Monday, August 12, 2013

The Real Danger to Russian Youth: Government-Condoned Gay Bashers

As a footnote to what I've just posted about the situation in Russia:

Last Friday, BBC News offered a valuable Q&A run-down of salient facts about what's going on in Russia. One of the points that leaps out at me as I read the BBC article: though anti-gay religious right hate-mongers in the U.S.--e.g., Scott Lively, who lit the fires that led to the kill-the-gays legislation in Uganda--are trying their hardest to light homophobic fires around the world by spreading the lie that gay men are seeking children to molest, the real danger for young people in Russia right now, particularly if they're gay, is coming precisely from those who want to bash gays.

As the BBC article notes,

No accurate figures for homophobic attacks in Russia are available but, according to Ilga's Bjoern van Roozendaal: "There is a worrying trend of violence targeting young people." Activists in Russia recently counted 150 hate videos posted online, he told BBC News. Typically these involve the perpetrators publicly abusing and humiliating gay people. The victims are sometimes lured into traps through fake dating ads on social media. 
"The Russian authorities have not responded to any of these developments," said Mr van Roozendaal, pointing out that the perpetrators were often clearly identifiable in the videos. "The victims have no confidence in the authorities, so they're unlikely to report these developments. It will also be very difficult for non-governmental organisations to reach out to these individuals after they have been humiliated and wary as they are of the anti-propaganda law." 
Two horrific murders this year were reported to have homophobic motives even if, as in the case of a young man beaten to death in May in Volgograd, the victim may not actually have been gay. Arrests were made in the Volgograd case, as they were the following month in Kamchatka, where an airport official was beaten to death.

And also very much worth noting: when there's open pushback against anti-gay rhetoric and actions in many places in the world right now, that open pushback is often coming from young folks. As Francis DeBernardo notes at the Bondings 2.0 blog this past weekend, last Thursday a protest rally took place in Glendora, California, where St. Lucy's Priory high school recently fired teacher Ken Bencomo after he civilly married his partner Christopher Persky.

It was actually students of St. Lucy's who first began to publicize Bencomo's firing when they got wind of it. A number of reports of the initial student-led protests noted that students were saying that the school had taught them that defending the human rights of everyone is a core Catholic value, and the students had decided they could not be silent about Bencomo's firing for that reason.

And as Cavan Sieczkowski notes at Huffington Post this weekend, a national movement supporting gay rights and opposing the virulent homophobia of faith-based communities like Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, began with a six-year-old girl in Topeka, Jayden Slink. A lemonade stand she set up to benefit Equality House, across from the Westboro church, has now sparked a nationwide movement.

Young people recognizing and fighting for the inherent dignity of those tagged as "other" in malicious ways by powerful groups in various cultures: there's hope to be found in these stories, it seems to me.

The video at the head of the posting, which reportedly shows a gang of anti-gay thugs abusing a teen whom they've tagged as gay, is discussed recently at John Aravosis's AmericaBlog site.

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