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Human Rights in Russia

I do not wish to turn my blog into a political platform. The Russian political scene is adequately covered by top bloggers like varlamov.ru and others. I'm primarily interested in Russian people, not politicians or the chaos of legislative action. The past few days my LJ feed is clogged with bloggers writing about recent actions by the State Duma, and these measures also are being widely covered in Western media. My regular readers know I'm most passionate about human rights and, to me, the most fundamental right is expression. Expression in any form - including sexual expression and free speech. And when I say sexual expression, I mean between consenting adults. Not pedophiles or others who prey on the most innocent of humanity - children. Or rapists preying on women.

So I've read a lot about these recent measures, and frankly I don't understand them at all. Perhaps what is most concerning to me is that the ban on homosexual propaganda, gay pride events, etc. was unanimously passed, thus showing absolutely no variance in opinion by those making laws in your country. I understand the primary purpose is to protect minors from exposure to such information, but it basically amounts to an outright ban. As you know, gay rights are very important to me. I'm not a lesbian but have a gay relative and gay friends who are simply trying to live normal lives like the rest of us. I've watched one of these friends get his faced smashed in by a homophobic drunkard in a bar. Such hate and intolerance I will never understand.

Equally disturbing is the bill allowing jail terms for anyone convicted of "insulting religious feelings." I followed the Pussy Riot case as it was well covered in Western media. I have not read this bill in detail, but how can you determine what is "insulting?" I cannot imagine living in a society where you can be jailed and fined for hurting someone's feelings. And how can such laws exist when the Russian Constitution allows for freedom of ideas and speech for everyone? And, yes, I realize such freedoms and your Constitution have existed for only twenty years while ours have existed for centuries. Change does not happen overnight, but there must be some progression of thought and acceptance for any civil society to prevail in today's world.

Do you not find these recent actions alarming? Explain and help me understand. 

Comments

( 210 comments — Leave a comment )
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inamora
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Why a few years ago, nobody knew about gays and lesbians, and now it has become so important?
I have neutral attitude to sexual minorities, but sometimes I think they go too far. Why don't they just have a relationship and do not hold parades?
We do not organize parades of married men lovers))))
olgor
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC)
The whole idea of sexuality celebration - via parade looks weird for me.
I can't remember any heterosexual parade organized with such purpose.
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tais2016
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
Кто бы нам еще объяснил!?
peacetraveler22
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
Я не понимаю?
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olgor
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:55 pm (UTC)
I cannot imagine living in a society where you can be jailed and fined for hurting someone's feelings.
Exactly my point Shannon. (Wow! Well done this time ;) :) )
There are millions of arrogant, uneducated, angry, intolerant people in the world and every insecure, miserable person can easily find a cause (not a reason) to feel insulted about anything other people say. Happiness and sadness are like cards inside of you. That's your choice which card you want to pull out. Why people prefer feel sad, abused and insulted - I never understood.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
I try to make sense sometimes. :)
(Deleted comment)
llueve
Jun. 13th, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC)
Shame, but I should agree with it.
Our country is driving to the "Dark ages". I think Stalin's time will seem nice and friendly :((
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julegg
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
What is happening in Russia recently - just a nightmare. Fortunately I prepare documentation for the move to another country.
And yet, the laws against gays is not the worst thing that happens lately.
my_coast
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
what is the worst one?
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my_coast
Jun. 13th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
these new laws are disgusting and shameful. They show extremely low political culture in Russia, and show that consensus and compromise are not valuable in Russian society, that most of Russians still like to look for an enemy, as within the society, as well abroad, and blame this "enemy" for all the problems Russia has.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:29 am (UTC)
I wish I was more fluent in Russian so I could watch Russian news to see how my country is portrayed. How we are perceived as being enemy number one. And any country where people look at their fellow citizens as enemies rather than compatriots is destined for failure.
moonrainbow
Jun. 13th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
You know that I dislike open portraying of homosexuality in forms of gay prides or homosexuality propaganda and do not want to see it around. But this ban is very alarming, as it goes much beyond just forbidding gay prides and is actually the intervention of state into the evaluation of the private matter of sexuality and relationships. A state must not have an authority to dictate people what personal relationships are right and what are wrong. This is an action that I wish never happened. Whatever comes out of this, will be worse than before: this law divides the society.

Yet more alarming though is a law that "protects religious feelings". Russian Constitution says nothing about sexual orientation of a person, as it was not relevant at the times of its writing.

But the Constitution explicitly states the freedom of speech, and the law that protects religious feelings is a direct violation of this statement. A freedom of speech also includes a freedom to criticize the religious beliefs; forbidding this means violating the Constitution.

Yet further, this is also a highly corruptive law. You can't define and prove a subjective matter of "religious feeling". It does not exist in a real world. Therefore, you can take any atheistic or religion-contradicting statement or action and claim that it insults your religious feeling. "God does not exist", "Icons are better in the museum than the church", "Jesus was not a God" - say it, and the religious fanatics can complain by this law. Police wouldn't probably want to put a person into jail just for one statement, but they can now blackmail people, request bribes or find your sins from the past and put them against you by this law.

