Remarks on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) and on the Report on the activities of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT). On the 17th of May 2017, the Report on the activities of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation for 2016 was published. The second event highlights the crucial importance of the first one.

Tatiana Moskal’kova, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, did not say a word about the problem of discrimination and hate crimes motivated by homophobia and transphobia. Yet, there were multiple cases of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in Russia.The Russian LGBT Network (as in previous years) submitted a full report on human rights violations related to sexual orientation and gender identity to Moskal’kova’s office. The Network received a response from her office. The response stated that our report is going to be “reviewed and taken into account”. in reality it was simply ignored, similarly to the problem of discrimination as a whole. In the Ombudswoman's report, the word "discrimination" was not used even once.

One might ask: what all this has to do with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia? Our answer would be: everything. This day draws attention to the fact that the consequences of silencing homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are deadly dangerous.

Over the past couple of weeks, Tatyana Nikolayevna has taken a number of correct steps to facilitate the investigation of mass persecutions, tortures, and murder of gays in Chechnya, committed by the governmental officials. At the same time, the Ombudswoman insists: the issue that attracts her attention for her is not in the sexual orientation of these people, but the fact that "under no circumstances, a human being can be subjected to violence, humiliation, and, have their life taken.” However, Tatyana Nikolaevna is wrong. The question is precisely about the sexual orientation. In this case, people were abducted, tortured and killed precisely because of their sexual orientation. Without the recognition of this circumstance, it is impossible to understand, investigate, and prevent the recurrence of such crimes in the future.

No one (or almost no one) will claim that people should be tortured and killed. Yet, homosexuals and transgender people in our country are not considered as “people”. Officials of the Chechen Republic, for example, said bluntly: we do not have gay people in Chechnya, and if there were such people, their relatives would send them to a place of no return. With this statement, the officials of the Chechen Republic publicly admitted that gays should be killed. Such statements did not provoke any negative reaction from either Ombudswoman Moskal’kova or President Putin. From their point of view, homosexual people do not exactly count as people.

This is not a simple belief, it is also a rule of law. The law in Russia directly prohibits to discuss the "social equivalence" of people with different sexual orientations. To put it in another way, even to talk about the equality is an offense in Russia.

Human is the only living being with the ability to speak. By depriving anyone of the opportunity to talk about what they feel is necessary to say, the authorities deprive them of human dignity in the eyes of others. As a result, bullying, tortures, and killing of beings that are deprived of human dignity are beginning to be perceived as something, if not desirable, then, at the very least, quotidian, and not worth mentioning in the report on the human rights situation in Russia. What we now observe in contemporary Russia, the world has seen in Nazi Germany.

And that is something that not only the Human Rights Ombudswoman should reconsider.

Igor Kochetkov,
member of the Russian LGBT Network’s council.