It has been almost four years since I first came out to my parents as gay. Their acceptance of the way I am and their supportive behaviour has helped me grow and develop into the individual I am today. Without their support, I don’t know where I’d be.
Unfortunately, people like me around the world rarely have the same support that I was fortunate enough to receive; particularly in Russia. In Chechnya, specifically, the authorities have orchestrated a “gay purge”, and LGBT issues are ignored and oppressed by a significant number of the population. This is largely down to the influence of powerful religious fanatics and the Russian authorities, who deem it “wrong” to be gay.
But why should the rights of the individual be thwarted just because some members of society disagree with a person’s sexual orientation? This is best expressed through the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), which John Locke laid out: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”
This is commonly translated into meaning that for as long as you are not infringing on the liberty of another human, you should have the right to pursue your interests with freedom from harm and aggression. In this way, individualism must always triumph over collectivism.
Looking back, Russia has a highly shady history when it comes to the rights of the LGBT community. While it was one of the first countries to decriminalise homosexual acts between consenting adults (1922), under Joseph Stalin (1934), those who were exposed as being gay were imprisoned for up to five years hard labour. This law remained in place until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1993 when it was eventually abolished by Boris Yeltsin; largely as a result of pressure from the international community.
However, in 2013 Russia had officially passed a gay propaganda law, making it illegal to distribute “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relationships.” This law not only encourages homophobia, but it also limits the freedom of expression of the LGBT community and makes it harder for younger people to come out as gay.
The Russian Government claimed the “gay propaganda laws” were implemented for moral reasons. I challenge anyone that supports this by asking: what is moral about oppressing and discriminating against a minority, just because you don’t agree with what they do?
The definition of morality comes down to the inherent difference between “right and wrong”; which begs the question, do they believe it is wrong to be gay? Or to put it another way, should morality be dictated by society? If so, why should society control what individuals can do? Morality itself is subjective. What a group deems to be “moral” is the polar opposite of what another group may deem to be “moral”.
But who is right, and how can this be measured and understood? The short answer is: it can’t.
Since this outbreak, the ruling government hasn’t acknowledged or taken any serious action against the perpetrators of the human rights offences carried out in Chechnya – despite significant pressure from the international community and human rights organisations – and Russia refuses to launch an official investigation into these disgraceful human rights violations.
“We have witnessed a shocking display of denial, evasion and inaction by the authorities, who have repeatedly refused to launch an official investigation into the reported heinous crimes.” These were the remarks of Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
I am thankful that I was born into such a loving and supportive family with laws in place to protect the rights of LGBT people. However, so much more needs to be done; not just in Russia but around the world. It is currently illegal to be gay in 72 countries, with some like Saudi Arabia, carrying the death penalty. Despising a person for their character is bad enough, but to hate somebody because of their sexuality is far more sickening.