So why did it happen? Well, because State Duma doesn't really care of Constitution of Russia. And they don't think they'll get punished for that. Who will punish the Duma? President? Supreme Court? No.

"Spirituality" is growing in the land above the Constitution.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
Slava, we disagree on some things but we still sat in a pub and had a normal and interesting conversation for over three hours. Why? Because we are civilized people and this is how civilized people behave. They respect, or at least tolerate, the beliefs of others even when they differ from their own.

Mainly I was trying to understand how such laws can pass when they directly violate rights guaranteed under the Russian Constitution. But apparently there is no explanation and the the State Duma can do as it pleases - scary!



Edited at 2013-06-14 02:44 am (UTC)
(no subject) - ypolozov - Jun. 14th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moonrainbow - Jun. 14th, 2013 07:07 am (UTC) - Expand
ypolozov
Jun. 13th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Well, State Duma is just a rubber stamp for Putin's wishes. All opposition in Duma is fake and loyal to him.
And support among people to these oppressive laws grew in recent years due to controlled mass media propaganda and pro-Putin Orthodox Church efforts.
There are a lot of misery and aggression in life of regular Russian people, so Putin don't want to be blamed for this, he'd rather give people opportunity to fight with each other and to beat gays.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
And what do you think of Navalny and the other opposition leaders? They are wasting their time?
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semicvetic
Jun. 13th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
do i find recent actions alarming?
no, i find it alarming, when the USA and Europe are dealing with arabic countries where some citizens like women or girls or gay people of both sexes are deprived sometimes even of the basic rights ... for normal life, where they can choose who to marry and who to divorce, where they can drive a car and walk outside without a male guard, where they can study at universities and wear whatever they like.

The world in itself is so double-faced.
moebiuscat
Jun. 13th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
What, and Russia isn't dealing with those states? Who Russia sells almost all its arms to? Same arab dictatorships.
At least america mostly deals with "lesser evil" kind of countries. Russia deal with the lowest of the low, and not just deals as in trade, but actively supports Iran, Syria, Hesbulla, Hamas and most terrorist regimes in the world. So don't talk about USA an Europe, look at what's Russia is doing :-)
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nar_row
Jun. 13th, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
These recent laws are rather useless, than dangerous.
Our bureaucrats don't do what they really need to.
That is more dangerous, than this laws.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
In your mind, what are the main problems of modern Russia? If Putin would grant you one wish, what would you want him to immediately change?
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qi_tronic
Jun. 13th, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
"More white Americans are dying than being born for the first time in modern history."
online. wsj. com/article/SB10001424127887324049504578541712247829092.html

Definitely, we need even more freedom of behaviour...

BTW, Shannon, there was never such thing as universal human rights.

We, Russians, have equality of sexes and races starting from 1917 but you, Americans, had racism and segregation until 1960s not saying about gays who had no rights until 1970s.

And now you teach us!

Yes, the freedom of speech existed in America from the very beginning but not the freedom of behaviour and not the equality of all people.
Some countries, even Western countries, still do not have complete freedom of speech, as I mentioned in another comment, and probably they think that they have a good reason for it.

What is wrong with you, Americans, that you always think that your views are "unversal"?

These two new laws in Russia have been adopted also for a good reason.
We need to stop depopulation among Russians, we need good healthy families and we need that people again start to believe in at least _something_ that will keep them in a good state of mind.

Concerning "religious feelings" you can easily see what it might mean in this Pussy Riot example.
It is regulated what you can and what you cannot do in a church and people come there to pray and obtain a certain state of mind.
Such places should be protected from idiots like Pussy Riot girls.
moebiuscat
Jun. 13th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
"have equality of sexes and races starting from 1917"
Yeah, right. Equality to die in labor camps maybe? People didn't have almost any rights, so equality of nothing is still nothing. Gays and black people in America before 1970s had way more rights that straight people in USSR. Black people heroically went and stood up for their rights - and with rare exceptions were still alive and free. Think what would happen with ANYONE in USSR who would went and protest against what government was doing.
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moebiuscat
Jun. 13th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
I'm totally appalled by what's happening there. It's one of those days that I'm happy that I was stripped of USSR citizenship as a "traitor of the soviet people" when I immigrated to Israel in 1991. I would be utterly ashamed if it was my country. I'm still a bit ashamed, because I share russian language and cultural heritage.

What happens has a very simple explanation: Russian people en masse, how can I say it gently, a bit savage. They are not ready for democracy because they can't value freedom. And if they can't even value their own freedom and long for the all-mighty tzar, how can they value somebody else's freedom?

