By Alessio Tummolillo
Pavel Samburov was protesting Russia's anti-gay laws outside of the parliament building in Moscow this past December. During that protest, Samburov kissed his boyfriend who was there with him. Samburov was then pelted with eggs by militant Orthodox Church activists.
The police then intervened, and kept the gay activist in custody for a total of 30 hours - in a frozen van for part of the time, and in an unheated detention center for the rest. The militant activists were also taken into custody, but were released soon after. Pavel Samburov was also charged the equivalent of $16 for "hooliganism."
However, these were minor consequences compared to a proposed $16,000 fine for "homosexual propaganda," which includes violations like kissing in public, should a bill that is going through its first vote later this month be signed into law.
While certain Russian cities have already adopted similar laws, this regulation would make "propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism" illegal nationwide. Under this legislation, public events promoting gay rights would also be banned.
Creators of the bill cite the importance of protecting minors from "homosexual propaganda" due to their inability to evaluate the information critically. The bill reads, "This propaganda goes through the mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behavior."
The proposed bill is part of an ongoing attempt to adhere to traditional Russian values, as Western liberalism is seen as a mode of corruption and a contributing force behind the growing protests against President Vladimir Putin.
According to a Levada poll conducted last year, the average Russian citizen regards the move towards traditional Russian values and the oppression of gay individuals with either indifference or open approval. The poll states that about two-thirds of Russians see homosexuality as "morally unacceptable and worth condemning." Half are opposed to gay rights rallies, and a third think that homosexuality is due to "a sickness or a psychological trauma."
Bagaudin Abduljalilov, 30, moved from Dagestan to Moscow, due to the violent nature of the mostly Muslim region in Southern Russia towards gays. According to Abduljalilov, gays in Dagestan have been beaten and have even had their hands cut off, by relatives on some occasions, for the shame they bring to their families.
"You don't have any human rights down there," Abduljalilov stated. "Anything can be done to you with impunity."
Before moving to Moscow, Abduljalilov renounced Islam to become a Protestant Christian, but was dismissed from his seminary once he told the dean about his sexuality. It was also difficult for him to get a job as a television journalist in Moscow because of discrimination against people from Dagestan.
"I love Russia, but I want another Russia," said Abduljalilov, who now works as a clerk. "It's a pity I can't spend my life on creative projects instead of banging my head against the wall and repeating, `I'm normal, I'm normal.'"