Photo credit: Reporters Without Borders
In case you have missed a couple of news cycle or you are not up on your LGBT news, let me give you a quick update on what is happening in Russia at the moment. Russia has never been a country where it was a good place to be gay, but since June 2013, things have gotten a lot worse and the rate at which things are getting worse is accelerating at a frightening pace. If you want a quick and dirty update, I highly recommend reading this piece in policymic about Putin’s War on Gays.
On June 30th this year, Putin signed into law a bill against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”. What this effectively means is not only are gay pride parades banned for the next 100 years, but it is illegal to provide information to minors about the LGBT community, speak in favour of LGBT rights and in any way state that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual ones. This bill not only applies to Russians but to foreigners and media outlets as well. This started to get worldwide attention outside of LGBT circles when people woke up to the fact that Russia is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014 and this is where stuff starts to get troulbing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) instead of upholding its own laws about equality started to side with the Russian goverment and have told athletes not to be openly gay. The IOC also claims that the Russian law is not anti-gay as it also jalis straight people as well and it will punish any athlete who openly supports LGBT rights whilst at the Olympics.
The situation inside Russia have also been detirating rapidly for its LGBT citizens. Gay familes have started to flee Russia in fear of their children being taken away from them and authorities have started to raid the homes of known gay people and are encouraging the population to report suspected gay people to the authorities. This is truly frightening stuff.
So, what can the outside world do about it? Dan Savage, the beloved or hated (depending whether you like him or loathe him) gay sex advice columnist has been openly encouraging people to stop drinking vodka. Despite reports to the contrary, this boycott is actually working. It isn’t going to hurt Russia financially, but it has got people talking about the issue to their friends and family – and public awareness is very important. I encourage you to also join in on this boycott if you are known to enjoy vodka and let your friends know why you are no longer drinking it.
However, I propose another kind of boycott that will hurt Russia financially and that is to stop the important tourism dollar. Don’t go to Russia during your next vacation. Don’t spend your important tourism dollars there. Tell your family and friends not to go to Russia either and why. Look, I know this is hard. I really want to go to Russia too. It has been on my destination wish list as well for quite some time. It has a culture and history that is truly unique and one well-worth exploring. But now is not the time to do that. To those who say, it is the section of population that can least afford to lose money that will suffer, I know this. But as it now stands, 74% of the Russian population supports the anti-gay bill and believes that gays should not be accepted by society. So excuse me, but fuck them, they don’t deserve my hard earned euros nor do they deserve yours.
So, pick somewhere else to take your annual vacation or that long weekend away. There are a lot of other places with a struggling economy – Greece for instance or Spain that would love your tourism dollars. Spread the word, tell people to boycott Russia as a vacation destination and why. It might not do a great deal, but who knows, maybe it might.