suggested that the US was hypocritical for criticising Russia on LGBT equality by pointing out that gay sex remains illegal in four US states. “It’s not completely removed from American legislation, but we don’t have…. I definitely condemn that,” he said, adding that homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993.
Putin failed to mention, however, that although the US laws have yet to be removed from the statute books in those four states, they became unenforceable after the US Supreme Court in 2003 invalidated sodomy laws in every US state and territory.
“The problem of sexual minorities in Russia had been deliberately exaggerated from the outside for political reasons, I believe, without any good basis,” Putin claimed.
“We have no persecution at all. People of non-traditional sexual orientation work, they live in peace, they get promoted, they get state awards for their achievements in science and arts or other areas. I personally have awarded them medals,” the president argued.
Putin also dismissed concerns about the country’s notoriously repressive law conceived to “protect” young people from “gay propaganda”.
“I don’t see anything un-democratic in this legal act,” he said. “I believe we should leave kids in peace. We should give them a chance to grow, help them to realise who they are and decide for themselves. Do they consider themselves a man or a woman? A female? A male? Do they want to live in a normal, natural marriage or a non-traditional one? That’s the only thing I wanted to talk about. I don’t see here any infringement on the rights of gay people.”
Despite Putin’s spin on the law, the reality is vastly different. The law has been used to ban LGBT Pride events, concerts, newspaper articles, exhibitions, websites, Facebook pages and peaceful protests, all under the guise of protecting children.
Young LGBT Russians are restricted from accessing any information to help them deal with their sexuality or gender identity. Any attempt to offer young people LGBT affirming guidance, role models or support is illegal.
Since the law’s enactment, Human rights groups have reported an increase in discrimination against the LGBT community, including people being fired from jobs in which they interact with young people, and an increase in violence.