Putin wants to stress that he's an alpha-dog and in all but name a new Russian tzar, and because nothing unites primitive people like hatred and xenophobia - they do the thing politicians do all over the world - cheap populism. Most Russian people, especially men, think that gays are an abomination and hate them, surprisingly even many of intelligentsia class. Church is also pushing for these laws. So powers-that-be think that people will stop thinking about important issues and will vote for them because they outlaw gays and promote the church (which should be separate from state according to constitution).

I'm not surprised. Politics has been going by a downward spiral in Russia for years. From a failed attempt of democracy through pseudo-democracy at least pretending to uphold the rule of law, to a complete dictatorship with faked elections, political prisoners and killings, total farce of a legal system (any court case is a joke - on average Russian judges have something like 99.4% rate of "guilty" verdicts that state asks for) and president who freely abolished any limits on his and his party rule and virtually becoming a tzar.

Mark my words - it will get much much worse. I wish I could add "before it gets better" but I can't - it doesn't look like there is a force that can change it. And in a very unlikely event if Putin goes too far for people to handle and there will be a bloody revolution - that will be even worse.

Think about what happened: all nation saw an TV that they can beat and humiliate a group of defenseless people with no punishment and with a blessing of the government. They are in fact encourage to do so, by what politicians are saying. Doesn't that remind you Germany in 1930-s? It very much does remind me, and we know where that was going...
golemming
Jun. 13th, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
i think in many ways a fault that russian man is lasy lays in fact that russia is too, TOO BIG. And people in, say, Vladivostok can't make themself to care about decisions made by some thiefs, that somehow became a deputy. Honestly, there is not much difference simple people can make, when Moscow is many thousand kilometers away from them
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golemming
Jun. 13th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
it's simple. Russian politics do all they can to distract people from the fact that russian economic is dying. In another 10 years with Putin as president... we will be poor and be arrested for breathing the same air as our "saint" rulers. Like in song "Back in USSR"... only Stalin is replaced.

Honestly, i have readied myself for another 1992 year.
qi_tronic
Jun. 14th, 2013 09:10 am (UTC)
Dying ... yeah...

As of 2013 Russia is the biggest economy in Europe, bigger than Germany.
Russia is the richest economy per capita among post-Soviet states and already outperformed some Eastern-European countries like Poland and Hungary. Portugal and Israel are not far ahead... Interesting... will jews flee back then or not :))

MIlitary are being restored ... new weapons ... and it looks like our 5-th gen. fighter will be the best in the world. Again :)

Dying ... definitely.
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notabler
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:24 am (UTC)
Russian politics is bloody shit. Always been. And I afraid, will be for foreseeable future. Women - political leaders there? What are you talking about?! Very soon all women will be allowed to walk out with scarfs on their heads only and banned from wearing trousers and cutting hear. Suicides rates in Russia is now 10-th worst in the world (not sure about 2012)? It will be the first soon. Come to Russia in 5 years, it will be real fun. I am very angry, because the official propaganda made monsters from people.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC)
I'll return to Russia hopefully in the fall. During my last trip, I was in a state of shock and/or wonder most of the time. However, second go around I'll be much more cognizant of my surroundings. Regarding female equality in Russia, I still don't understand the strides women have made in recent years, if any. Mostly men comment on my posts and they give me the impression all is fine, but I suspect this may not be the case. Have you returned to Russia since you immigrated to the UK?
(no subject) - notabler - Jun. 14th, 2013 11:11 am (UTC) - Expand
onkel_hans
Jun. 14th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
You are missing the most abominable Bill passed by the Russian Parliament in the end of the last year.
This bill forbids adoption of the crippled orphans from Russia in the United States.
A previous legislature allowed adoption out of Russia of only crippled orphans. Now they cannot have any future. At all.

I know about a dozen of kids and babies adopted in the US from Russia.

One family desired to adopt siblings, they found two orphans in a depressed region of Northern Russia, a brother and a sister. They were not allowed to adopt them. The siblings were separated and they were given a girl and a boy who were not related. The other baby sibling was left to rot in the orphanage. Both adopted babies, naturally - as prescribed by the Russian law - had serious congenital defects. In America these kids are loved and cared for.

One woman has adopted two kids from Russia, their photos are hanging in her office. I am scared to look at these photos. Such are these kids - but she loves them and cares. Recently she adopted a third one, a baby girl who had been found at the age of several weeks in a trash container at a railroad station in Southern Russia. The mother had trashed the baby in the dumpster because her eyelid had been paralyzed. I read the file with my own eyes.

There are more stories I know like these.

The delegates of the Russian Parliament cannot be called humans. They are monsters. All of them - the bill has been passed unanimously in the Senate and with only half a dozen nays in the House.



Edited at 2013-06-14 12:43 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jun. 14th, 2013 01:38 am (UTC)
I know about the adoption ban after the Magnitsky Act, but I did not wish to open the flood and troll gates by addressing every fucked-up law in Russia which violates human rights. These adoption stories are heartbreaking. I cannot fathom the logic in such thinking, nor can I believe that the majority of Russians think this ban is acceptable. I certainly hope not.
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